How hungry are Rancho Santa Fe residents for a new and fresh dining destination in the form of ground breaking while familiar, inventive yet classic and interesting but comfortable cuisine? Said Derry Van Nortwick, Vice President of Operations of the Grand Group, who somehow found time to give us a private tour in the midst of juggling all of the details of getting the doors open at Ponsaty’s in Rancho Santa Fe, “I already have a waitlist and parties being reserved.”
Hey, wait a minute! Where’s that sign up form? In the meantime, I suppose I’ll languish at one of the other Grand Group properties while I’m waiting for my number to be called. Ponsaty’s is the first Rancho Santa Fe location but the fourth establishment of three year old Grand Group (including Bellamy’s and The Ranch at Bandy Canyon in Escondido and recent acquisition DiCicco’s in Old Town, Clovis).
Ponsaty’s is also the namesake restaurant of Chef Patrick Ponsaty, a 5th generation French Chef, one of only two French Master Chefs in San Diego and Corporate Chef of the Grand Group. While San Diego isn’t on the Michelin rating circuit (that’s a whole different discussion), Patrick has, through his long career in establishments throughout Europe and New York, amassed a resume that includes a total of 18 Michelin stars awarded to restaurants he’s worked in.
Short story, Patrick’s as comfortable with a 10″ chef knife in his hand as he is with a lighted drill…almost. On the other hand, perhaps what he’s doing is “building” a legacy. Oh, never mind.
Anyway, the finishing touches at Ponsaty’s Fine Dining & Lounge are being applied even as this article is being written. There will be no detailed pictures of the interior of Ponsaty’s, because, you know…P.R. company restrictions and the Wow factor of the ultimate unveiling. I was, however, given permission to show pictures of Patrick, who coincidentally happened to be standing at different locations in the restaurant…wink, wink.
The former site of Delicias has been completely gutted and renovated so that it includes four distinct dining spaces, each with its own feel and vibe.
The front of the restaurant now features a lattice covered sidewalk patio which will seat 38. It will have a bistro type feel, complete with awnings and tapestries that will help block the sun and allow for certain sections of the patio to be cordoned off as needed for private gatherings.
The bar area, immediately to the left after passing the hostess stand at the entry, previously opened onto the dining room. It’s been enclosed for a bit more intimacy. It will seat 22 and has a distinctive Scottish pub vibe, with tall, dark U-shaped leather banquettes, brass wall mounted light sconces, a freshly renovated and painted black bar and a Crystal Ice quartzite bartop backlit with slick, multiple-colored, remotely controlled led lighting, which is also duplicated at the hostess stand.
An eclectic mix of cast, old world style panels, nautical looking stainless steel with brass accents, rustic wood planking and a stone fireplace adorn different walls of the new 70 seat dining room. Custom upholstered leather banquettes, hand hewn maple burl tables and privately commissioned, one of a kind brass and leather chairs rim the space with art deco lighting fixtures in prominent view when entering the restaurant. The center of the honed travertine dining room floor is fitted with circular tables, selected as much for geometric diversity as for the unique dining experience they provide, above which hang a filigreed crystal chandelier…all under an existing skylight.
It’s old world meets new school leaning ever so slightly toward medieval style art deco with a nod to the sea, a glance at the sky, a wave at the woods and an homage to easy country living…all under the California sun. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what you will be able to expect from the food here, too.
But, first, let’s talk about the back patio, aka, my new office. Featuring a large fieldstone fireplace and a 14′ long stackstone-backed cascading waterwall, the 30 seat back patio has a new lattice cover that matches the sidewalk’s and will have live music each evening, including spanish guitarists. Tapas Tuesday in this space may be the only time you won’t find me, not because I don’t love tapas, because I sooo do, but because I have a feeling the combination of flamenco, tapas and cocktails might make me weep publicly and I don’t want to lose my man card.
Let’s face it…you may never get to see the wine cellar, down the stairs, in the dark, at the back of the restaurant, with only a thin exterior wall between you and who knows what lurks in the mysterious, eerie, desolate back alley. Or, might you?
Either way, I barely did. But, in the split second I was able to glance through the door and window, I did a quick count and estimation in my head. 18 bottle slots tall by about 10 wide over my arm span, multiplied by what looked like 3 armspans long on the sides, 2.5 x 2 down down the middle and 2 wide at the end works out to an 1800 bottle capacity. With a margin of error around plus or minus 50% because I didn’t happen to have my laser tape on me and Patrick almost slammed my head in the door, I’ll bet you dinner at Ponsaty’s I’m right in the ballpark.
Now, we can talk about the food.
Patrick has brought on as Ponsaty’s new Executive Chef Alain Delahaye, fixture at the ageless favorite and classic French restaurant Vincent’s in Escondido for the past seven years. Chef Alain brings not only his extensive classical French technique, but also a Basque background to the kitchen at Ponsaty’s.
The new menu is still in development, but with Chefs Patrick and Alain, long time right hand and newly appointed Executive Chef of Bellamy’s, Jonathan Freyberg, and recently hired Corporate Pastry Chef, Bruno Albouze collaborating on it – stand back, folks, ’cause there’s no way you’re ready for what this all-star, hyper talented team is throwing together for your dining enjoyment.
The menu at Bellamy’s will include a broad mix of selections to suit every palate. Classical French, decidedly Mediterannean, new American, California Coastal and regular, seasonal prix fixe menu items will dare you to ever get bored of eating here. A few days’ advance notice can also secure you any type of tasting menu you’d like, completely customized to your tastes, guests and dietary needs for parties as small as two.
Including a casual bar menu with finger foods, diners looking for anything from a quick cocktail and snack to a more refined, extended experience will be welcomed and regaled with flavors and textures that are not so much unique as they are specially combined, thoughtfully presented, carefully arranged and expertly prepared.
How do I know this? Because, aside from the legions of loyal industry folk that Patrick has mentored, Patrick’s sons and Patrick himself, I have probably eaten more of Patrick’s food than anyone else in San Diego. So, I say it is so… If you don’t believe me, don’t go. It’ll be a shorter wait for me to get in.
And, the story within the story – in the above picture, Patrick is in the Ponsaty’s dining room tasting some chocolates which are being custom created, flavored and formulated to his exact specifications by one of my favorite chocolatiers in San Diego. I’m not going to give away the secret, but if you can read between the lines, that is some damn fine Chocolate…”Lush”ious, you might even say…
Here’s the Rundown on Ponsaty’s, Rancho Santa Fe:
Centrally located in Rancho Santa Fe, Ponsaty’s is located on the main drag of the downtown area. Sidewalk and patio dining can be enjoyed with shaded seating and light coastal breezes. The interior dining space is eclectic, not intended to be formal in either presentation or attitude, promoting elegant fare in a casual, comfortable and, what might even be considered a whimsical space.
The official opening is currently scheduled for July 26th. Let the countdown begin…!
Bar items and appetizers should be under and around the $10-$15 mark, while entrees and share items will cost from $20 to $50+. Private parties and seatings can be arranged with little regard for pricing and an emphasis on food, wine and service.
There will be something for everyone here. Vegan and vegetarian offerings can be prepared on request. The bar menu will include casual and more refined offerings alike. Diners will be able to order off of any menu regardless of which of the spaces they choose to dine in. Game, beef, poultry, fowl, seafood in any form…I can’t think of a genre that I haven’t experienced and, more importantly, enjoyed from Patrick.
Expect bold flavors, but not in the too spicy, too salty, too sweet, too over the top kind of way. From the olive oil and balsamics to the sauces, jus, dressings, toppings and garnishes, the combinations of flavors and punch of imagination that Patrick pours into every dish must be experienced to be understood.
And, even then…good luck…kinda like my chances of getting on the wait list. Enjoy, and Cheers, my friends!
6106 Paseo Delicias
Rancho Santa Fe, California 92068