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Restaurant review: Kingfisher, San Diego

The congee at Kingfisher is topped with mushrooms, crispy garlic, and an egg yolk.

As vibrant and eye-catching as its namesake bird, Kingfisher opened its doors in early 2022 in Golden Hill, a mostly residential urban neighborhood just east of downtown San Diego. A modern and elegant showcase for Vietnamese cuisine, Kingfisher has earned Michelin Guide recognition along with numerous local and national accolades.

Kingfisher’s owners designed the restaurant with shimmering lotus-print wallpaper that glints of gold to celebrate their Vietnamese culture. In the hands of Executive Chef Jon Bautista, a veteran of fine-dining kitchens, family recipes retain a connection to their original inspirations while being made new.

His menu begins on a fresh note, with offerings that could include a chilled interpretation of Vietnamese hot-and-sour soup, or canh chua, presented here as a diver scallop crudo poached in salt water and chilled before being served with a pineapple broth, tamarind gelée, ginger-cured tomatoes, celery, rice-paddy herbs, and seaweed.

A luxe version of congee, a comfort food eaten in many Asian countries, is augmented with wild chanterelle mushrooms, crispy garlic, chives, and cilantro; a molten egg yolk adds extra richness to the already velvety rice porridge.

Sourcing from local farms means that some elements swap out with the seasons: Spring and summer’s sweet corn and strawberries give way to sunchokes and chicories in the fall and winter.

Fried fish beside a trio of sides

Fried fish served with a trio of sides.

The shareable larger plates are showstoppers. A whole fish is confidently fried but still succulent within and dressed lightly in a gingered sweet-and-sour sauce. Smoked dry-aged duck, available nightly in limited quantities, arrives as a sliced breast and confit leg: Use the accompanying sides of rice noodles, herbs, and greens to build lavish lettuce wraps drizzled with house-made XO sauce and nuoc mam chimichurri.

A scoop of flan

The Vietnamese flan at Kingfisher.

Vietnamese flan, a descendent of French crème caramel, is the overwhelming dessert favorite. Its just-set vanilla custard, bathed in dark coffee syrup, is balanced by a dollop of Maldon salt–miso whipped cream.

Best dishes at Kingfisher

Wild mushroom congee, diver scallops, whole fried fish, smoked dry-aged duck, vanilla flan with coffee syrup, Saigon Moped cocktail

Dinner prices

Starters, $18–$36; entrées, $34–$95; desserts, $13


2469 Broadway. Closed Tuesdays.

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