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When I came home to San Diego for the holidays this year, I wanted to do a short and sweet staycation with my mother. I wanted it to be centered around the culinary experience while also staying somewhere that was quintessential San Diego. Enter La Valencia.

The MED at La Valencia Hotel‘s patio is the place to see and be seen in La Jolla on a sunny day for brunch or lunch. If a restaurant can do brunch and lunch so well, I had to see what dinner was all about. So we booked our room for the night and set up a tasting dinner at The MED.

The young, innovative, ambitious culinary team is headed up by Executive Chef Alex Emery and Chef De Cuisine Brandon Hernandez. Their fresh take on food has transformed classic dishes and introduced new ones to The MED, attracting regular diners to keep coming back and enticing new diners to join the movement.

I think the pictures and descriptions speak for themselves, so take a look at our incredible dining experience and book a table for yourself!

Baja Oysters

Pickled Strawberries | Yuzu Kosho | Ponzu

Quite arguably the best oysters I have EVER had. “Well-balanced slurp” is one of the best ways I could put it, with a succession of flavors hitting all of your senses.

Big Eye Tuna Tartar

Thai Rice Cracker | Kaffir Lime Powder | Yuzu Fluid Gel

New favorite tuna tartare I have had, literally. The kaffir lime powder really made the dish by giving the tuna a pronounced citrus-y flavor, and the Thai rice cracker (which was a genius creation resulting from trying to figure out what to do with overcooked rice) added the perfect salty crunch. I’m pretty positive we licked the plate clean.

Dining Review: The MED Restaurant at La Valencia Hotel

Hoikkado Scallop Carpaccio

Nuoc Cham | Chiles | Mint

Sweet & delicate is how I would describe this dish. There are no overpowering flavors, just perfectly prepared scallops with simple and light accompanying ingredients. And can we talk about that beautiful presentation?

Salmon Belly Poke

Seaweed Salad | Lemongrass | Seaweed Peel

The Salmon Belly Poke was The MED’s “Daily Crudo” dish of the day which they switch up depending on what’s in season and what they have on hand. I loved the variations of seaweed utilized in the dish, and the lemongrass paired well with the salmon. Their Thai rice crackers were used in this dish as well – my fave!

Dining Review: The MED Restaurant at La Valencia Hotel

Grilled Heirloom Carrots

Pistachio | Greek Yogurt

I never knew carrots could taste so gourmet. They were charred to perfection, and the subtle creamy taste of the yogurt and the nuttiness of the pistachios were the perfect complement. Nothing was overpowering in this dish, and it all worked so well together!

Dining Review: The MED Restaurant at La Valencia Hotel

Roasted Cauliflower

Pine Nuts | Agro Dulce | Shaved Celery | Pickled Onions

I was especially excited for this dish as cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, but I was equally impressed by the story behind the dish as well. Chef Brandon Hernandez goes out to a beach in Encinitas at 5am a few times weekly to pick the leaves incorporated in this dish. If that isn’t dedication to their culinary craft, I don’t know what is.

Dining Review: The MED Restaurant at La Valencia Hotel

Charred Spanish Octopus

White Bean | Chorizo | Lobster Reduction

I am a huge octopus fan, yet I have never had it like this. Why on EARTH have I never had a dish that paired octopus with chorizo before?! The smokiness from the charred octopus and the spice from the chorizo together were mind blowing!

Chicken Brick

Creamed Swiss Chard | Dates | Chicken Foie Gras Sauce

Now for the chicken. I rarely order chicken in a restaurant because I feel like it’s something I can make easily at home. Not this chicken, folks. The process they go through to make this chicken brick so that you truly get all sorts of different flavors from the different parts of the chicken is incredible. It’s something you have to see for yourself!

Dining Review: The MED Restaurant at La Valencia Hotel

Chocolate Mole Dessert

Chocolate Mole | Blue Corn Sponge Cake | Candied Marconas | Horchatta Ice Cream | Avocado Banana Pudding

Dessert – my favorite course! I devoured this dish for a number of reasons. There are so many different elements going on, you need to have a bite of each separately and appreciate every, single bite. Then you need to make one big bite with all of the ingredients and experience the best explosion of sweet deliciousness. I don’t even know if this is actually on the menu, but it needs to be.

Safe travels y’all!

Chelsea Rose Martin