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Ethan Yang, executive chef/owner of Glass Box, Sky Deck Del Mar's premier restaurant. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Arts & EntertainmentColumnsTaste of Wine

Hand-crafted Asian cuisine inside Glass Box

Sky Deck Del Mar’s premier eatery, Glass Box, is executive chef/owner Ethan Yang’s dream creation. This was clearly a case of saving the best for last, as Glass Box was one of the final restaurants to open in the Sky Deck.

One of my favorite sushi places was Café Japengo. Not only was the food great, but there was a vibe and energy in the air. Since it closed in 2018, I have been searching for a hip Asian fusion eatery. My search is over. Thank you, Glass Box!

Ethan is a third-generation chef. His family emigrated in 1985 from Taiwan, where his grandfather and father were chefs. Ethan was born and raised in San Diego.

When I asked him a few things that make him successful, he said, “Being knowledgeable about the front and back office, a team environment where everyone’s input is desired, giving back to the community, and offering a flagship value and experience.”

Ethan gained front-office experience as a managing partner at Carver Steaks & Chops and Pechanga’s Director of Restaurants. In the community, he helped Maui fire victims and supports Boys & Girls Clubs, Promises2Kids, and Toys for Tots. “I have to give back; it is a mantra of mine,” he said.

I was also impressed with Ethan’s goal of having zero food waste. For example, fish scraps such as the head, bones and belly are used to make broths and sauces.

Hamachi Crudo, left, with toro tartare topped with avocado and ginger and wasabi accents. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Another great example is the restaurant’s signature Smoky Old-Fashioned cocktail, which uses wagyu fat. The wagyu fat is soaked in whiskey and agitated for a few hours, resulting in a silky drink with a smoke-infused body.

I couldn’t resist starting the evening with the Old Fashioned, as suggested by Jennifer Hamilton, development director. Frank started with a 2019 Grgich Hills Cabernet, which I also had after finishing the Old Fashioned.

Ethan, Jennifer, and Sam, our waiter, spoiled us throughout the evening. We started off with a hamachi crudo topped with jalapeno and a yuzu vinaigrette. We also had mouthwatering bluefin toro tartare as starters.

Sam said that Glass Box uses toro (lots of fat) versus choo toro (medium fat) or akami (no fat) cuts along with crab mixed for extra richness in the tartare, which is also topped with avocado slices. The creaminess of the avocado and tartare were a perfect pair. Both dishes were complemented with fresh ginger and wasabi.

For entrees, I knew that Frank, being the sea bass lover that he is, would go for the Chilean Sea Bass in an Asian fusion style with miso, sauteed vegetables and a shitake reduction. Sam also prepared premium wagyu slices, grade A5, tableside.

The show was as exciting as the mouthwatering strips accented with wasabi, truffle salt and garlic chips.  Going back a bit to my Japengo days, one of my favorites there was the fried rice. Ethan has potentially exceeded Japengo with his blue crab fried rice with egg, onion and scallion.

Over dinner, Frank and I kept saying we would take some of the rice home and wound up polishing off the deep bowl of heavenly rice.

Ethan further indulged us with nigiri omakase, where a sushi chef makes the best combination of the day’s ingredients. Each fish bite is topped with a small portion of rice to give it structure. Additionally, each piece of fish had a unique salt and season. The omakase was fresher than fresh. You would think the fish was just pulled out of the water.

Bottom line, Glass Box is a must-do experience. I estimated that it would take a person about three or four visits to try most menu items. Each entrée is designed to be shareable, so my recommendation would be to have each person get a different entrée and enjoy family style. Glass Box also has catering menus and can host events.

Whether you are there for a quiet date night hanging out at the Glass Box Sushi Bar, sitting in the main dining room with friends and family, or in the energetic Sky Deck hall, there is an environment and plate to match every occasion, especially with their happy hour, lunch, and dinner menus.

Glass Box also participates in San Diego Restaurant Week, which runs through March 10.  This would be a great opportunity to get familiar with Glass Box. Thank you, Chef Ethan, Jennifer and Sam, for a 5-star experience. Get more info at glassboxsd.com.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

 

Wine Bytes

Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria is hosting a Trinchero Wine Dinner on Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m. The main course is grilled New York steak with creamed spinach and a peppercorn reduction paired with 2021 “Quattro Theory” Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost is $75 per person plus tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858-538-5884.

Rico Cassoni is executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. He and founder/advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator, are two of the leading reviewers on the web. Reach them at [email protected].

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