I still can't figure out how Kitchen 4140, now it its fifth year, so completely sat under my radar until recently. Chef/owner Kurt Metzger opened the restaurant in November 2010 with a vision for a farm-to-table experience. Literally. As in creating his own farm on the premises. And the premises are in one of the most mundane locations possible--tucked into a sweep of shops along Morena Blvd. near Costco. Until recently, when a new, large sign was installed, you wouldn't be faulted for completely missing it while speeding along at 50 mph, hidden as it is among rug and furniture shops of this design row.
When the restaurant did come to my attention, I found a smartly designed eatery embraced by a lush organic garden. It's a little haven from the commercial environment surrounding it. The hydroponic section of the garden pushes out lettuces, basil, kale, thyme, squash, tomatoes, and green onions to satisfy Metzger's sophisticated regional Americana menu.
Looking toward the back of the property, you'll find dwarf lemon and kumquat trees, along with a variety of other edibles. The garden ends with a smoking and grilling area in the back. The garden is relatively self-sustaining. Metzger and his crew are dedicated composters and irrigate using recycled water.
The restaurant itself is divided in two, with a main dining room and bar and next door, a wine room for dinners that celebrate the wineries and winemakers Metzger has come to know.
There are also outdoor tables that place dinners squarely in the garden. It's not unusual for cooks to come outside and harvest what they need for your meal.
"Being able to cook from what we produce is just amazing," says Metzger.
Metzger invited me to stop by recently to teach me how to make a marvelous seafood dish that celebrates summer--Seared Day Boat Scallops with Grilled Peaches, Candied Bacon, and Micro Salad. The dish pops with a multitude of flavors in each bite. The scallops, which are caught in local waters, are light but meaty and marry beautifully with the white peaches marinated in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar before being grilled. They're topped with luscious thick pieces of bacon sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup while crisping up. And all this decadence is embraced by a micro salad comprised of ingredients from the garden that Metzger collected just minutes before assembling the dish.
The dish is easy to make but you need to be organized to get it to come together for the final plating. Make the bacon and marinate the peaches ahead of time. Have your salad ready to assemble. Grill the peaches and set aside, then cook the scallops. Then you can pull it all together for your meal without breaking a sweat.
Seared Day Boat Scallops with Grilled Peaches, Candied Bacon, and Micro Salad
From Kurt Metzger of Kitchen 4140
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock
5 teaspoons white wine
1 dollop butter, room temperature
red chile flakes
4 white peaches, sliced in half and pitted
4 pieces bacon
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup, plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar for bacon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 cups mixed greens like arugula
2 spring onions, whites sliced
4 padron peppers (can substitute jalapeno or other chile), seeds and ribs removed
Fresh herbs and edible flowers
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Mix equal parts balsamic vinegar and brown sugar together and place in a dish with high sides and large enough to hold eight peach halves. Spread out the vinegar and sugar mixture in the dish and place peach halves in the mixture cut side down. Let sit for at least an hour and up to seven hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a rack. Place the bacon slices in a single layer on the rack. Cook until they’re about 65 percent done (about 6 or 7 minutes). Brush with maple syrup and 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Return to the oven and remove when crisp and brown. Cut roughly into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Pat scallops with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Heat a large pan and add olive oil. Sprinkle scallops with a pinch of salt and add to pan. Cook 4 minutes. Turn and add chicken stock, white wine, and butter. When golden brown, remove from pan. Sprinkle with a little more salt and red chile flakes.
Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill. While the scallops are cooking, remove the peaches from the maple syrup and brown sugar mixture and add the peaches to the grill, sliced side down for about 7 minutes. Flip and let cook a minute, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Mix together the greens, spring onion, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. Drizzle with truffle oil and gently mix together with your hands.
To plate each dish sprinkle the dishes with the greens mixture, then artfully add slices of peppers and edible flowers. On each plate, place three scallops and two peach slices. Top with bacon. Sprinkle with chives. You can also top with caviar and pieces of burrata.
Kitchen 4140 is located at 4140 Morena Blvd.