Chef Blythe Beck, the former kitchen boss at Hector’s on Henderson, has done more than just revamp the menu at Hotel Palomar’s Central 214. The saucy, outspoken Beck has likely injected a heavy dose of sass into that kitchen. Check out her Facebook page and you’ll see her personal interests are naughty cooking and total world culinary domination—which is probably why the Oxygen network thought she’d make a good subject for a reality TV show called Naughty Kitchen. (That and she has a pretty killer voice.) All of this is bound to be good for Central 214, but it won’t matter one bit if the food’s no good. Not to worry. It is.
Like most good chefs these days, Beck is committed to bringing in what’s fresh and local to create dishes such as strip loin, all marbly and full of flavor, with peppery arugula, piquant blue cheese, and sweet grilled peaches from Canton. It’s so simple and delicious that you’ll find yourself craving it days later. Another knockout was grilled sea scallops, cooked expertly with a beautiful caramelized crust and served with more arugula, but this time it held strips of meaty pancetta. This dish, too, was magnificent in its simplicity. A bit of naughty came into play in an appetizer of chicken-fried lobster served on a mound of creamy grits spiked with bacon, as well as in Beck’s smoked gouda mac and cheese, which seemed to lack the advertised ham, but it was hardly short on flavor. In fact, we could hardly keep our paws out of the ramekin of buttery pasta twists, which were a nice departure from the uber-rich, cloying mess served by most restaurants these days. House-made pimento cheese and smoked trout spread made excellent complimentary starters, and a couple of glasses of Rutherglen “The Alliance” Marsanne/Viognier blend—a new addition for summer—had us talking long after we left the valet. We can’t wait to go back to Beck’s naughty kitchen.
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