As a long-standing seaside San Diego eatery nearing its 25-year anniversary at the same location, Pacifica Del Mar Restaurant is well-known by locals and perennial tourists, alike, for its award-winning fare. Yes, the venue offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean by day and atmospheric candlelight dining night. What is most notable about the restaurant is its thoughtfully conceived and purposefully executed menu being dished up daily by Executive Chef Stephanie O’Mary-Berwald.
While Pacifica Del Mar continually offers its signature menu items that endure as guest favorites, such as the ever-popular Sugar-Spiced Salmon ($29) with Chinese beans, mustard sauce and garlic mashed potatoes, Chef O’Mary-Berwald draws from her Peruvian heritage and penchant for the clean, bright flavors of Mediterranean coastal countries to create complimentary seasonal menus reflecting her distinct perspective.
Pacifica’s Del Mar’s recent fall menu, rife with autumn-harvested produce, was case in point. The appetizer additions included a Wild Mushroom Tartlet ($11) with sautéed crimini and shiitake mushrooms, gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions topped with a herb salad (watercress, chive and parsley) tossed in a lemon truffle vinaigrette; Crispy Duck Leg Confit ($15) drizzled with a maple parsnip purée and accompanied by a watercress and butternut squash salad; and Indian Spiced Short Rib ($11) with a cauliflower purée, red quinoa and currants. Also added was the Tuscan Kale Salad ($9) with golden raisins, marcona almonds, and blue lake beans with a peppered buttermilk dressing; and the hearty Tuscan Ribolita Soup ($8) with cannellini beans and seasonal vegetables, including kale, Swiss chard, and Savoy cabbage, accompanied by an arugula pesto-topped ciabatta crouton.
On the entrée side, fall fixen’s included five Pan-Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops ($33) with braised slab bacon, butternut squash, kale and Fuji apple-vanilla gastrique; Lamb Osso Bucco Pappardelle ($23) with a tomato ragu and horseradish gremolata; and Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($21) with San Marzano tomato sauce, crème fraiche and shiitake mushrooms. While seafood clearly reigns supreme at Pacifica Del Mar, here “land” does get its fair shake with a well-rounded selection of beef, poultry and vegetarian dishes available to ensure every guest’s dietary preference is covered.
On cultivating cuisine that set the eatery apart from its competition, Chef O’Mary-Berwald is quick to point out that the restaurant’s cross-cultural fare is “not only adventurous and new, but it is also comfortable and classic.” Guests can, in fact, expect O’Mary-Berwald’s dishes to remain simple—but with a dash of the unexpected.
Apparently feeling well at home now, Chef O’Mary-Berwald has been exhibiting her culinary expertise at Pacifica Del Mar for over a year and is duly making her mark on the local food scene. Impressive given that just twelve years ago she started her career at Todd English’s acclaimed Olives restaurant in New York City with no formal training whatsoever—a wildly successful endeavor that led her to a full time position at the eatery and enrollment in the French Culinary Institute. Her subsequent career accolades also include working in the acclaimed kitchen of the James Beard winning chef, Michael White, and serving as executive chef for a number of contemporary spots like Fireman Hospitality Group’s New York Italian kitchen, Bond45, and National Harbor’s Fiorella.
Now commanding the helm Pacifica Del Mar, Chef O’Mary-Berwald has her sights set on a new goal for this venerated establishment: bringing new customers into the fold. “Right now, we have an incredible group of loyal regulars,” she notes. “But I want to introduce new diners to what makes Pacifica Del Mar so special and hopefully get them to return again and again.”
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***