Whether it’s a Moroccan-influenced Chicken & Shrimp Kefta with a Vietnamese-style Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, or a Green Thai Curry Hummus with both English and Wasabi peas, Chef Jason Neroni of the newly-opened The Desmond restaurant has California Cuisine speaking with a lot of different accents. “We’re buying everything we can from the area,” says Neroni, “then we craft it with global influences. That gives us no boundaries — we’ve got a lot of different palates traveling through here and we can make them all very happy.”
Located in the Kimpton Alma hotel in downtown San Diego’s ‘Gaslamp Quarter,’ The Desmond is the latest showcase for Neroni’s culinary talent, whose career has taken him from Disneyland’s Club 33 to legendary restaurants Chez Panisse, Spago Beverly Hills, Le Cirque, Blue Hill and El Bulli. The elegant menu’s entrées let the main ingredient shine with the international influences coming through in the accompaniments. The Braised Beef Cheek is served with a Mexican Guajillo Tomatillo Salsa and Moroccan Baghrir, and the King Salmon is accompanied by Chinese Long Beans and an Italian-style Eggplant Agrodolce.
One dish that Neroni feels best exemplifies his cooking style is his Brussel Sprouts. “We do that with a dashi, Japanese curry, umami dust, pickled jalapeño vinegar and Thai Basil,” says Neroni. “It’s crispy and crunchy and has all the elements. Kind of like a ‘Pop Rocks’ for adults.” And along with the regular menu three and five course tasting menus also available for diners.
The Kimpton Alma opened in late 2022 after a $25M renovation, led by design firm Indidesign, from its former incarnation as the Hotel Palomar. It features 174 guest room as well as 12 studios and 23 suites with separate bedrooms and living rooms. The real stars are the four penthouse suites, three of which are duplexes, with differing floor to ceiling views of the Pacific Ocean, Coronado and Downtown San Diego — special hint: book the one named ‘Coronado Penthouse Loft’ for the best water views. They are perfect for a romantic weekend for two or for throwing a small gathering, with some suites featuring two different patios and a dining table.
The hotel’s rooftop pool features ‘Leave of Absence,’ the newly opened food, cocktail and entertainment space, serving drinks, wood-fired pizzas and oysters day and evening. And at night it’s also the location for Kimpton’s ‘Off the Record’ concert series, which was kicked off last May with special guests The Aces. True music fans can check the concert schedule and arrange to get rooms with private patio views of the show or sit back and enjoy the music from a soaking tub overlooking the pool. Non-music fans may want to book rooms on the opposite side of the building on show nights.
As a base for exploring San Diego, the Kimpton Alma is perfectly situated. Located 10 minutes from the San Diego airport, the hotel is also a quick drive or walk to Balboa Park with 1,200 acres of green spaces and trail and home to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. The Gaslamp Quarter is home to numerous restaurants, cocktail lounges and theaters and the Coronado Beach is a short drive away — or better yet, take the ferry. Further afield are perfect getaways for families at the San Diego Zoo and Sea World and no trip to San Diego is complete with a trip to the beach: a perfect chance to explore more of the city by trying out Mission Beach, Pacific Beach or going a little further north to La Jolla.