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We interviewed Kim as part of a new series shining the spotlight on members of the Golden Hill community. Kim launched the upscale French-Vietnamese restaurant on Broadway at 25th Street in January 2022. Since then, Kingfisher has wowed the critics and attracted a large following of eager fans. But that’s no surprise given Kim’s extensive background in running successful restaurants in San Diego.

Kim Phan, Owner of Kingfisher Bar + Eatery

“I think when we can be honest and happy with ourselves, everything else will follow.”

Kim’s restaurant journey began in 2007. “My sister and I love seafood. The thought of eating seafood at wholesale price sounded pretty good at the time. So, my sister, my husband, and I decided to open Crab Hut, our first business venture together,” Kim said. Crab Hut, the well-known and much loved seafood restaurant, quickly grew to three locations around San Diego, including Downtown, Mira Mesa, and Convoy.

Building off the success of Crab Hut, Kim wanted her next venture to reflect she and her family’s Southeast Asian culture. Taking root from the culinary heritage of Vietnam, Kingfisher presents a classic take on authentic Vietnamese French-inspired food with a California sensibility. Combined with a forward thinking and elevated craft cocktail program, Kingfisher strives to provide an exciting balance of the soulful and intricate flavors of traditional Vietnamese dishes and ingredients.

After careful consideration, the spot Kim chose to open Kingfisher was at 2469 Broadway here in Golden Hill. “We love all the iconic businesses in the area,” Kim said. Her team went to work transforming the long-vacant space, but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many delays. However, in January 2022 Kingfisher opened to much fanfare. “Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive.”

Kingfisher’s dining room

In his review of the new restaurant, Ian Anderson of the San Diego Reader wrote, “[t]he neighborhood hasn’t seen anything like Kingfisher, the sort of upscale restaurant that announces itself with a meticulously designed interior paid for with glossy magazine spreads in mind. A mid-size dining room surrounds an oblong island bar that blends hard surfaces of tile, ceramic, and polished metal; the entire room softened by the matte creams and greens of stylized lotus flower wallpaper.”

While the ambiance of Kingfisher is surely something to swoon over, the food and cocktails are the true showstopper. General Manager, David Patrick Tye, has put together a fine selection of craft cocktails, beer, and wine. Among the cocktails, guests can choose from two categories: minimalism and maximalism. On the lighter side is the Vietnamese Spritz with jujube, lychee, aperol, prosecco, orange, and lemon. While on the heavier side is the French Architecture featuring Seven Caves’s Custom Kingfisher Lemongrass Rum, fair kumquat, lemon, and a sugar rim. With so many refreshing cocktails to choose from, you might have just found your new favorite happy hour.

Salt Spring Mussel Escabeche

The heavenly scents wafting from the kitchen are all the brainchild of Executive Chef Jonathan Bautista, formerly of Georges at the Cove in La Jolla. Bautista developed an exquisite menu that is seafood-heavy for sure, but also features beef tartare and a bone-in 35 day dry-aged prime ribeye. Among the small plates you’ll find diver scallops, crispy chicken wings with a tamarind glaze, and some fabulous escabeche. Kingfisher’s Salt Spring Mussel escabeche, a stand-out dish, includes coconut, fennel, cucumber, Fresno chilies, lemon verbena, and Thai basil.

Local Halibut

Among the selection of full-size dishes, the Local Halibut stands out. With dill, turmeric, roasted turnips, spring onions, rice noodle aglio e olio, shiso, chili, and nuoc mam this entrée is full of great flavors and is excellently balanced. This iconic fish recipe is one of the most popular dishes in the Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi. You might also want to try the Baja Striped Bass with caramelized fish sauce, mustard greens, green onion, crispy shallots, and a buttered rice bowl.

For our final question we asked Kim what advice she would give a budding entrepreneur, “I find it easier when I love what I do. And I do love my industry very much. I only put out products that I love. I think when we can be honest and happy with ourselves, everything else will follow. Don’t go into any field thinking money is the ultimate goal.”

We couldn’t agree more. Kingfisher is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Patrons can feel (and taste) the passion Kim and her team put into creating this new restaurant.

Kingfisher is located at 2469 Broadway. The kitchen and patio are open from 5PM to 10PM while the bar is open until Midnight. Closed on Tuesday. For more information please visit kingfishersd.com.

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