Upscale-yet-casual, Southern California-influenced eatery showcases seafood in an open, bustling Short North space
Cameron Mitchell hasn’t become a Columbus magnate by accident. The Upper Arlington-reared serial restaurateur clearly knows what Central Ohio diners like.
Based on visits to several of Mitchell’s 20 or so local eateries — most are seemingly always busy — I’d say his formula goes something like this: Success equals crowd-pleasing dishes with an air of sophistication, plus a high-energy atmosphere with bits of glitz and exceptional service. This time-tested recipe produces fine results again at Del Mar SoCal Kitchen, Mitchell’s newest creation.
Claiming inspiration from “the best of Southern California” and showcasing seafood (Del Mar is Spanish for “from the sea”), Mitchell’s latest Short North sensation occupies a roomy, bustling space with a light-colored palette, plentiful tilework, multiple mirrors, wood, pale-green banquettes and excellent, gold-toned lighting, some from huge, overhead lamps.
Other elements — a ship-worthy figurehead above the bar, suitcases stacked near the tall ceiling and curved contours — call to mind an ocean liner. So the eatery is pretty easy on the eyes; I only wish it were easier on the wallet.Get the latest dining news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Here, you’ll pay $8.49 for Potato Bread, $19.99 for Beef Chow Fun and $28.99 for a Lobster Roll. These items are well executed — the bread resembles a huge, savory cinnamon roll stuffed with spuds and bacon; the smoky, peppery chow fun features tender beef; and the lobster sandwich comes with plenty of sweet, butter-poached sea meat plus very nice slaw — but they’re fairly standard offerings.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find more compelling fare and some relative bargains.
Most wine bottles cost upwards of $50, but the versatile Summer Water rose — it’s on tap — is just $7 per glass. Cocktails ($11) are affordable, too. I enjoyed both the Beach Barbie, a twist on an Aperol spritz, and the big, crisp and strong Pineapple Dance, which arrives in a tiki glass.
The refreshing Octopus ($13), presented on ice, is fair-priced and the most interesting starter I tried. Served with crunchy tortilla chips and starring firm-yet-tender, sous-vide-cooked, bite-sized mollusk pieces, it’s an inspired riff on the seaweed salads prevalent in sushi restaurants.
Except for a few overcooked shellfish, I liked the mild Curry Clams ($14.99), too. Their thick, umami-rich gravy is addictive despite lacking much of the advertised Thai-curry flavor.
Del Mar doesn’t neglect terrestrial-minded diners. Its Gem Lettuce ($8.49) is a fancy relative of the wedge salad enhanced by finely grated goat gouda, pecans and “everything seasoning” (as in bagels). The recommended Seven Vegetable Fried Rice ($15), a healthful and flavorful spin on Chinese takeout created with shaved-cauliflower “rice,” can be a shared appetizer or a satisfying entree.
When bird is the word, the words that describe the Brick Chicken ($22.99) are deboned, juicy, tender and impressive. Other features of this sizeable entree include wonderfully crisp, herb-and-spice-rubbed skin, appealing if unevenly roasted veggies (cauliflower, carrots, Romanesco broccoli, tomatoes) plus a bright-and-garlicky pan sauce.
A bright pan sauce likewise perks up the Halibut. This delicious and fresh-tasting, snow-white fish arrives nicely crusted and with a lively jumble of raisins, peas and Marcona almonds. But at $33.99, it’s quite expensive.
If such prices don’t cause you to blink twice, try the Fisherman’s Stew ($35.99). In this rustic-yet-elegant dish, roasted veggies and a salty saffron broth effectively show off perfectly cooked, high-quality sea treats — I received a few clams and mussels plus three thin scallops, one small lobster tail and one big shrimp.
Since we’re keeping track of numbers, the Olive Oil Cake ($7.49) — think citrus-spiked, super-moist pound cake with supremed orange segments and foamy “Creamsicle whipped cream” — is Del Mar’s least-expensive dessert, but it tastes like a million bucks.