Another of Eater’s Most Anticipated Openings of 2015 has soft launched in the Gaslamp; RMD Group, local nightlife specialists (FLUXX, Sidebar) who’ve transitioned into restaurateurs, along with Ken Lovi of The Knotty Barrel and executive chef/partner Antonio Friscia, have reteamed up to open their second food-focused project, Rustic Root, in the 2,500-square-foot space adjacent to their Mexican-influenced Don Chido.
The Davis Ink Ltd-designed eatery, which is now open daily for dinner, opens up to a 500-square-foot sidewalk patio; inside, a collection of colanders hang above a lounge area that gives way a to a mirrored dining room holding a wall-sized crossword puzzle and communal table made of rolling pins.
Friscia’s menu is a mix of classic American dishes with modern twists. The surf & turf pairs quail egg-topped beef tartare with hamachi sashimi, steamed mussels get an addition of uni better and elk chops come with mole and almond-chili puree. For anyone who missing his take on Asian plates at the now-shuttered Gaijin, Friscia’s carnitas “bao bao” sliders reappear here.
The cocktail program include craftier versions of shots, from a gin Gimlet to Manhattan Brunch, that each come with a custom garnish and can be also ordered in regular cocktail sizes. A signature drink menu concentrates on the classics, including the 1930 Sazerac and the 1941 Moscow mule. Rustic Root will expand into brunch shortly, and in mid-June, will launch the second half of the restaurant, an equally-sized rooftop lounge space, perched above 5th Avenue, that will have its own bar, kitchen and menu.
by Candice Woo
It’s set to open in early May.
The 2,500-square-foot restaurant will share a kitchen with the adjacent Don Chido, which owners RMD Group and Ken Lovi of The Knotty Barrel opened last June. RMD Group, which runs several popular nightlife spots in town, including FLUXX and Sidebar, says they don’t plan to open more clubs in San Diego but intend to continue to expand their restaurant holdings, with two more eateries in the works for 2016.
Rustic Root’s menu, in the hands of its immensely capable executive chef Antonio Friscia, centers around “rustic American cuisine”, sourced locally, that spans the melting pot of cultures. There are deviled eggs, fried chicken and burgers, plus chicken liver mousse and firecracker shrimp with sriracha mayo. Friscia’s Italian heritage comes into play via housemade pasta, from ravioli with walnuts and butternut squash to lobster pappardelle.
The restaurant will open for dinner nightly, with brunch on weekends, and plans to have a bustling late night bar service; notable barman Garth Flood, Cowboy Star’s beverage director, consulted on a menu of classic drinks names after the year they were created. The traditional recipes range from the “1927” Boulevardier to the “1944” Mai Tai, with the most recent entry, the Cosmopolitan, from 1980. Flood also came up with seven craft cocktail shots with a custom garnishes; a Margarita shot has a mezcal-soaked lime wedge while the Martini shot comes with a blue cheese-stuffed olive. Matt Hunter (Bar Basic, URBN) will manage the bar program, which includes 16 taps of exclusively local beer.
Davis Ink Ltd. designed the space, which opens up to a 500-square-foot sidewalk patio. Inside, there’s a range of communal tables, banquette seating, booths and bar height tables; a large-scale crossword puzzle dominates one wall with mirrors throughout and a cluster of overturned colanders, doubling as lampshades, hang from the ceiling.
On the roof, another 2,500-square-feet of dining and drinking will be ready to launch in June. A retractable roof will enable the space, that includes fireplaces, lounge seating, light features and giant animal-shaped topiary bushes, to be used year-round. Another kitchen will cook up a menu of 14 appetizers and salads, though the entire menu can be ordered upstairs and delivered by dumbwaiter.