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New restaurant concepts in San Diego are big and ambitious

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Some of the biggest names in San Diego’s hospitality scene are revealing fresh offerings in the coming months, from big remodels to new construction.

San Diego-based CH Projects is revamping some of its earliest restaurant concepts to keep things modern and efficient.

Neighborhood in the East Village closed on May 5 and is expected to reopen next week. The cocktail bar behind Neighborhood, called Noble Experiment, is still open during the closure.

Arsalun Tafazoli, co-founder of CH Projects, said Neighborhood will benefit from the expertise the hospitality group has culled since the gastropub opened almost nine years ago.

Craft & Commerce on West Beech Street in Little Italy has received awards for its interior design since it opened in 2009, but owner CH Projects plans on upgrading and expanding the space. Photo courtesy of CH Projects

"Neighborhood was our first restaurant. Since then, every project has evolved and got better. We’ve learned a lot over the years, we’re better at what we do, and we can see now how inefficient some of the original stuff is,” he said.

Neighborhood is getting a new kitchen and bar layout, though the dining room will remain largely the same, he said. New executive chef Mike Gil is revising the menu and is providing input on the redesign.

Arsalun Tafazoli, co-founder of CH Projects

In Little Italy, CH Project’s Craft & Commerce will undergo a more extensive renovation and is projected to be closed for about two months this fall. The restaurant will be expanded and reconfigured, with upgrades to include the installation of a custom wood-fire grill, Tafazoli said. Craft & Commerce opened in 2009.

CH Projects’ longtime collaborators Basile Studio and Hawkins Construction Inc. are handling the renovations.

Tafazoli acknowledges that some people won’t see the need for revamps at already stylish establishments, but he said change is necessary to remain vital in the ever-evolving San Diego hospitality industry.

“From a business perspective, we’re making sure each place is the best it can be,” he said.

The new rooftop restaurant Rustic Root is set to open on Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter in early June.

Rustic Root is a project by RMD Group, hospitality entrepreneur Ken Lovi and executive chef Antonio Friscia. The same bunch is behind Don Chido, a Mexican eatery that opened in the Gaslamp Quarter last summer.

Rustic Root is slated to offer “rustic” American cuisine, with dishes such as elk chops, fried chicken, lobster pappardelle and furikake-crusted hamachi.

Rustic Root will offer rooftop dining in the Gaslamp. Image courtesy of J Public Relations

The new venue is being billed as the Gaslamp Quarter’s only dedicated rooftop restaurant, though it will have multiple levels: a 2,500-square-foot rooftop space, and a 500-square-foot downstairs patio that opens to a 2,500-square-foot dining room and bar.

OCIO Design Group is the architect alongside RMD Group’s construction division RMD Development. Interior design for Rustic Root is by Davis Ink Ltd. and includes a giant Sudoku wall, life-sized animal topiary bushes and street-style lamps.

On Harbor Island, construction is moving along on the ambitious Coasterra project, now slated to open in July.

Cohn Restaurant Group’s $10 million, 24,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor restaurant and event center at the east end of Harbor Drive replaces the paddle-wheeler Reuben E. Lee, an iconic floating restaurant that closed in 2004 and sank in 2012.

The $10 million Coasterra project on Harbor Drive is one of the city’s most anticipated restaurant openings. Photo courtesy of Cohn Restaurant Group

A restaurant representative said the next big thing for the Coasterra project will be when the reconstructed floating event center is towed across San Diego Bay at an undetermined date. The deck will be able to hold around 1,000 guests, while the banquet room and the restaurant will each seat more than 300 people.

David and Lesley Cohn, with partner and chef Deborah Scott, are working with developer Sunroad Harbor Island Inc. and architecture firm Gensler. Coasterra is on Port of San Diego property adjacent to the Cohn’s Island Prime and C Level. The new restaurant’s cuisine will be modern Mexican.

-McEntee is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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