A tongue once traumatized me. Let me explain. The first time I ever ate tongue as part of a meal, I was a college student spending my junior year studying in Spain. I'm still not entirely convinced the steaming pot of tongue stew, bubbling incongruously on a blistering August Castilian day, wasn't an attempt on the part of the dormitory kitchen staff to haze their loud American customers. I smiled and ate it with open-minded, study-abroad gusto, but I couldn't move beyond feeling repulsed by the texture and the clearly visible this-was-just-in-a-mouth taste buds on each chunk of tongue.
But I've turned the corner. My mind has been reopened and my palate impressed by The Land & Water Company.
Fear not, squeamish eaters. This splashy new Carlsbad restaurant (2978 Carlsbad Blvd.) has an incredibly fun menu to explore, with fresh offerings that manage to be comforting as well as creative.
However, I encourage you to try the crispy lengua , because when you translate tongue into another language, all of a sudden it's not so weirdto try. The Land & Water Bowl, currently available on the lunch menu, is one of my favorite dishes I've dug into in awhile. Sticky rice anchors the bowl with incredibly tender and crispy chunks of lengua, bright-pink pickled radish and a caramelized ginger soy sauce that makes the whole combination incredibly addictive.
For something far more simple yet no less satisfying, introduce your own tongue to the Butter Butter Salad. Usually, I find eating (and making) salad to be a bore. It says something about the kitchen skills at Land & Water that I ate this salad months ago and I'm still thinking about it. Elegant leaves of butter lettuce walk the line between delicate and toothsome. Crunchy bites of fried prosciutto give the salad just a touch of heft and a creamy buttermilk chive dressing brings it all together beautifully.
Lately, a lot of kitchens assume that if something is good, it can only be made better by putting an egg on top of it. It's a trend that's gone past the point of being overdone. However, when done well, the oozing of an egg yolk makes all the sense in the world. The egg might be nature's perfect food, with its magical ability to become a cloud-like meringue or a rib-sticking breakfast burrito. Fry it or poach it and suddenly you have a delectable topping for anything you want to put it on. One of these perfect eggs tops both the Butter Butter Salad and the Land & Water Bowl.
I've waxed on about the "Land" element (I could keep going—don't miss out on the wonderfully salty fried Jidori chicken karaage with lemon and mayo), but the "Water" portion not only allows the menu's delicious Japanese influence to shine; it also highlights the restaurant's mission to serve only 100-percent sustainable seafood. Nigiri and sashimi options abound, as well as hearty rolls like the Papa Bear, featuring spicy tuna, prawns and Steelhead.
So, your conscience, and your tongues, will go home happy.