And just when it seemed safe to write Brian Malarkey off as his “Fabric of Social Dining” unraveled, he planted a new flag with Herb & Wood. This time, the cooking that made him a Top Chef has come to the fore instead of the ambition. His roasted branzino with lemon herb stuffing, olives, and chili tapenade rolled in serrano ham is the best treatment of the fish I’ve tasted in this town, hands down.
Indeed, there really isn’t much that separates Nos. 1 and 2 on the list. Both neighborhoods are led by a trio of marquee restaurants helmed by top chefs. In both Little Italy and La Jolla, it would have been easy to go another two or three restaurants deep without much, if any, dropoff in the level of excellence. In both neighborhoods, there is a vast array of additional eateries that, in another part of town, might have won notice here in their own right.