The renovation of the old Quail’s Inn at Lake San Marcos into a new restaurant called Decoy Dockside Dining could be some of the most exciting foodie news this year for San Diego residents. The project brings a talented chef and a successful, experienced restaurant management group (Eat. Drink. Sleep.) to a great location in inland North County.
It only takes one – one new player on the scene, one exciting new experience, one talented chef and one risk taking, cutting edge restaurant group – to become the catalyst for rejuvenation. Now that I’ve seen the new place, I’m hopeful that Decoy Dockside Dining may be “the one” that could help the ever-swelling bubble of the fast growing San Diego dining scene expand into an area that currently has a faded, frazzled at the edges Restaurant Row as the current hub of dining choices.
It only took a few moments walking around with Corporate Executive Chef Danilo “DJ” Tangalin to realize the only thing the new Decoy Dockside Dining has in common with its predecessor is the waterfront view of the Lake and even that is bigger, better and fresher.
The new 13,000 s.f. Decoy Dockside Dining is a multi-level freestanding space that has been rebuilt from the pilings and foundations up. The main level, accessed from the parking lot adjoining The Lakehouse Hotel & Resort, is encased in floor to ceiling glass windows and doors that maximize the scenic view of serene Lake San Marcos. Combined with the rustic ceiling panels, open steel beam construction, a backlit onyx topped bar, custom, built-on-site, velvet upholstered banquettes and Tigerwood lined walls, the main level dining room exudes a sense of casual elegance and sophistication. Attached to the main level dining room are two outdoor patios, that, combined with the main entry lounge will allow about 250 diners to enjoy the new menu and upper level waterfront vistas.
The lower level of Decoy Dockside Dining is dedicated to covered patio dining which opens onto the water, seating 150, and an interior private dining room that can be reserved for parties and events up to 25 people. The design scheme changes to a style reminiscent of an East Coast, Cape Cod boathouse with tongue and groove paneling painted in bright primary colors adorning the central bar area and hand painted boating theme murals decorating the walls.
Even more compelling than the design and location of Decoy Dockside Dining is the story of how Chef DJ Tangalin came to the Chef world. Actually, “born to” is more appropriate.
In his childhood, DJ worked with his Mom, a fishmonger and street food cantina owner in the Philippines. He worked the grill and more. To maximize their business and sales, meals were packaged in plastic and DJ and his Mom would knock on the doors of businesses offering their freshly cooked and packaged meals for 5 pesos (the luxurious equivalent to .10c American) or with a bowl of rice for 6 pesos. You know…they did that thing that’s called…oh yeah, hard work and hustle.
Leaving the Philippines when he was 16 and sojourning with his family through Hawaii to the East Coast, settling in New Jersey, DJ briefly pursued a nursing license. However, after working his way through school for a couple of years as a busser, server and food runner, he succumbed to the siren’s call of the kitchen. At the behest of Jason Hippen, owner of the popular Jay’s on Third in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, and whom DJ considers his most influential early mentor, DJ acquired his culinary degree from the Academy of Culinary Arts in 2009.
From there, DJ’s star has risen rapidly. Between working for well-known chef Eric Ripert in Philadelphia and spending time traveling from east to west stÃ¡ging at establishments such as Le Bernardin in New York and The Village Pub in Redwood City, DJ has amassed a ridiculously diverse repertoire of technique ranging from classical French, Spanish, Mediterranean and Italian all the way back to his Asian street food roots with time accrued at establishments that have left 8 Michelin stars on his resume.
His philosophy in the kitchen boils down to a simple formula. Seasonality of ingredients is always the primary consideration. In fact, it’s the reason he moved to San Diego. From meat to produce, he is able to source everything he needs fresh and locally. After that comes technique. With a single beet, for instance, DJ may consider any combination of preparations including roasted, poached, pickled, pureed or chips. He considers the flavor profiles next, striving to reach balanced levels of sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and umami on every dish and only then, after all of these elements are dialed in, does he focus on the part that we, the excited diners get to ooh and aah over – the texture, color, height and final plating.
And, therein lies the crux of the issue for DJ. It’s the people. He remembers his Mom and Dad cooking three meals a day for his large family. When they called out “Dinner’s ready!,” it was one of the most exciting times of the day. It meant it was time for the entire family to gather around the table, enjoy great food, share their experiences of the day and simply be together. In Chef DJ Tangalin’s words, that’s what he expects out of every meal that he creates…”A celebration of life.”
Count me in, Chef!
Here’s the Rundown on Decoy Dockside Dining:
Decoy Dockside Dining is adjacent to The Lakehouse Hotel and Resort in Lake San Marcos. It will offer different dining experiences in its upper and lower dining levels starting with a bit more refined atmosphere and expansive waterfront views in the main level interior dining room and adjacent outdoor patios, with a large lounge and bar area at the entrance for casual and happy hour enjoyment. The open air lower level sits only feet above the placid waters of Lake San Marcos with a cool breeze flowing in the summer and integrated electronic heaters for the cooler weather.
The restaurant will be open 7 days a week, as it will also serve the adjacent Lakehouse hotel and resort guests. The plan, currently is for the main dining room to offer breakfast and dinner, including room service for the resort, with the lower level serving lunch and dinner.
Expect a diverse selection of cuisines with Asian, Italian, Spanish, Coastal and New American style flavors, classical techniques and local ingredients. The menu will include items ranging from familiar casual starters to dry-aged Tomahawk steaks and everything in between from Chef DJ and staff. With 3 kitchen areas to service the different dining spaces and much of the staff already in place, service is expected to be efficient and well-trained.
Starters and appetizers will be offered around the $6-$7 range, entrees will average $25 – $45 and there will be outliers like dry-aged Tomahawk chops and steaks that will be offered at pretty reasonable once-in-awhile-special-occasion prices around the $90 range.
Following are pictures of some items that have been developed for the menu to date and promise everything from housemade pasta selections, asian fusion like the Kung Pao sweetbreads to cool takes on classics snack dishes like Buffalo style quail.
I’ll see you there. Cheers, my friends!
1025 La Bonita Drive
San Marcos, CA 92078