Tower23 Welcomes New Executive Chef & Revamped Menu at its Beachfront Restaurant

From www.justluxe.com by Nicolle Monico
Tower23 Welcomes New Executive Chef & Revamped Menu at its Beachfront Restaurant

If there’s one thing that San Diegans absolutely love, it’s al fresco dining. And, if our outdoor table includes ocean views, then forget it, we’ll be there for hours. Which is exactly what happened to me when I visited JRDN at Tower23 one evening for dinner. Three hours later, and we were still sitting there, people-watching and sipping on French press coffee.

Open since 2005, JRDN quickly began gaining popularity in Pacific Beach early on with its upscale-yet-casual dining concepts, minimal décor and a windowed patio that looks out onto the ocean. Over the years it has been a repeat winner of the California Restaurant Association’s award for Best Hotel Restaurant.

JRDN Photo Credit: JRDN

JRDN features 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, a private dining room and white-tablecloth seating (although, that may soon change). This May, the eatery promoted sous chef Danilo “DJ” Tangalin to Executive Chef and gave him 100 percent control over the menu. With that, Tangalin revamped the aged menu and brought it back to life with fresh, seasonal offerings while still keeping some of its classic dishes. Prior to JRDN, Tangalin was Chef de Cuisine at PrepKitchen in Little Italy. He is also classically trained, but his road to cooking didn’t start at a young age.

JRDN Photo Credit: JRDN

“I was actually in nursing school because all of my family is in the medical field. […] Then I thought, ‘I’m not going to do this, it’s not in me,’” said Tangalin. “But we own a little cantina in the Philippines, it’s like a side business and my mom was also a fish monger as well as a medical technician. […] So I was always around food. When we moved to Hawaii, I finished high school and moved to New Jersey for nursing school and then I switched and started cooking. The rest is just…I worked at a couple restaurants that opened up the door for me.”

JRDN Photo Credit: JRDN

Throughout the years, Tangalin has worked across the country in many esteemed kitchens including Douglas Keane’s Cyrus, Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt and Daniel Patterson’s Coi and Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York. “That was my first break, he took me in at Le Bernardin, let me stage there a couple of times…and then I worked at Locanda Verde which is Andrew Carmellini’s, he is a staple in New York. Some people say he’s one of the old-school New Yorker chefs, old-school, classical Italian.”

As we all know, winters can be a bit bone-chilling on the East Coast and because of this, Tangalin sought-out a homestead on the West Coast. After working in San Francisco for some time, he found his way to even more sunshine in San Diego, and ultimately to JRDN.

JRDNPhoto Credit: Nicolle Monico

Going through a tasting menu of a few of his favorites, we were able to get a good idea of who he is as a chef. Starting with fresh oysters, we moved onto ahi tuna poke salad and then a grilled octopus salad. The octopus was especially tasty, which could be because of the techniques used before it hits the table. The meat is first massaged for 45 minutes (a Japanese technique) and then braised in a paprika, mushroom and tomato broth until its tender and then grilled before it is plated as a panzanella salad without the greens.

JRDN Photo Credit: JRDN

One of Tangalin’s favorite dishes is his new PB&J foie gras made up of toasted peanuts spiced with honey, agave and sesame seeds and then paired with strawberry jam, biscuits and seared foie gras. It’s incredibly delicious, but could also pass as a dessert dish as it is very sweet tasting mid-meal. For a lighter option, I’d suggest the pan-roasted Alaskan halibut served with broccolini sautéed with olives, capers and chili flakes. It’s served alongside Patagonian potatoes and dressed with a parsley potato beurre blanc sauce. It is light, flavorful and just the perfect serving size for an entrée. Dish after dish, there was a definite Asian influence which complements his Californian cuisine.

JRDN Photo Credit: JRDN

When asked what he thought management saw in him to give him the reins to the kitchen, Tangalin shared, “A brand new energy, a young aspiring chef trying to make his mark in town.” He also cheekily exclaimed, “And, I’m really good with numbers ‘cause I’m Asian. I’ve run their lowest food cost ever in 10 years, I’ve run their lowest labor cost ever.”

Whatever their reason, we’re happy they trusted Tangalin with the menu. As far as we’re concerned, it has already paid off. In the future, Tangalin hopes to continue changing up the menu based on the best fare of the season and eliminate the white tablecloth feel (re: stuffy), while still ensuring a casual fine dining experience. With the perfect San Diego view already in place and a fresh menu of quality cuisine, it’s hard to imagine anything but a bright future ahead for this young chef. 

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