It isn’t every day that a girl like me gets an exclusive invitation to dine at the chef’s table. It’s also a shame that I hadn’t even heard of Landmark until the invitation arrived in my inbox.
Landmark is located in the quaint beach side town of Corona Del Mar. Upon arriving, I was impressed with the chic decor, the intimate interior, and the outdoor patio dining area. Chef Travis Flood greeted myself and my dining guest for the evening, my food soulmate Anne Marie, and ushered us literally to what was known as the chef’s table – a seat at the kitchen table – where we could watch chef and his crew prepare our meal for us. What an amazing treat.
Before our meal, Chef asked if any of us had any food allergies and food that we didn’t like. I almost said seafood but I’m glad I hesitated. My mind persisted but my heart told me to be open-minded. There’s a reason why one sits at the chef’s table. It’s so that chef can be creative and be at his best. And of course, seafood was the star of the night and I’m glad Chef Travis started with my favorite – the diver scallop.
While preparing our first meal, Chef regaled us with stories of his background and a little history of Landmark. I was impressed by the attention to detail right down to our plates – which are fired and made locally at a pottery and feature subtle brush strokes that are reminiscent of the sand and surf. The diver scallop course was served on a shell with avocado, wakame, jalapeno, ponzu, cumber. While I watched him prepare this meal, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was rare fresh scallop. I’m used to pan seared scallop and so what exactly was this? This refreshing dish was an immediate hit and as I ate the last bite Chef threw in the curve ball. “The scallop you just ate was alive 20 minutes ago and probably was still alive as you ate it.” Well Chef I’m glad you didn’t tell me that before I ate my meal. I probably would have still enjoyed this dish though.
Our second dish of the night made me cringe a little. Lobster? Really? Lobster makes me gag. When I think of lobster, I think of thick juicy slices of lobster swimming in butter or mayo. I also think of the time I once had a lobster roll that made me throw up. After satiating my taste buds with the diver scallops, I had high hopes for the lobster. I also noticed it wasn’t being garnished with butter or mayo. Instead it was lightly drizzled with vadouvan and upon smelling the oil, I was instantly transported to my time in India and my Indian roots. Expertly garnished with curried onions, fish sauce, celery, cilantro, lime juice, scallion, and ash yogurt, this dish took me back home and renewed my faith in seafood. The crunch from the curried onions paired up with the moist lobster had me licking my plate clean. Did I really just eat lobster and am I loving seafood? Yes, I am.
After two palate pleasing courses, Chef warmed our stomachs with a hearty and light Winter squash soup. You have to watch the presentation on this one. The added touch of the marcona almonds were my favorite in this soup however it was also paired with celery leaves, parsley, brown butter croutons.
After winning my heart with two successful seafood courses, I had high hopes when Chef mentioned fish would be coming up next. Fish is usually hit or miss for me. If it smells like fish, I want no part of it. However watching Chef and his team work the kitchen, I had no doubt that this would be a unique experience and I was right. I was impressed with how amazingly fresh and flaky the Ling Cod was with roasted tomato, artichoke, baby fennel, grilled bread, sauce bouillabaisse. Smelling nothing like fish, this Ling Cod melted in my mouth.
After four courses, our stomachs were a little full but when we heard beef was the next course we somehow found a way to banish those thoughts and ready our palates for a plate that resembled a magical forest in some far off land. The Paso Prime Hanger Steak, Brown Butter Potato puree, chanterelle mushroom, and horse radish beef jus were carefully arranged to look like something out of wonderland and I was hesitant about cutting into this plate but curiosity finally took over and that was perhaps the rarest steak I’ve ever had. Chef definitely wanted to challenge me that night.
If I had to pick a favorite from the night, I’d be at a loss. Let’s just say Chef Travis Flood will excite and awaken your taste buds. Leave your hesitations at the door and let Chef take over. I’m still dreaming about this meal and I’m so glad I stayed open minded and let Chef tempt me with his offerings. The night wouldn’t be complete without dessert and Chef prepared a crowd pleasing finale with the Black Magic Chocolate cake, White chocolate smoked caramel, roasted peanut praline, raspberry, and Drunken Udder coffee chocolate chip ice cream. Cake and ice cream? What’s not to love? The kitchen was eerily silent while we polished this off and then sat back satisfied. We are already planning our next visit. Chef tempted us with the burger and probably the best fries I’ve ever seen but yet to taste. Chef, you’ll see me soon for a burger, fries, and beer. Until then, thank you for a meal that changed the way I think about food and delectable sea creatures.