Herb & Wood is the most recent restaurant of Chef Brian Malarkey (Top Chef, The Taste, and other TV shows), opening a few months ago to very positive reviews. It’s located just a few steps away from Juniper & Ivy, transforming a massive warehouse space into an elegant and modern restaurant.
Weekend reservations are hard to obtain, but I finally managed to snag us an early seating on a Saturday night a few weeks in advance. I also spotted Chef Malarkey shortly after we were seated, moving around the room with his boundless energy and making sure everything was running smoothly in the kitchen.
While not explicitly stated, it’s clear after reading through the menu that it is divided into small sections: toasts, salads, raw seafood, pasta, vegetables, main entrees, pizzas, etc. I immediately wanted to try an item from each section. Luckily, my two dining companions were in agreement.
We started the evening with some cocktails. Mine was the vodka & grapes. It was refreshing, fruity, with a sour kick. I really enjoyed it.
Parker House Rolls
These are a “secret menu” item at Herb & Wood which I found out about while researching what to order. If only there was a way to capture the smell of these rolls along with the picture. Because they really smelled amazing. Fresh, hot, and dripping with melted butter. These are the fanciest Parker House rolls I’ve ever tried and I really enjoyed them.
Roasted Beets, Burrata, Sherry, Walnut Pesto, Jamon Iberico
Having spotted the Jamón ibérico through the clear glass kitchen windows, we were immediately drawn to this starter. It was a beautifully plated, wildly colorful dish that had a great harmony of flavors. The Jamón ibérico did not disappoint and was paired thoughtfully with a variety of ingredients that just enhanced this delicacy. This was one of our favorites of the evening.
Hiramasa & Yuzukosho, Radish, Red Onion, Chive, Parsley, Avocado
Light, refreshing, with a palate cleansing citrus finish. We all enjoyed this one as well.
Smoked Trout, Pullman, Kewpie, Parsley & Caper Shallot Salad, Trout Roe
I am very fond of open faced toasts at restaurants and can never resist ordering them. The thick-cut buttery toast was just right to balance the savory smoked trout. The trout roe really added another briny sea element to the dish. This was another table favorite, though next time I might try some of the other toasts just to compare.
Crispy Potato, Lemon Vinaigrette, Black Pepper, Fresh Horseradish & Parmesan
We weren’t quite as fond of this dish. I think the main problem was that based on the description, we had all pictured something different. I had imagined thin sliced potatoes, smothered in parmesan and cooked until crisp. Instead, this was more of a potato omelet. Small potato halves were lightly smashed and held together in this massive omelet. The edges were crispy, but the potatoes themselves were not. The flavors were good, but I really wanted the potatoes to be completely crispy.
Roasted Branzino, Lemon Herb Stuffing, Olives & Chili Tapenade, & Serrano Ham
The presentation of this dish was quite lovely. The rolled up fish bites were quite tasty, with the flaky moist fish, herb stuffing and smoky ham wrap. However, this preparation of the dish did make the fish seem a little small.
Gnocchi, Oxtail, Roasted Garlic, Parsley, Chive, Sherry, Parmesan & Horseradish
This unassuming dish was hands down everyone’s favorite of the night. I would come back here just for this dish. And next time, I don’t want to share! The tender oxtail added such richness to the whole dish, permeating through every ingredient on the plate.
This was one of the specials of the day and my eyes immediately lit up at the word “uni.” Unfortunately, it ended up being one of the few misses of the night. For me, it was a number of things. The pizza crust seemed like it needed more time in the oven. Rather than thin and crisp, ours was doughy and very chewy. I would have also liked to see more ingredients on the pizza that would compliment the uni. Perhaps an uni cream sauce, or other seafood elements. Instead, this seemed more like a salad pizza topped with fresh uni.
VANILLA CREAM TORTE
I’ve heard good things about several of the desserts here, but I was absolutely set on trying this one. Layered crepe cakes have become quite popular thanks to the Lady M chain originally from Asia. However, this is a much more sophisticated version that doesn’t come off gimmicky at all. To me, it was like a modern take on a cheesecake.
Layers of crepe are filled with a whipped ricotta cheese. It’s topped with sweetened farmer’s strawberries and pistachio gelato. This definitely did not disappoint. I plan on saving room for more desserts next time, but I am definitely ordering this one again.
Overall, we had a very positive first experience here. I was initially worried because I had a difficult time reaching them by phone. However, when I left a message, they immediately returned my call the next day. Service at the restaurant was great. We also loved almost all the dishes we ordered.
Herb & Wood
2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101