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Lucien Brings Michelin-Starred Talent to La Jolla

Chef and co-owner Elijah Arizmendi brings his stacked resume (Per Se, l’abeille, Spago) to the beach alongside co-owners Brian Hung and Melissa Lang
Elijah Arizmendi
Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

I’ve always found dining in La Jolla to be hit-or-miss. Some of the best restaurants in the city call La Jolla home (ever seen the waves crash against The Marine Room, or heard of a little place called NINE-TEN?), but I’ve definitely had my fair share of meals with a price tag that reflect the zip code rather than the quality of the food. 

But when someone whose resume boasts names like Daniel, Per Se, l’abeille, and Spago decides to open a restaurant there, that’s a pretty serious promise of an earth-shattering meal experience. When Lucien opens in early 2025, it will bring that new level of Michelin-starred talent to 7863 Girard Avenue, with chef and co-owner Elijah Arizmendi at the helm, along with co-owners Brian Hung and Melissa Lang.

Arizmendi and Hung met in the kitchen at Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-starred Per Se, where Arizmendi says he honed the skills he needed to open his own restaurant by learning from one of the best. “Thomas Keller is, in my opinion, one of the greatest chefs in the U.S.,” says Arizmendi. “The way his kitchen runs is amazing… It helped shape us. It helped shape me into the kind of chef I want to be and the type of establishment I want to have.”

The pair talked casually about opening their own restaurant one day, always looking to the seasonal and local bounty more easily found on the West Coast as a guide. Once Arizmendi left Per Se to open l’abeille and got a Michelin star within six months, he knew the next challenge was to do it for himself, with Hung by his side as a partner.

San Diego felt like a natural fit, he says. Both have family ties to California, and both have kept an eye on the burgeoning San Diego fine dining scene over the past few years. Arizmendi points to places like Addison, the only three Michelin-starred restaurant in San Diego, as proof that demand for high-level dining experience is there. But he promises a completely different experience. 

“My philosophy on food is ingredient-driven,” explains Arizmendi. “We really want to showcase producers, farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen in California.” 

Lucien’s main dining room will sprawl a little over 2,000-square-feet, with an additional estimated 400-square-feet for a bar area that will be separated by an outdoor courtyard. Hung says they plan to do two turns of 30 seats each night, or around 60 nightly covers to keep an elevated level of service and precision. 

“It’s going to be very guided,” he promises. “People are going to feel like they’re being taken care of in a way that’s not pretentious.”

Architecture firm encinitas design group and interior design group Tecture will help curate that unpretentious vibe, designing a partly open kitchen concept and cozy hearth for open-fire cooking. Arizmendi says he wants guests to feel at home, and that the restaurant itself is already shaping up to be a family affair. Lucien is his son’s name, Hung and Lang are married, and both families have young children around the same age that they expect will grow up together in this shared space. 

“We have everything we need here,” says Hung. “I don’t see a better place to do it right now.”

San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events

Former Ranch 45 Chef Teases New Project in North County

Aron Schwartz may be best known for his time at Ranch 45 and Marina Kitchen at the Marriott Marquis San Diego, but he’s far from finished. In an exclusive conversation with San Diego Magazine, Schwartz says he recently launched APS Hospitality, a new consulting and catering company that will host everything from intimate dinner parties to catering, VIP events, and more. 

But that’s not all. Schwartz says he doesn’t have many details to give out quite yet, but he hopes to announce a new restaurant next month, one that will fall under the APS Hospitality umbrella and be located in North County. “I know it’s very vague,” he laughs. “It’s vague for us, too. We have a couple of different conversations going.”

In the meantime, keep an eye out for new announcements in this space. 

North Park Festival of Beers 

The LaFayette Hotel might look different, but the North Park Festival of Beers promises to be the same beer-soaked event as it always is. On April 6, one ticket gets you unlimited beer samples from 50 breweries (but seriously, don’t overdo it), unlimited food from six restaurants, and live music, all from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (VIP admission starts at noon). Don’t bring pets (or kids!)

Beth’s Bites

Despite the name, and much to my chagrin, The Alley’s forte is boba, not bowling. The boba tea chain is already open in Clairemont Mesa, and will open at 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd. next (with even more locations promised). I reluctantly accept boba balls in lieu of bowling balls, if I must.

After years of traveling on the cheap and taking whatever continental breakfasts I can get, I’m slowly realizing how awesome hotel food can be. Borrego Kitchen & Cocktails opens next month atop the Hotel Indigo, and damn if I’m not a sucker for a rooftop patio. I’m keeping an eye on this place.

Laotian food is quietly making its way into San Diego’s hearts and bellies. Sang Dao is my spot (and their soup noodles are my jam), but I’m dying to try So Saap and any other places people recommend. Do you have a favorite place serving food from Laos? Let me know—[email protected]

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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