Whisknladle

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    Meet the one restaurant worth blowing your paycheck on. It’s a gastronomical explosion, a dedicated-to-freshness haven of hearty, down-to earth dishes epitomizing multicultural Californian cuisine. Unlike often-overpriced, blandish La Jolla fare, it is 100 percent worth its upscaled prices.

    Whisknladle (pronounced wisk-en-lay-del) redefines “fresh” — literally. When owner Arturo Kassel and executive chef Ryan Johnston took over in 2006, they changed the originally named “Fresh Seafood Restaurant” to “Fresh[er],” reflecting their emphasis on serving only fresh, organic ingredients. Last January, the duo decided to remodel the eatery again to better match their philosophy: “You get out of the pot, what you put into the pot.”

    Kassel and Johnston weren’t kidding. They take back-to-basics to the extreme, using only garden-fresh ingredients from three local organic farms. From baking bread and smoking pork to churning ice cream and making mustard, Whisknladle chefs craft a multilayered tasting experience akin to home-cooked food from a master chef — e.g. if Wolfgang Puck was your mom. And if the celebrity chef, like Kassel and Johnston, served only microbrews, hand-picked all wines (most under $60) and hand-built a four-foot by four-foot cedar-lined meat-curing room.

    This custom method of preparation is reflected in the balanced, tapas-style menu, which changes due to Kassel and Johnston’s “commitment to stay seasonal and cook on a whim.” The four-person-worthy cutting board, a selection of savory house cured meats and flaky, nutty cheeses is a must-have. A trio of butternut squash ravioli feels surprisingly hearty, filled with creamy yellow squash and topped with smoky roasted chestnuts and sage. The slow-cooked lamb osso bucco almost melts off the bone, accented with rich coco beans and colorful mustard greens. Each bite is complimented by a sip of lemon-and-cucumber flavored water, and Whisknladle’s fresh-baked French-style bread is always abundant.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    It’s Whisknladle’s attention to detail that ultimately seals the deal. The understated-yet-classy patio setup gains points for its scaled-back touches: the single hanging lightbulbs, the wrought-iron woven chairs, the heated overhead lamps. Earthy tones, simple white plating and new full-bar seating brings its amenities to a 360. Along with the impeccable service — waiters don’t pester you every moment, but fade in and out appropriately — there can be no possible rating but 10 out of 10 for ambiance.

    Despite La Jolla prices in the range of $31 to $50 for a three-course meal — with appetizers ($8 to $18), entrees ($16 to $30) and dessert ($10) — Whisknladle proves its worth with local organic ingredients, thoughtful homestyle cooking and a tasteful, cozy atmosphere.

    Whisknladle
    1044 Wall Street
    La Jolla, CA 92037
    (858) 551-7575

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