San Diego-based celebrity chef Brian Malarkey is rolling out a new restaurant in Little Italy this spring and he has just laid out the recipe for the eatery – from the concept to the culinary team.
Herb & Wood is slated to open next month at 2210 Kettner Blvd. The project is also spearheaded by Malarkey’s business partner, Christopher Puffer.
The menu will revolve around a custom, wood-fired oven and simple, rustic dishes that rely on seasonal vegetables, proteins and local provisions. One signature item is the Stuffed Branzino with Meyer lemon, parsley, chives, and chervil, wrapped in prosciutto and roasted. It’s topped with chili tapenade made with Castelvatrano olives, Calabrian chilis, shallot and garlic.
Other dishes include Local Tuna & Uni Crudo with apple, shallot, herb relish and cucumber citrus broth; Wood Fire King Trumpet Mushrooms with lemon verbena and house churned butter; and Grilled Swordfish with yogurt, farro, pea sprouts and charred carrots in a curry vinaigrette.
Pastas will be made in-house, including Triagoli with smoked rabbit sausage, burrata, Meyer lemon and pistachios. The wood-fire oven will churn out gourmet pizzas with tasty toppings including seasonal veggies, to house-made sausage and salumi.
Puffer, who will serve as general manager at Herb & Wood, says the team that will open the highly-anticipated eatery is chalk-full of culinary all-stars.
“It's a celebrated chef, an experienced GM and a collection of friends and family whose dream is to open a culinary institution in Little Italy,” he said.
In the kitchen, Malarkey will be joined by co-chef Shane McIntyre. The pair go way back.
McIntyre began his culinary career when he served as Chef de Cuisine at Malarkey’s original Searsucker restaurant. He later became corporate chef, opening various locations across the country. Last summer, McIntyre started overseeing the kitchen of both of Malarkey’s greenACRE locations in San Diego, as well as Farmer & the Seahorse.
“Shane has shared my passion for all things culinary since we met—he has cooked with me, taught me and inspired me, as he does with everyone in the kitchens he has worked,” said Malarkey. “We are thrilled to push each other out of our comfort zones of styles and flavors and move in a new challenging direction with simply prepared dishes that focus on subtleties.”
The menu at Herb & Wood will include breads and desserts that complement the cuisine, plus house-made pizza dough aged for 48 hours prior to use.
The pastry and baking program will be helmed by executive pastry chef Adrian Mendoza, who’s previously with Malarkey at Herringbone and Searsucker. Mendoza plans to bring sweet offerings to the table, including Blueberry Soufflé with whipped buttermilk and blueberry compote.
Behind the bar, Willem Van Leuven, the San Diego chapter president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, will lead the eatery’s cocktail program. Van Leuven recently did the same for popular San Diego spots Puesto and Prohibition. The cocktail menu will focus on old-school throwbacks, herbs and other savory ingredients.
Finally, Mark Yost has been tapped to serve as assistant general manager. He honed his skills at Searsucker San Diego and Herringbone in West Hollywood, California. Yost is also curating the wine list. Alisha Stoun, who has opened nine restaurants with Malarkey and Puffer over the last six years, will help guide logistics for Herb & Wood.
The team says their main mission is to create an energetic eatery, where patrons will want to spend plenty of time sipping and savoring – from cocktails to dessert.
For now, Herb & Wood will open nightly for dinner. Weekend brunch will be added down the road.
To date, Malarkey has opened multiple restaurants in the San Diego food scene including Herringbone in La Jolla, two installments of his fast-casual concept greenACRE and those successful Searsuckers.
Malarkey rose to fame as a finalist on the television competition, “Top Chef,” and has since starred as a mentor on “The Taste,” and appeared on other TV food programs.
He grew up in Oregon before enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, according to his website. Malarkey worked for several years in the Los Angeles restaurant industry before bursting onto the San Diego food scene and joining The Oceanaire Seafood Room as an executive chef and partner, and later opening his own local restaurants.