Big Changes in Fine Dining: The Hake's Evolution To Appeal to Today's Sophisticated Foodie

Interior of The Hake | Sam Wells

Interior of The Hake | Sam Wells

The consumer has evolved in the recent years. They are more sophisticated when it comes to taste, more educated when it comes to sourcing, and most interested in casual, approachable restaurants. 

Not to mention, the other segments are stepping up their game, so guests have a wider selection of high quality eats to pick from nowadays. 

With that being said, the fine-dining segment is adapting to appeal to today's diner. 

Many are doing massive remodels, incorporating a more informal style of service, improving speed of service, integrating technologies, and changing the menu on a regular basis. 

The fine-dining seafood restaurant, The Hake, in La Jolla, CA not only completed a recent massive remodel, but the concept also decided to relocate. 

We sat down with Ricardo Dondisch, the managing partner at The Hake, to learn about the restaurant's transformation.

See what he had to say below! 

How has The Hake evolved since it first opened?

Dondisch: When we first opened, our menu was very similar to that of Puntarena, our flagship restaurant in Mexico City; however, with time we have incorporated dishes that we feel better represent the bounty of ingredients that Southern California offers, as well as the American palate. 

Throughout this evolution, we have always stayed close to our identity which is to offer elegant, yet simple preparations that highlight the quality of the ingredients we use. Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian influences have and always will be part of who we are.

How has the fine-dining segment as a whole evolved?

A photo posted by The Hake (@thehakelj) on

Dondisch: We are very encouraged by what has been happening in the San Diego food scene over the last few years. Diners have become more sophisticated and demanding, which is a good thing from our point of view.

Guest’s expectations of the fine dining segment have somewhat “relaxed” when it comes to atmosphere, but have been increasingly demanding when it comes to service and quality. So, while white tablecloths and bowtie maitre d’s are no longer expected, there is a growing expectation for excellent service, high-quality dishes (both in ingredients and technique) and great wines and cocktails.

Has this been driven by consumer trends? How so?

Dondisch: In part, yes. While most of our clientele is local; with La Jolla being such a great destination, we receive guests from all over the world and our restaurant is held to the same standards as those in great restaurant cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Mexico City, London, Paris, etc.

However, it also has a lot to do with the quality of the restaurants that have been opening both in San Diego and across the border in Tijuana and Ensenada. Many of these are recognized as some of the best in the world.

With our recent renovation, our objective is to keep being part of that select group.

Interior of The Hake | Sam Wells

Interior of The Hake | Sam Wells

Let's talk about restaurant design. Why was there a need to revamp and move The Hake last year?

Dondisch: Our restaurant was fortunate enough to have found a local base of customers that always understood and liked what we do, but we were always disregarded by a lot of other people because most of our neighboring restaurants have an ocean view and we didn’t. 

The space behind us became available early last year and it presented a great opportunity to have the one thing our customers used to tell us we lacked; a view of the beautiful La Jolla cove.

Have the changes been well received? Any in particular that guests love?

A photo posted by The Hake (@thehakelj) on

Dondisch: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our guests love the new design, the ocean view, our new bar program and our revamped menu, created by our incredibly talented Executive Chef Aarti Sanghavi.

Have the changes been well-received? Any in particular that guests love?

Dondisch: Some of our regular guests were disappointed to see some of their favorite dishes go, but we kept the most popular ones and slowly our guests have found new favorites.

I would say that the biggest change of all is that our restaurant transformed from being a neighborhood bistro to a prime dining destination.

Any future plans?

Dondisch: Our goal this first year is to consolidate The Hake as a prime dining destination in San Diego. 

However, our mid-term goal is to open more restaurants in Southern California. In Mexico City, we own and operate 18 restaurants that vary from fast casual to fine dining and we think that some of those concepts would work very well in this market. If all goes well, we would expect opening one or two more restaurants in 2018.