First it was Searsucker and then Burlap. The inventive titles, named for fabrics and patterns, continue with Chef Brian Malarkey and business partner/nightlife man James Brennan’s newest notion, Herringbone, slated to open April 12, 2012, in La Jolla.
The concept, once again blending food and the nightlife scene, will open to the tune of $2.5 million in the long-abandoned space at 7837 Herschel St. (between Wall and Silverado streets), an unconfirmed 7,500 square feet of space, according to Malarkey.
The name Herringbone is a double entendre. By definition, it’s a pattern found commonly on textiles—tweed and twill, in particular. It also alludes to the type of food slated to be served: uncommon marriages of surf and turf—prime muses for a man who spent five years helming the kitchen at Oceanaire Seafood Room. Think: pork belly and scallops, duck confit and white seabass. No promises the more common steak and lobster pairing won’t make an appearance, as it does at Searsucker.
The theme this go-round? Ocean Bazaar.
“[There will be] bizarre stuff, too,” said Malarkey.
Whether he aims to trump his notable cowboy caviar (hint: it’s not fish eggs) served at Searsucker remains to be seen.
The Malarkey-Brennan’s modus operandi for pairing location with cuisine type is well-developed. Brennan scouts the spot, shows it to Malarkey and asks him to imagine his culinary concept. It then tyically takes 90 days to get the place up and running, though they’ll invest more than that in Herringbone.
The La Jolla location nearly begs for something Mediterranean with its red tiles and stunning archways.
“I saw Italian,” admitted Malarkey.
But because of its ideal coastal location, he changed his tune to one of seafaring. In fact, during our interview, he let slip the Italian-centric name originally conceived of. Lips sealed.
“I still see doing fresh produce and the Italian way of cooking—flat bread pizzas with clams and mussels and shrimp,” he said.
As with both other restaurants, fusion is the name of the proverbial game.
“We don’t just do French food, seafood, steaks—we adapt,” he said. “I see coastal living: big salads and big white wine.”
Acclaimed designer Thomas Schoos, noted for the larger-than-life interiors of both Searsucker and Burlap, and also responsible for such unmistakable interiors as Tao Las Vegas, Morimoto Napa andMorimoto Waikiki, will beautify the currently blank slate. No telling what he’ll work with after already unloading the loot from his worldly travels from his Los Angeles warehouse into Burlap.
While anticipation for Herringbone builds, there’s more. Malarkey-Brennan’s fabric-themed restaurants will soon be checkered about the country as part of a plan far more ambitious than the single La Jolla location. They’re looking at 15 fabric or pattern-themed restaurants in a span of three years. A Burlap in Arizona? Possibly. Malarkey envisions unique names for each, but Brennan’s not so sure—a hiccup not nearly hardy enough to hinder the Irish boys’ progress.
“There’s a lot of material names that are really not known well. There’s one that’s called ardass (a fine silk). Do you know how badly I want to do that for a Whiskey Bar?” he asked. “Hardass without the h. But how many people know that as a material?"
Taking a reverse course to , which recently opened in the spot formerly occupied by The Chart House and the historic Dragon Colony after erecting locales in Texas, Arizona and Orange County, Malarkey-Brennan anticipate opening their subsequent (read: all non-San Diego) eateries, all blending food and the nightlife scene, in Arizona, Orange County, Oregon and the Midwest.
“Burlap and Searsucker don’t count,” Malarkey said. “[They’re] kind of just practice runs to make sure we can do it.”
Very successful practice runs, in fact. Searsucker’s nearly unprecedented opening only a year ago was trumped by Burlap’s stunning grand opening just over a month ago. The formula: family and friends invest in concepts attached to a spirited chef with celebrity status.
Unless you’ve lived in a culinary hole for the past several years, you probably identify Malarkey’s name with Bravo’s Top Chef, in which he was a finalist. (We wonder if former cowboy Malarkey opened Asian cowboy-themed Burlap as a “neener-neener” of sorts to Chef Eric Ripert of New York’s acclaimed Le Bernardin, to whom he lost the cowboy cooking challenge that sent him packing on Top Chef Season 3.) Now, he looks forward to starting from scratch with the first round of his expansion plan in the Village where, oh by the way, they only considered one location.
“[La Jolla has] closed a lot of restaurants in the last few years. We’re not opposed to going into places where there’s been a restaurant before, but I really love going into a clean slate,” said Malarkey.
Malarkey envisions Herringbone as a place where people from all walks of life gather—multiple generations of familial ties breaking bread. Yet he’s kind of deferring to the tides of the community for clarity.
“I’ve been dining out in La Jolla a lot lately, trying to see who the people are, what they want,” he said. “A lot of people try to force a round restaurant into a square peg. I’ve been going to Eddie V’s, Whisknladle—[evaluating] who’s eating at five o’clock, nine o’clock—what days do they go out? What do they want?