On the Menu: Charles and Dinorah at Point Loma’s Pearl Hotel
Charles and Dinorah, ensconced in the center courtyard of the old-timey, recently refreshed Pearl Hotel in Point Loma, cheek by jowl with San Diego’s coastal fishing and sailing, is a gustatory gem. The name pays homage to the couple who first owned and managed the then-Sportsman’s Lodge in the early 1960s and lived in the space that the restaurant now occupies.
Charles and Dinorah captures a midcentury modern ambience that pops with eye candy, including a salvaged rock wall blending quartz and amethyst boulders once a design feature of the hoteliers’ original living quarters. There also are a glitzy green marble bar top and white marble tables, wood walls and smoky slate floors all plucked straight out of a scene from AMC’s “Mad Men.” The restaurant also incorporates a whimsical hybrid element, as the main glass door slides open to the pool deck, creating a half indoors and half al fresco setting.
But the menu showcases a modern ethos with freshness, sustainability, seasonality and originality as the main course.
“We’re very focused on what ingredients go into our products,” said Anthony Gutierrez, general manager of The Pearl and Charles and Dinorah. “Every item in each dish is locally sourced, organic and made from scratch — every single piece of pasta is rolled out and shaped by the chef’s thumb.”
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Casetta Hospitality Management Group, which owns and operates Charles and Dinorah, is in the final stages of receiving a B Corporation certification — an international designation for businesses that achieve high standards for social and environmental impact.
Chef Jared Flores, a San Diego native who earned his culinary stripes starting as a line cook at Charles and Dinorah three years ago, painstakingly prepares every item, including house-made rubs, marinades and sauces like fermented chili butter. Flores’ seasonal menu changes quarterly to keep dishes fresh and lively, focusing on New American flavors with some Asian influences and French cooking techniques.
The chicken karaage, a Japanese-style fried chicken drizzled with aioli and dotted with fresh basil leaves, is a local favorite. Wagyu carpaccio is thinly sliced beef from cows pampered with massages, spa treatments and soothing music while grazing in pristine pastures. The slices are dressed with fish sauce and chili oil, diced shallots, cilantro and toasted rice flour.
For piscivores, there are fresh, local, wild-caught and cut-to-order treasures from the sea daily, such as halibut for fish tacos, and oysters — a couple of small-plate happy hour faves.
Charles and Dinorah is frequently featured in magazines and offers not only elegant plates such as pan-seared salmon with curried kabocha mash; vegan eggplant tikka marsala with coconut crema and fresh herbs; and a hearty, labor-intensive pasta Bolognese that stews for hours, but also kick-back good ol’ boys such as the Pearl Burger on a pretzel bun with truffle cheese fries, and hot wings with blue cheese ranch and bread and butter pickles.
All desserts are homemade, including the oatmeal and raisin cookie ice cream sandwich stuffed with pistachio semifreddo, an Italian-style ice cream concocted from egg yolks, sugar and cream that’s lighter in texture than gelato and resembles frozen mousse.
To wash it down, the creative and sustainable beverage program headed by Lauren Autenrieth, the restaurant manager and cocktailier, offers everything from boutique wines and local beers to craft cocktails and house-made infusions with goodies such as fig, vanilla bean and thyme.
For an indulgent cocktail that doubles as a liquid dessert, try “The Dude Abides,” which blends Skrewball peanut butter whiskey with Mr. Black cold-brewed coffee liqueur from single-origin coffee beans, then is topped with banana liqueur-infused whipped cream.
Charles and Dinorah hosts its “Happiest Hour” from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays with specials on select small plates, cocktails, wines and beers. The restaurant also features Dive-in Movie Nights with dinner and a flick poolside on Wednesdays during the spring, summer and fall. It also offers deals on sparkling wines and oysters every Thursday.
While the majority of menu items are best enjoyed fresh in the restaurant, takeout is available for dishes that travel well, such as burgers, steaks, wings and pastas.
Charles and Dinorah
Where: The Pearl Hotel, 1410 Rosecrans St., Point Loma
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Information: charlesanddinorah.com, (619) 226-6100
Chef Jared Flores’ Pearl Wing Sauce
Yields about 3 cups
• ½ pound butter
• ¼ pound duck fat
• ¼ cup cayenne
• ¼ cup sweet paprika
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ½ tablespoon garlic powder
• ½ tablespoon salt
• ½ tablespoon black pepper
• Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once it has all melted together and small bubbles begin forming, remove from heat. Let cool slightly before pouring into a container of your choosing.
• Spiciness rates at about 6 out of 10. Adjust cayenne accordingly.
• Season chicken before applying the sauce.
• Stir sauce well before applying.
Cocktail — Rosemary Negroni Sour
• 1 ounce Bombay Dry Gin
• 1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
• 1 ounce Campari bitters
• ½ ounce rosemary syrup
• ½ ounce lemon
• ½ ounce fresh orange juice
• 1 egg white
• Add all ingredients to a shaker. Dry shake, then add ice and wet shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Char a rosemary sprig using a torch and gently place on top, allowing the foam to extinguish the rosemary.
• Rosemary syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and hot water.
Courtesy of Lauren Autenrieth, restaurant manager and cocktailier