Drama And Comfort, Without Compromise

By Alvin Lim

The Great Gatsby-esque grandeur of San Diego’s Born & Raised makes it a place to see and be seen 

The classic American steakhouse as we know it is going out of fashion. They are overly formal and stuffy at a time when consumers, more than ever, want quick and easy. Yet the allure of a traditional chophouse – think leather booths, large-format steaks and tableside cart service – still remains. San Diego’s Born & Raised is Consortium Holdings’ ode to the great American culinary tradition.

In a country where the archetypical steakhouse is losing ground to trendy smoothie bars and hipster ramen joints, Born & Raised is a platonic ideal of a classic American steakhouse, even if it cost the hospitality group more than US$6 million (S$8 million) to construct. 

The first-floor dining room is predominantly art deco-inspired and unabashedly grand. It’s all muted walnut, brass accents, warm lighting emanating from glass chandeliers. The room is interspersed by ornate wooden blooms designed to bedazzle diners with the impression of a ceiling taller than it actually is. A network of curved camelcoloured leather booths enhances the main dining space, reminiscent of the glamorous era of the 1930s.

The bar is equally chic. Kelly bar chairs by furniture brand Essential Home make a statement with its mid-century design in front of a black marble counter On the openair rooftop bar on the second floor, similar columns, now adorned with flowers, make a comeback alongside a commanding view of Little Italy.

While the original concept for Born & Raised came from Consortium Holdings’ owner Arsalun Tafazoli, there was plenty of freedom and collaboration between client and designer. Taylor Leage, then Basile Studio’s interior designer (she is now an in-house design specialist for the group) says, “The only parameter was to make it not suck.” 

“We tried to stay away from trends and use history as a timeless guide. We wanted the space to be opulent without discouraging anyone.” The blooms on the first floor were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Headquarters, she says. 

Challenges include the low ceiling and historic requirements, and the fact that it was formerly a photo supply store on the first floor, and a parking lot on the second. The transformation to a world-class steakhouse has been dramatic, to say the least. 

As for the nosh, yes, you’ve got your porterhouse and bearnaise and pommes puree – but you’ve also got spaghetti topped off with a healthy scoop of sea urchin, lemon zest and chives, and dry-aged meatballs over a bed of velvety polenta, ricotta and tomato sauce. 

American steakhouses are dated, yes. But Born & Raised shows that good food – and an excellent place to have it in – is timeless. And that’s something worth getting out of your car for.

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