Sous Chef Ami Cisneros of Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen Gives Us the Salmon Bowl Low Down
Written by: Jessica Young
Photographed by: Josie Gonzalez Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen
Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen has overhauled its menu under the guidance of Sous Chef Ami Cisneros. While a few staple dishes stuck around, the majority of the menu was scrapped and redesigned by Cisneros, who has been with the restaurant since it opened July 2016.
Some of the changes to the menu include adding ribs to happy hour, which require a two-day preparation process, homemade brioche and an increased number of vegetarian options. The “California Bistro” vibe that the establishment touts is still on point as several of the popular staple dishes remained on the menu after Cisneros’ overhaul. Among those dishes that made the cut was the Salmon Bowl.
“We kept things that we knew the diners knew and loved. The high sellers, the comfort classics. Things that were familiar and good,” Cisneros said.
The Salmon Bowl is a marriage of sweet and spicy flavors, smooth textures and a refreshing finish with simple ingredients. Chef Cisneros attributed much of the Asian influence of the dish to her love of both Mexican and Asian flavors. “Mexican and Asian foods share a lot of flavors. They are both rooted in simple ingredients…that’s what I love about working with these flavors,” Cisneros said.
The Salmon Bowl was crafted to be a fulfilling, hearty meal that won’t leave diners feeling heavy or overstuffed, even if they polish off the entire bowl. The contents are light and refreshing. The success of the bowl hinges on the combination of sharp flavors from the pickled vegetables, the heat of the peppers, sweetness of the salmon and the “umami,” or savory, marinated mushrooms.
In addition to providing fresh and innovative dishes that cater to the desires of their clientele, Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen also creates an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming. The dining room is open and inviting, offering tables for two, four, or bigger groups when necessary. Guests can also choose to eat on the patio, which looks across Pacific Coast Highway at the San Diego Bay. Toned in soft grays and blues with hints of yellow and gold, the environment is modern and sleek while still feeling like home.
Despite sharing property with the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, the restaurant doesn’t have the sterile one-size-fits-all feel that many hotel eateries share. With a large, fully stocked bar, comfy patio chairs and outdoor heaters, as well as two, large wall-mounted flat screen TVs, Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen is a destination and a great place to hang out; not just a diner connected to the hotel lobby.
“We are a neighborhood spot, not a hotel spot. We don’t want to be a diner. We are a part of the community. We’re always going to be the freshest and the best we can be,” Cisneros said.
Q&A With Sous Chef Ami Cisneros of Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen
Q: Living in San Diego, seafood is obviously abundant. What makes Pacific Standard’s Salmon Bowl stand out among a sea of competitors?
Ami Cisneros: I think here, the seafood isn’t in your face. It’s predominant in the menu, but it’s not overwhelming for someone who doesn’t want to eat seafood. It’s just natural in San Diego to use so much of the product that we have. We just have great resources in town. It’s a natural fit.
Q: How do you approach creating menu items that are going to be appealing to a wide audience?
AC: The key is simplicity and bold flavors. I don’t try to make any of the items on the menu unapproachable. It doesn’t seem like you’re going to be taken on a wild ride of a mystery plate, with what is written on the menu. But I’m not someone who shies away from layering flavors—I really want every bite to be exciting, no matter how it is spelled out on the menu.
Q: What makes the Salmon Bowl a successful dish?
AC: I’m a big believer of pickling things. I’ve sat down in the restaurant myself and ordered it, and most dishes, it’s great when there is one tying flavor to it. And for me, in this dish, that’s the pickled ginger. It does a great job of tying all those flavors together. It heightens the vinaigrette and the serrano…it’s just a highlighter. Especially when you have so much umami in it, with the shiitakes and the hoisin and the fattiness from the salmon.
Q: What is your greatest culinary accomplishment?
AC: Having a line cook call me their mentor for the first time. Having your line cooks look at you and say they want to be like you…you never put yourself in that situation. It’s great to have that recognition from your own team. You know that they are working hard so that you can be successful as a team and that’s a good feeling.
Q: What is your biggest guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
AC: Oh, I’m not even guilty about it. I love ramen and Sapporo. For everything. When I’m happy, ramen. When I’m sad, ramen. I visited Japan with six other San Diego chefs and I think I ate my weight in ramen on that trip.
Seaworthy: Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen’s coastal-inspired cuisine is a reflection of Little Italy’s storied past as a fishing community.
Proper Education: Chef Cisneros worked with many chefs inspired by Asian culture prior to taking her position at Pacific Standard.
Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen
2137 Pacific Highway
San Diego, CA 92101
The Salmon Bowl is the New Star at Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen