After meandering through the waterfront, we decided to stop somewhere for a small bite to eat. To our good fortune, we discovered Top of the Market.
The Fish Market was started in 1976 by a fisherman and chef that wanted to highlight incredible and affordable seafood preparations. There are currently 6 locations throughout California. On the second floor of the San Diego location, there is Top of the Market, which offers a more upscale dining experience. When we wandered into The Fish Market, we noticed several different dining experiences were available. On the first floor, there is a place to pick up fresh seafood to buy and prepare at home. There is also a sushi bar, an oyster bar, and a full service bar and restaurant. Upstairs, which is Top of the Market, our eyes were immediately drawn to the chef’s counter overlooking the open kitchen. We knew that this was the place for us.
Top of the Market recently celebrated its’ 24th anniversary. The restaurant offers elegant dining and a full bar overlooking the beautiful San Diego harbor. Although the restaurant has been around for years, the atmosphere and décor feel clean and updated. More importantly for us, the menu features incredible preparations of fresh seafood. This restaurant truly is farm (and sea) to table. Most of this is due to the guidance of Chef Ivan Flowers.
Chef Flowers joined Top of the Market in May 2013. Born in Brooklyn, NY, Chef Flowers was most recently in Sedona, AZ where he was a chef-owner of a top 25 restaurant in the state: Fournos. At Top of the Market, Chef Flowers completely updated the menu with inventive dishes that have flair of global fusion. Along with a new menu, Chef Flowers also hired nearly a completely new kitchen staff. In order to create balance, Chef Flowers hired an equal number of men and women. He also cross-trains the cooks so that they can cover multiple stations.
On the evening we dined at Top of the Market, we were treated to an amazing show and experience at the chef’s counter. We have dined at chef’s counters at many fabulous restaurants around the country, including Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA and Hen of the Wood in Burlington, VT. What sets Top of the Market apart was the “blazing” coordinated kitchen staff of Sous Chef John Stenback, Sous Chef Tyler Smith, June Yoo, Jose Diaz, and Jose Luis. The restaurant is fairly large in comparison to the tight cooking quarters. We truly were watching a show. It was not unusual to see June Yoo working on 6 different dishes at one time on the stove. When one station became overwhelmed with orders, it was nice to see a colleague pick up the slack. This was all done wordlessly and seamlessly. It was obvious that everyone worked well together. We were amazed at the movement of the chefs and the creations they were producing, given the small size of the kitchen. Like a conductor guiding an orchestra, Chef Flowers oversaw the spectacular kitchen staff produce amazing food.
Our meal started off with delectable oysters. The British Columbia harvested oysters were incredibly fresh, plump, and not too salty. Next we followed with lobster bisque. This, of course, was rich, creamy, and luscious. We finished with tuna poke, served on top of citrus avocado puree, a nice California twist.
Our evening at Top of the Market was an unforgettable evening filled with incredible views (of both San Diego harbor and the kitchen), tasty food, and great service. In the near future, Chef Flowers plans to experiment further with the food options to include a tasting menu and a possible venture into game meats. We are looking forward to seeing Chef Flowers continue to evolve, keeping Top of the Market a fantastically delicious and current restaurant in the competitive San Diego restaurant scene.