There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the launch of Open House, located in the spacious former home of the popular El Callejon. Especially when the proprietors are the husband and wife team behind two local favorites — Blue Ribbon Pizza and Craftsman American Tavern. It should be noted that their talented Executive Chef Marlaw Seraspi is on board at Open House along with Sous Chef John Moore.
There may have been some confusion in the beginning with the four concepts under one roof, but by the time I had the first of three fabulous meals there, they had combined concepts to create one menu that showcases the Asian influences of Chef Marlaw beautifully. I should note that from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week the space becomes The Crafty Egg and serves a combination of brunch and lunch that I will feature in another column as it was just too much to cover here. From what I’ve seen on that menu I’m looking forward to that experience.
I’ve eaten my meals at both the bars at Open House and would suggest checking them out before diving into the food as they have a fabulous cocktail program with some talented folks whipping up drinks. That said, there are a lot of choices for seating and ambiance including a nice outdoor patio.
It’s nice to see that variations on some of the favorites from Blue Ribbon and Craftsman are worked into portions of the menu, including the popular popcorn and deviled eggs from the starter portion of the menu. But knowing Chef Marlaw’s Filipino background I had to start with the lumpia with cabbage, snow peas, carrots, sweet peas and chili-garlic vinegar sauce. I could eat lumpia all day and these were right up there with the best I’ve had. And as a bonus, if you are with vegetarian friends this version will work for them. Another dish that looked appealing is the chilled prawn & soba noodle salad with cucumber, bean sprouts Thai Basil, and sesame vinaigrette.
Up next is the Wok’d/Share part of the menu that included pork fried rice, crispy garlic chicken wings, bay area garlic noodles and baby bok choy. They appeased my veggie friend and whipped up a nice fried rice minus the pork. That was fine with me as I knew what was coming next from the Ramen section of the menu. There are five Ramen versions listed but I had to go with the Chef’s Special with house soy broth, Chashu pork, braised pork belly, and spicy Lap Choeng sausage and black garlic oil. I finished half and had the rest for breakfast the next morning. I loved this dish.
And, of course, what would a new restaurant be these days without poke. But then again, poke in the hands of a chef like Marlaw takes it to another level. That said, the poke is great, but the dish that was new to me was the Local Hiramasa (Yellowtail) Kinilaw. It combines coconut vinegar, Haas Avocado, ruby grapefruit and fried shallots. This is more of his Filipino roots coming out and I’ve never had anything like it. It’s a ceviche-like preparation with the coconut vinegar being the acid of choice. Trust me on this one, and I’m definitely going to have to find some coconut vinegar to add to my pantry.
Yakitori, the popular grilled and skewered treat, is represented with Adobo-style octopus, marinated short ribs, lemongrass chicken and leg of lamb. One of those will be included in my fourth trip back.
Entrees include a local white seabass, a dry-aged New York Steak, steamed black mussels and another new dish to me, the Black Angus “Shaking Beef.” This new discovery included grilled onions, watercress, jasmine rice, lime and Szechuan peppercorn sauce.
This savory-sweet stir-fry, known as bo luc lacor “dice” in Vietnamese, gets its English name from the constant shaking of the pan performed by the cook while browning the meat. This was another unique and flavorful winner on a menu full of them.
Desserts include the famous, and rightfully so, Blue Ribbon butterscotch pudding, Hawaiian chocolate mousse and an amazing mango panna cotta with coconut cream and a medley of tropical fruits. I’m a huge fan of panna cotta to begin with and this version was right up there with the best I’ve had. It was light and refreshing and a perfect way to end a killer meal at Open House.
I should note that parking should not be a concern. If the lot is full, which it can be on occasion, there is parking next to the Encinitas rail station and really, any side street in downtown Encinitas is an easy walk.
Open House and The Crafty Egg are located at 345 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. Call (760) 452-2555 or visit www.openhousefooddrink.com for more.