Many fans of Chef Pascal Vignau mourned the loss of Savory, which was one of the first fine dining restaurants to set up shop in Encinitas and helped establish the area as one that would support world-class food.Savory was replaced by the stellar Craftsman, which helped ease the pain a bit, and Vignau landed at the brand new Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort and Spa that features Chandlers Restaurant & Lounge. I’d say it all worked out quite nicely.
Chef Vignau is one of San Diego’s higher profile culinary personalities and for good reason.
Born in France to a family of butchers, Vignau spent his formative years learning that craft, which led to a natural transition to culinary school. He then went on to design and direct culinary operations for Four Seasons and Regent properties in Chicago, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Uruguay and California, where he led the renowned team of chefs at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.
His appealing style has also been enjoyed at the AAA Five-Diamond French Room in Dallas, the legendary Hotel Negresco in Nice, France, the Hermitage in Monte Carlo and Hotel de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland.
He burst on the scene locally as executive chef for Four Seasons Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, which offered San Diego County’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant during his tenure. That led to Savory, where he developed a cult-like following and had a very solid run.
Vignau is passionate about food that is both comfortable and approachable that could be best described as simple yet contemporary coastal cuisine.With his spectacular oceanfront setting at Chandler’s, he now has one of the most amazing locations in town to work his culinary magic.
The hotel, lounge and restaurant all have expansive ocean views with a fresh, contemporary feel but not in a sterile way. There is some warmth here and the wait staff exudes that with their stylish yet casual oxford shirts tucked into dark blue Levi’s. I’m hoping this place catches on with locals, as it really is a cool place to enjoy a drink and a meal.
With Vignau overseeing the menu and Chef Andres Hinojosa running the kitchen, this place is in more than capable hands. Anytime I see an artichoke on the menu, I have to give it a try and this one did not disappoint. It’s an herb-crusted baked artichoke cut in half and stuffed with brie, tomato, and whole grain mustard beurre blanc. It’s very similar to how I prepare artichokes and I love how the cheese stuffing gives it an added yum factor.
We also tried the lobster and rock shrimp tacos with avocado, shredded lettuce and grilled lime. You can’t go wrong with lobster and shrimp in a tortilla, but I would have liked the option to kick it up a bit with some salsa or hot sauce.
And to make sure we had a well-rounded sampling of starters, we had to try one of the stone baked pizza’s and went with the simple Margherita with its vine-ripened tomato, garlic, and basil. Elegant in its simplicity, it was more than enough for two people and was very solid the next day cold out of the fridge — the true test of pizza, right?
I knew my entrée the moment I sat down and saw the air-dried 10-ounce rib-eye steak with parmesan-truffle fries and citrus-watercress butter. Yes, I am obsessed with steak frites and I know Vignau does them right. He did not disappoint as it was cooked to medium rare perfection with the juices from the flavorful steak dripping down through the fries. My son Quinn, savoring one of his final “Lick the Plate” dining adventures before heading back to university in the UK, went with the crab-crusted Pacific sea bass with spinach, mushroom, peppercorn sauce. He was very happy with his choice.
Dessert was not top of mind after this feast, yet our well-educated server suggested the roasted coastal Peach Melba as one of the lighter options. She was spot on as the refreshing coriander vanilla ice cream with roasted peach was a refreshing delight.
Chandler’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and as mentioned, it has a very nice bar area, perfect to stop in for a sunset cocktail. Their full menu, location and hours can be found at chandlerscarlsbad.com.