The full title of our restaurant is Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine. For some, this may beg the question: what, exactly, does “coastal cuisine” mean, and how have we “modernized” it?
On the one hand, the concept of coastal cuisine is quite intuitive and obvious: it’s focused on food that comes from the sea and the coastal landscape. However, that’s far from the full story of what it means to eat and enjoy coastal cuisine. Here, we’ll explore coastal cuisine, California-style cooking, and how both of these concepts come together to inform and inspire the Lionfish menu.
What is coastal cuisine? To be completely honest, coastal cuisine is less a specific suite of recipes and more a general style and approach toward food.
Put succinctly, one of the best words to encapsulate the idea of coastal cuisine is simplicity. However, it’s important to clarify that simple does not have to mean boring. Anything but!
Coastal cuisine is characterized by fresh, bright flavors that allow the simplicity of the ingredients to shine through. Basically, chefs want to maintain and celebrate the superior flavors of the food as much as possible my minimally “processing” them in the kitchen.
As such, coastal cuisine is typically prepared using simple, tried-and-true cooking techniques (pan-searing; grilling; raw preparations, et cetera). The focus is on high quality, fresh ingredients, including seafood, seasonal produce, grains, and nuts, which are locally and sustainably sourced whenever possible.
Another important influence: California cuisine. To truly understand Lionfish’s unique approach to coastal cuisine, it’s also important to know a little bit about California cuisine as well.
Similar to coastal cuisine, the concept of California cuisine is less about specific recipes and more about a general philosophy and approach.
California cuisine is characterized by a reverence to fresh, simple preparation, and the use of local and sustainable ingredients. Additionally, California cuisine has marked fusion food element. It incorporates aspects of cookery from different cultures, including European, Asian, and South American cuisines, yet employs local ingredients.
The California cuisine style is largely viewed as having been pioneered by cookbook author Helen Evans Brown, who published Helen Brown’s West Coast Cookbook in the early 1950s. The book focused on forgoing the big box stores and focusing on locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The book was beloved by foodies of note including James Beard. In retrospect, ehr work is seen as the template for today’s California cuisine style.
Lionfish: a unique brand of coastal cuisine. In reading the above, you now have a basic understanding of both coastal cuisine and California cuisine. At Lionfish, we offer a unique brand of “modern coastal cuisine” which marries aspects of both classic coastal cuisine and California cuisine.
What does that mean, exactly? At Lionfish, we approach food with an eye toward simplicity. It starts with the ingredients. Rather than building a menu based on classic dishes, we go the other way around, starting by sourcing the best ingredients, which are locally sourced whenever possible. Then, our chefs consider how to best make the flavor of these ingredients shine. Typically, this will include simple, unfussy preparations that don’t doctor the flavor of the food’s natural flavor too much. They’re not afraid to be creative, though: aspects of cooking from different cultures may be employed to create vibrant, unexpected ways to enjoy familiar ingredients.
To give a specific example of the unique approach that we have to coastal cuisine, let’s consider some of the menu items at Lionfish.
Take, for instance, our Butter-Poached King Crab Leg (pictured above). King crab is a west coast specialty. At Lionfish, it’s prepared in an exquisite butter poaching liquid to bring out its buttery-sweet flavor, which is paired with caviar, leeks, lemon, and roasted garlic butter.
Or, consider our Nigiri flights. Inspired by Japanese cuisine, these flights are prepared using local, freshly caught seafood. A menu item like this allows you to enjoy local food with an international flavor.
One other example to consider is our Simply Grilled Market Fish. For this menu item, the catch of the day is prepared simply, but then is served with mizuna (a dark Japanese green), grilled lemon, and California-made extra virgin olive oil for a simple yet exquisite meal.
Why does sourcing matter? As you’ve gathered from reading, ingredients are of the utmost importance when making coastal and/ or California style cuisine. At Lionfish, our approach to this style of cuisine makes our ingredient sourcing of extreme importance.
Sourcing matters for a number of reasons. As a customer, perhaps first and foremost it’s a question of flavor. The fact is, when ingredients are sourced locally and from high quality sources, the freshness and therefore flavor is going to be superior. Our simple preparations are reverent of this superior flavor.
Another important aspect of sourcing is community. By sourcing ingredients locally whenever possible, we are doing our part to support our local farmers and producers. Ultimately, this helps the local economy and helps create a sense of community.
It’s also better for the earth. Not only does local and sustainable sourcing have a lower carbon footprint, but it requires less preserving and processing and yields healthier cuisine.
At Lionfish, we are deeply committed to quality ingredients and doing our part for the environment. We were recently given the designation of “Ocean Friendly Restaurant”, and our chefs work hard to source the best ingredients possible.
At Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine, we are deeply committed to providing the best and most creative cuisine that we can possibly offer. We are lucky enough to be located in a region where fresh seafood and produce are abundant, and we like to take advantage of the bounty in our cooking and reflect it on our menu. We hope that you’ll appreciate our fresh approach to coastal cuisine, and hope to see you in our San Diego restaurant soon!
Have you ever tried coastal cuisine?