For a total immersion in San Diego culture and history, dinner at A.R. Valentien, overlooking the Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean is a must. The high-end restaurant is the namesake of one of San Diego’s greatest artists, Albert Robert Valentien, and is home to the largest collection of his early works. Diners can indulge in artisanal California cuisine prepared by an award-winning chef in Craftsman-style elegance surrounded by the great artist’s paintings and ceramics. A.R. Valentien has received both local and national acclaim, including top restaurant awards from Zagat, Epicurious, and San Diego Magazine. Executive Chef Jeff Jackson has been recognized with Chef Hall of Fame, Best Chef Critic’s Choice, and Chef of the Year awards in San Diego. A.R. Valentien is the signature restaurant of Torrey Pines Lodge in La Jolla.
A.R. Valentien Ambiance
Diners are greeted at the Lodge at Torrey Pines in the style you would expect of a Five Diamond award-winning hotel. Kilted doormen see you into the hotel where you go through the grand lobby and the lounge before arriving at the restaurant. The luxurious woodsy style of the Lodge at Torrey Pines carries through to A. R. Valentien where you’ll find handcrafted wood-framed windows, subdued lighting from stained glass lanterns, several intimate dining rooms, luxurious semi-private booths, and a color palette of warm earthtones with a blue patterned carpet. The artist’s work is prominently displayed throughout. White tablecloths, leather seating, plush booths, and the Craftsman-style architecture combine to create an elegant and intimate ambiance.
The restaurant also offers outdoor dining overlooking the hotel pool, golf course, and Pacific Ocean on the Terrace at A.R. Valentien. The serene natural surroundings are a perfect backdrop to Thursday night communal Artisan Table dinners. The Terrace is also great for breakfast and lunch under sunny San Diego skies, or for an intimate dinner at night.
A.R. Valentien Food
Like many of the top chefs in San Diego, classically French-trained Exectutive Chef Jeff Jackson thinks food should speak for itself. Jeff’s simple approach to food is to discover the natural flavors of local ingredients and find ways to enhance, complement, and combine them to create exquisitely flavorful dishes. Chef Jackson was among the first farm-to-table chefs in San Diego, and he’s passed on his culinary acumen to a generation of local chefs who have worked under him and gone on to become chefs in kitchens across San Diego using his principles.
Dishes at A.R. Valentien start with fresh seasonal ingredients at the peak of their flavor like bitter greens, squashes, and root vegetables in winter. Plates rely on ingredients that can be sourced each week from local ranchers, farmer’s markets, fishermen, and specialty growers. Guests can expect offerings like crispy polenta, poached eggs, and Italian sausage Velouté, or lemon ricotta pancakes with raspberry syrup for breakfast.
For dinner, customers rave about the Tasting Menu with Wine. Each of the four courses is paired with a complementary wine. A sample menu starts with a melon, cucumber, and fennel amuse-bouche paired with a Washington Riesling. It is followed with Dungeness crab spaghetti and a California Chardonnay. The main course, grilled Niman Ranch hanger steak with heirloom tomatoes, is served with a California Petite Sirah. A baked apple with caramel cider ice cream and bourbon caramel completes the meal and is paired with Napa Valley’s Beringer Nightingale dessert wine.
Guests can instead order from six sections on the menu – charcuterie, appetizers, vegetables, entrées, artisanal cheeses, and desserts to customize their meals. A regional selection of California wines, several from boutique wineries, complement menu selections. Thursday nights, A. R. Valentien offers four-course, family-style Artisan Table Dinners. Fare includes appetizers, main course, cheese, and dessert, plus coffee and select wine. One Thursday per month Artisan Table Dinners showcase California wineries.
Note: Keep in mind all menus (including the Tasting Menu) are seasonal, and not all entrées may be available every time you dine at A.R. Valentien. Menus change daily.
A.R. Valentien Details
A.R. Valentien is located on North Torrey Pines Road in the Lodge at Torrey Pines. The Lodge sits along the edge of the well-known PGA championship Torrey Pines Golf Course. The restaurant is open seven days a week from early morning to late night for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are closed mid-afternoon until the dinner hour. Guests can make reservations by phone, website, or through the Open Table smartphone app.
The quiet, intimate restaurant is elegant and requires dressy attire. It’s not a good choice for the kids both in terms of ambiance and price point. The restaurant has a full bar in a cozy lounge-style atmosphere. There is valet parking that is free to restaurant guests. Although there are no TVs in the bar or restaurant, there is complimentary Wi-Fi if you need to entertain yourself.
A.R. Valentien Neighborhood
La Jolla is an upscale neighborhood to the north of Downtown San Diego. The neighborhood is family-friendly with many boutique and resort-style hotels in the area, plus an abundance of attractions that appeal to the whole family. The Lodge at Torrey Pines and A.R. Valentien restaurant both cater to adult travelers.
Golfing at the Torrey Pines Golf Course is a good way to work up an appetite for some sumptuous fare at A.R. Valentien. There are 36 holes divided into the 18-hole North Course and 18-hole South Course. Guests at the Lodge get preferred tee times and other perks. The stunning PGA championship course offers ocean views from many holes. Play a round where Tiger Woods famously beat Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open in a sudden death playoff after an 18-hole playoff.
The La Jolla Playhouse is another nearby attraction located on the UCSD campus farther south along North Torrey Pines Road. Dinner followed by the theater would make for a romantic and fun evening. The Playhouse offers theater goers a rare chance to see a live world premier show. They’ve produced over 70 world premieres and earned 300 awards for their theatrical productions, including a Pulitzer Prize winner. Twenty-four productions have gone on to Broadway garnering 35 Tony awards.