Monday, May 18, 2009

PrepKitchen: Elevated Take-Out for San Diego

Whisknladle owner Arturo Kassel made a splash when he and chef Ryan Johnston reinvented the old Fresh into a stylish comfort-food haven for those who love their food hand crafted. Now the duo has taken the La Jolla restaurant into the take-out realm with their new eatery, PrepKitchen. Tucked into the same inviting little collection of storefronts on Fay Ave. as Michele Coulon Dessertier, PrepKitchen takes the same slow food approach to food making as the Whisknladle concept—with even many of the same dishes—but offers them in a take-away format.

Open for only two weeks, PrepKitchen is still a work in progress but already there are some big reasons to check it out. There’s the tender herb-roasted piece of halibut with a chimichurri-style sauce that is usually roasted in butter but was readily prepared on request with olive oil. A confit tuna salad is simply all about the sweet, tender chicken of the sea with no distractions like celery or mayo. Enjoy as one of their sandwiches or take home a half pint container and make your own.

In fact, the collection of half- and full-pint “snacks” or sides are home runs. If you enjoy Whisknladle’s stuffed piquillo peppers, you’ll be happy to know you can find them here, along with a mouth-teasing dish of roasted and marinated mushrooms, a sweet and crunchy eggplant caponata and a marvelous rustic potato salad, made with tender fingerling potatoes, sliced and whole green olives and strips of colorful marinated peppers. The couscous with plump dried apricots, slivered almonds and cilantro grows on you with every bite and the marinated olives pop in the mouth.

Not as impressive was the roasted Jidori chicken, which needs brighter flavors, moister white meat and a crispy skin. And the pure flavors of the perfectly cooked, slow-roasted Niman Ranch Tri-Tip beef were overwhelmed by the throat-catching heat of the dominant black pepper crust.

The Pear, Endive & Smokey Blue cheese salad with its bright balsamic vinaigrette is enjoyable and can be shared by two along with your meal. And you really want to bring home a selection of the house-cured meats. Take a taste of the smooth and luscious mortadella. In fact, take tastes period. You’ll find it’s the only way to choose from the enticing variety of dishes on display.

And, if you have any dietary issues, speak up. Joe, the PrepKitchen chef, seems happy to accommodate. Of course, there’s no changing the salted caramel, hazelnut and fudge brownie. And no reason to; it’s a sweet, salty, crunchy gooey combo in a small package that is a perfect end to satisfying meal.

PrepKitchen is located at 7556 Fay Ave. across from Vons in La Jolla Village. Check the menu online and either call ahead with your order (858-875-7737) or place your order there and be prepared to wait about 20 minutes (you can always do some marketing across the street in the meantime). There are also a few tables there if you want to dine in.

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