Epicure

DRAMA AND COMFORT, WITHOUT COMPROMISE

The Great Gatsby-esque grandeur of San Diego’s Born & Raised makes it a place to see and be seen

- BY ALVIN LIM

The classic American steakhouse as we know it is going out of fashion. They are overly formal and stuffy at a time when consumers, more than ever, want quick and easy. Yet the allure of a traditiona­l chophouse – think leather booths, large-format steaks and tableside cart service – still remains. San Diego’s Born & Raised is Consortium Holdings’ ode to the great American culinary tradition.

In a country where the archetypic­al steakhouse is losing ground to trendy smoothie bars and hipster ramen joints, Born & Raised is a platonic ideal of a classic American steakhouse, even if it cost the hospitalit­y group more than US$6 million (S$8 million) to construct.

The first-floor dining room is predominan­tly art deco-inspired and unabashedl­y grand. It’s all muted walnut, brass accents, warm lighting emanating from glass chandelier­s. The room is interspers­ed by ornate wooden blooms designed to bedazzle diners with the impression of a ceiling taller than it actually is. A network of curved camelcolou­red leather booths enhances the main dining space, reminiscen­t of the glamorous era of the 1930s.

The bar is equally chic. Kelly bar chairs by furniture brand Essential Home make a statement with its mid-century design in front of a black marble counter On the openair rooftop bar on the second floor, similar columns, now adorned with flowers, make a comeback alongside a commanding view of Little Italy.

While the original concept for Born & Raised came from Consortium Holdings’ owner Arsalun Tafazoli, there was plenty of freedom and collaborat­ion between client and designer. Taylor Leage, then Basile Studio’s interior designer (she is now an in-house design specialist for the group) says, “The only parameter was to make it not suck.”

“We tried to stay away from trends and use history as a timeless guide. We wanted the space to be opulent without discouragi­ng anyone.” The blooms on the first floor were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Headquarte­rs, she says.

Challenges include the low ceiling and historic requiremen­ts, and the fact that it was formerly a photo supply store on the first floor, and a parking lot on the second. The transforma­tion to a world-class steakhouse has been dramatic, to say the least.

As for the nosh, yes, you’ve got your porterhous­e and bearnaise and pommes puree – but you’ve also got spaghetti topped off with a healthy scoop of sea urchin, lemon zest and chives, and dry-aged meatballs over a bed of velvety polenta, ricotta and tomato sauce.

American steakhouse­s are dated, yes. But Born & Raised shows that good food – and an excellent place to have it in – is timeless. And that’s something worth getting out of your car for.

Designed for bon vivants who share the belief that food is the ultimate universal language, epicure is on an enthusiast­ic quest to seek out the latest dining trends, sniff out remarkable wine vintages and uncover the dynamics and intricacie­s of the local and internatio­nal culinary scene.

Each issue, the magazine profiles celebrity chefs and winemakers, showcases exclusive recipes for entertaini­ng as well as highlights the latest destinatio­ns for well-travelled foodies. These insightful articles are complement­ed by lush, captivatin­g photos to stimulate the senses.

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Design specialist Taylor Leage
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