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San Diego Restaurants


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#1 Kouign Aman

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 10:28 AM

Whats going on in San Diego (County)?
Where have you eaten recently, and what did you think?

So as not to compete with the Cheap Eatz thread, perhaps this thread should focus on the restaurants you wouldnt take small children to, but I'd be delighted if we could just get on-going discussion of the local food 'scene', at any level. Obviously, most of these restaurants are in the decent-meal for a decent-price category, but not cutting edge for cuisine. I'm particularly interested because things change pretty quickly, especially downtown.

Also, are there chefs you'd follow from one restaurant to another? Is there anyone in town who's that distinctive, creative, interesting to you?

Have you seen the Flying Fairy of Wine at Ostra?
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#2 Kouign Aman

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 09:01 AM

Here I go, revealing my inner (and outer) hick.

Last month, we ate at Osetra: The FishHouse downtown.
The 'gimic's are the caviar and the Flying Fairy of Wine.
No one ordered caviar; osetra or sevruga. I dont remember beluga being on the menu.

The menu is not innovative. The food was well prepared and delicious. The featured ingredients are abundant (ex: lobster/crab ravioli were filled with lobster/crab, not with crab-flavored breadcrumbs). For what its worth, the portions were large - leftovers all round. Since we were headed to the opera after, no doggie bags.

The prices are steep for this category of dining in this town:
$28 for a plate of pasta. $11-19 for a dinner salad. Wine by the glass $11-$20. One salad, one glass of wine, one pasta order came to $70 w tax/tip (18%, included by the server as party was >= 6).

The restaurant is not for small children. Its nicely decorated and divided into spaces of 6-8 tables (downstairs). They have a 'bead' curtain made of curtain weights hung very close together that served to separate our area from the bar - I liked it. The music is a tad loud for conversation. One couple asked to be moved to a different table as they were under a speaker and couldnt hear each other.

The Flying Fairy of Wine: Osetra has a rectangle wine-cellar extending in a column from floor to near the ceiling (2 floors), and lit with blue neon. A young-person in yoga togs wears a black waist harness (climbers harness?) and is snapped into two cables. She 'flies' up to the location of the bottle you ordered, and gets it out of the cellar. Bottles are transported back to earth in hip-panniers, allowing her to pull more than one selection per flight. This allows her to walk like spiderman about the column.
Its cute.

They also have a vodka bar etc.

Our party ranged from new parents to new social-security collectors. Everyone enjoyed the meal and can describe highlights in detail. No one wants to go back.
This is more for the hip - those who need both hands to drink their $16 martinis (to quote MeganBlocker from another thread).
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#3 Carlsbad

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 09:57 PM

Words fail me.

#4 LarsTheo

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 12:20 PM

I stayed in La Jolla the last time I was in San Diego, and there are several places there that I enjoyed, but I can't remember the names. If you go to La Jolla, you can ask someone at an art gallery to recommend a place - I found it very friendly, especially during the day.

Otherwise, I like Khyber Pass Afghan Restaurant in Hillcrest. The food I had was excellent, and it's a cuisine I don't often find.

#5 Kouign Aman

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Posted 16 April 2006 - 08:38 PM

I love to introduce friends to Khyber Pass. I first ate there in the late 80's, when they were in a small mall on Convoy Street. The food was good; we had the good fortune to arrive on a day the owners were celebrating a Russian setback, and had prepared a special celebratory dish not (at the time) on the menu. I had the vegetarian sampler plate and my companion had the special lamb with orange/raisin rice. It was delicious.

Next time I went, they'd moved a block or two, and were in another small mall. The restaurant was decorated as if one were entering and dining inside a cave. The orange/raisin dish was now on the menu and the vegetarian sampler was still delicious. I ate many good meals at that location. When the American forces were the ones dealing with the Afghani caves, I imagine the decor lost some of its appeal.

The last 3 times I've been was to the Hillcrest location, over a 2 year period. A more sophisticated look (with a waterfall wall), same delicious food. The Mr is particularly enamored of the lamb with cherry sauce (the proper name for which escapes me at the moment; ???? cholow). I still cant select my fav veg prep of all the options available.
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#6 kalypso

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 03:27 PM

So I stopped by the new bakery Heaven Sent at 30th and University in North Park last Saturday. They've done a masterful job on the remodel of the old space. Everything inside is sleek and trendy; I especially loved their coffee cups which are the "Wave" pattern from Villory-Boch. The desserts looked very attractive.

Be prepared for sticker shock, however, when you ask how much the desserts are. $12 for a plated dessert and $9 for most of the rest of them. I don't care how good it's supposed to be, at $12 for dessert in San Diego, in a transitionary/marginal neighborhood, it seems a bit incongruous. Not feeling the need to splurge on dessert, my friend and I ordered a scone, 2 cookies and 2 coffees, which came to $12.......$8.50 of which was for the scone and cookies. The coffee was super, the scone was moist with a light lemon flavor, the sugar crusted gingersnap was really good; I'd order that again in a heartbeat. The other cookie, a sea-salted oatmeal cookie was, well, salty, very, very salty, to the point where it detracted from the cookie rather than enhancing whatever flavor there was. To be fair, when we mentioned this to the server who cleared our table, she thanked us for the feedback and that we mention it to the chef/owner and said they'd replace it if we wanted. We didn't having had our sweet tooths satisfied by the scone and gingersnap.

This particular stretch of University has been undergoing a bit of redevelopment and the folks with expendable income are slowly moving into the neighborhood and it will, I'm sure, see a renaissance in the years to come. Heaven Sent has a prime location which will probably help it succeed in spite of the $12 price tag on desserts, which is high for San Diego and very high for this neighborhood. They've also got Cafe Calabria a half block down the street which serves swell coffee and better than average pastries at less than half the price.

Edited by kalypso, 17 April 2006 - 03:32 PM.


#7 Kouign Aman

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 05:21 PM

Headed to dinner at Vincent's Sirino's in Escondido tonight.
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#8 Carlsbad

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:12 PM

I've enjoyed Vincent's food for years at 4 locations, but I haven't been to his current location in a year or two. I'd be interested to know how you liked it. His duck confit has always been very good.

#9 Kouign Aman

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 07:02 AM

Dinner at Vincent’s Sorino’s, Escondido
Fine dining. Website Vincent's on Grand The menu changes.

A fine meal. We don’t get off the leash often, so we ordered a bit more than was comfortable, to try as much as possible of what sounded good.

Quail (special of the day) with couscous and a warm rich sauce flavored with rosemary. Accented with house-made basil oil of a brilliant green. Served with toasted bread and cheese. Delicious. The quail was tender and rich. I’d have preferred the skin at least slightly crispy but enjoyed it thoroughly anyway. The sauce was a highlight of a very good meal. It was tempting to scour the plate. (Oh why did my mama teach me manners? They didn’t take, but I keep remembering I ought to pretend to have some.)

Foie gras terrine – served with sweet preserved fruits (fruit chutney), raisin toasts (sweet crumbly bread, like toasted panetone), balsamic reduction. I ate terrine on the plainer rolls from the bread basket, which lets me focus more on both the melting texture and the salty aspect of the flavor as well as the richness. The fruit is a lovely counterpoint to it – very rich and tangy sweet.

After we demolished the contents of both plates, Chef & owner Vincent Grumel came out to say hello and josh us a bit about our poor appetites.

French Onion soup – lovely. Full flavor, not strongly salty. Mr KA says that Chef Grumel's soup de jour are always delicious.

Salad with Confit of Duck ...– I didn’t write down the name.
Confit of duck (leg) sitting atop fresh spinach with dried pears, sliced mushrooms, slivered onion, and bleu d’avergne. I ordered this because of the duck and the cheese. The duck was a highlight of the meal. The cheese was also featured in a simpler salad. This smelled so good I absorbed the aroma for several minutes before starting. First time to taste this cheese – oh my. I like all bleu cheeses. This one is worth seeking out. The dressing was mild and peppery – a well-designed foil and complement to the other flavors. It never stood out on its own. The duck was excellent –moist with very crispy skin. Even with my limited knife fork skills I was able to get every scrap off the bone. The duck went well with each individual component of the salad, and all the other components were very good together, but the whole didn’t work. It overpowered the duck. Mostly I put this to the spinach. A sharper less ‘absorbing’ green, or even wilting the spinach (with duck fat perhaps) would have helped the salad cohere. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it thoroughly and ate far more of it than I should have, in light of what else was on order.

Dover sole special of the day– with abalone, asparagus and black truffle shavings. A light sauce – tomato and ? This was good.

Tournedos Rossini – more foie gras :wub:. This is a standard on Vincent’s menu. Mr KA once asked about it at lunch although it was not on the lunch menu at the time, and they offered to prepare it for him. I had mine rare. Another thoroughly delicious sauce (Madeira). Asparagus, lovely skinny green beans (?haricots verts?) and carrots. Black truffle shavings. Very aromatic. Another dish to breathe in before eating. Foie was nicely seared on the outside and rare and tender inside, just as the beef was. Together, a delight. I could eat this every time, it’s so superbly prepared.

Desert was a shared bavaroise with semi-sweet chocolate sauce, accented with four sour cherries. The pudding is rich and light and creamy. The sauce has a dark bitter edge that contrasts nicely. I stole three of the four cherries.

The room is attractive. I didn’t notice it much as the food and company were excellent, The fresh flowers on table reminded me I want to grow orange ranunculus next year. Although the restaurant is formally set, they are accepting of the very casually dressed (this is So.Cal after all) and of children of any age.
The tableware in different shades of white is somewhat interesting; square plate for tournedos & foie gras terrine, a long wavy plate for the sole, a long narrow plate for the quail. Food was attractively plated and (except for the previously discussed salad), all the components worked together both for taste and visual appeal. Our waiter was all one could ask; unobtrusive, timely, accommodating of individual style, knowledgeable of the restaurants offerings. His skill definitely added to the overall pleasure of the evening.

A couple tables over there was a celebration, and dessert arrived with a sparkler set in it. Much ‘splashier’ than a birthday candle!
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#10 Kouign Aman

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 07:03 AM

I've enjoyed Vincent's food for years at 4 locations, but I haven't been to his current location in a year or two.  I'd be interested to know how you liked it.  His duck confit has always been very good.

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Where were his previous locations?


editted to add:

Next up - Fat Ivor's in Valley Center.

Edited by Kouign Aman, 29 April 2006 - 07:06 AM.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#11 Carlsbad

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 12:57 PM

If memory serves, and I don't guarantee it does, the first place I encountered Vincent's cooking was a restaurant in the back of a strip mall on PCH in Solana Beah. I believe it was called Mon Ami, and I think Bertrand Hug may have also been involved in it. The second was in the Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar, where they served outside under some nice pepper trees. Next was a place in the front of the Carlsbad Inn. (We were all excited when it opened, but the City ran Vincent off with some silly parking regulations.) And then there is the present location in Escondido.

#12 Toliver

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 10:55 AM

Can someone post a review (with pictures, hopefully) of the new, remodeled Jimmy Wong's Golden Dragon in Hillcrest? I spoke with my brother yesterday and he said the name's the same, as is the famous neon sign, but the restaurant has been completely overhauled. He said it had a second name, too...something like Asian Adventure (he wasn't too sure of the new name).
He said they knocked down the front of the restaurant and replaced it without an outdoor dining area. In describing the new design he called it modern looking with a lot of glass. They also serve more Asian cuisines other than just chinese food.
He ordered the "hogwings" which were a sort of spicy rib/pork cutlet thing (he didn't give me a very good description of the dish) but said it was quite good, if a bit pricey, at $18.
He also ordered the crispy duck with garlic sauce and was disappointed to see, when the dish arrived, that the sauce had generic peas and uniformly cut carrots (like out of a bag of frozen veggies...not a good sign). However, when he tasted the duck with the garlic sauce, he was bowled over. He said it was one of the best duck dishes he'd ever had.
I am eager to see the changes at Jimmy Wong's. Anyone in the mood for some chinese?

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#13 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 03:18 PM

This is my first post on egullet. Please be kind! I joined the website a few months ago and have been greatly benefiting from all of the helpful advice, cooking tips, ideas for meals, restaurant suggestions, etc… It’s really a fantastic resource and now my time to contribute has come!

I thought I should start by talking about Tapenade, a French bistro that also happens to be my favorite restaurant in San Diego. Tapenade opened in 1998, which coincides with my arrival in San Diego (I am originally from Paris, France). Tapenade’s chef and owner, Jean-Michel Diot, is well know for his work in New York city where he opened Park Bistro and also the famous French bistro “Les Halles”.

I’ve had lunch and dinner at Tapenade many times and it’s always been a pleasurable experience. Now I will describe my most recent meal that took place a few weeks ago.

I usually order “a la carte” but the restaurant was offering a tasting menu that seemed very well designed so my husband and I decided to go with that.

The menu was as follows:

-----
TASTING MENU
$62.00 PER PERSON
$86.00 with pairing wines $92.00 with premium wines

Terrine de Foie Gras, brioche toastée, dry figs mousseline
Duck foie gras terrine, toasted brioche

Homard aux Truffes et celery remoulade
Maine lobster medallions, celeriace remoulade, fresh truffle dressing

Poisson du jour "Provencale"
Fish of the day, fingerling potato, baby zucchini, tomato confit, favas beans, niçoise olives & fine herb emulsion

Noisettes de veau de lait, rates, Champignons, Feves, Jus du Sautoir
Veal tenderloin "Noisettes," fava beans, fingerling potato, wild mushrooms and veal jus

Le dessert de votre choix
Dessert of your choice

Mignardises
-----

My husband ordered the wine pairings (premium wines), but I decided to pass since we are expecting a new addition to our family in a few months. I won’t be providing details about the wines other than the region for each one since we did not take notes and I did not get a chance to try them.

At Tapenade you are always served tapenade (of course!) to start the meal, which is a traditional paste made out of black olives, garlic and anchovies and eaten on bread. The bread served at Tapenade is from Bread and Compagnie (Bread and Cie), which also happens to be my favorite bakery in San Diego, and I have to be careful about not devouring too much bread so I can to enjoy the rest of the meal.

The starter course, which was duck foie gras, was really the highlight of the meal. It was very rich and creamy, a generous slice of terrine served with brioche. In fact, the slice was so large that we also used bread as an accompaniment. With the duck terrine, a quenelle of fig mousseline (whipped mousse texture with small pieces of figs) was served, which was good but not as impressive as the foie gras. We’ve had the foie gras before at Tapenade and have never been disappointed. Compared to the foie gras we had a few months ago at Bouchon in Las Vegas, the texture is less dense, which I actually like better. The taste may be on the saltier side but still very well balanced. After this first course, we were already quite satisfied. The foie gras was served with a Sauternes.

The second course was the lobster course, which was probably the least impressive dish of the meal. The lobster was served cold and had a sweet, subtle taste but was overpowered by the “celery remoulade” that was served on the side. I love celery remoulade which is shredded celeriac root with a mustardy-mayonnaise dressing, but I did not think this was the best match for the lobster (although it is often served with it or with cold crab). Also on the plate was a fresh truffle emulsion that was divine but best on bread rather than with the lobster because it was also more flavorful. A Chablis was served with this dish.

The third course was fish (“poisson du jour”) and we were served a crispy seabass filet with a delicious mix of vegetables. I especially enjoyed the fava beans and the tomato confit. The light sauce sauce/broth was nice too and everything was well balanced. This dish was very well executed and paired with a Sancerre blanc. This dish expressed very well what I enjoy at Tapenade – fresh, simple ingredients, prepared in an elegant and delicious way. Similar to traditional French bistro food but more refined and with more subtle flavors. The upscale version of comfort food for me. I also enjoy more adventurous foods but this is what I always go back too.

The meat dish, the veal, had the same qualities as the seabass dish. Great ingredients expertly prepared – the meat, extremely tender and flavorful, served in the (probably reduced/degreased) cooking juices with wild mushrooms. I could eat this everyday… The wine pairing was a Bordeaux.

For dessert we went with crispy banana rolls for me and a warm chocolate “fondant” for my husband. The rolls were served with handmade ice creams (mango and banana), a rich chocolate sauce and a vanilla whipped cream. I was impressed with the presentation of the desserts – I understand that Tapenade now has a pastry chef who is apparently improving on the dessert menu that Tapenade is offering. This was not the first time we had the chocolate fondant but this time the presentation was more memorable. In the past it used to be served with mango ice cream but the coconut ice cream was a good match too. The chocolate fondant was served with a tawny port.

Since we didn’t order coffee we were not served mignardises but these usually consist of homemade “pate de fruit” (fruit paste) in assorted flavors.

Overall this was a great meal. Service was impeccable and the staff very attentive. JM Diot stepped out of the kitchen for a few minutes during our meal but I was too chicken to chat with him, so we sent him our compliments via our waiter who was also French.

Tapenade offers a daily lunch prix fixe menu for less than $20 so that’s a great way to sample their dishes without breaking the bank. A few other signature dishes we’ve enjoyed in the past are the mushroom raviolis (they are served with a delicious Port wine and truffle oil-based sauce), duck confit, Burgundy snails, lamb loin, coq au vin.

Thanks to Kouign Aman for starting this thread about San Diego restaurants (I wonder where to find a Kouign Aman in San Diego by the way, I haven’t had one in a while). And to those who still wonder, yes we do have a lot of fine restaurants in San Diego. I will try to review my favorites in the near future. To name a few: 910, Region, El Bizcocho, Laurel, Arterra, The Marine Room, A.R. Valentien, Fresh, Chive, and La Bonne Bouffe, Barbarella or Parallel 33 on the more casual side. Other restaurants I plan on going to based on great reviews are newer restaurants Asia Vous in Escondido (chef/owner Riko Batolome) and Vivace at the Four Seasons Aviara (chef Bruce Logue from Babbo in New York City); also Pamplemousse Grill which I’ve never had a chance to go to. On the casual side I would love to try the Linkery in North Park that opened last year and obviously specializes in homemade sausages (choucroute anyone?).

#14 Kouign Aman

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 04:30 PM

Welcome, FrogPrincesse!
After that great first post, I am looking forward to more. Thank you.

As for a kouign aman, I havent found one in town yet, so am dreaming of baking them at home over the summer. I tried once, years ago. Got close enough to know I can do it, but that the recipe I used needs work. I plan to start with two recipes and work til I get there. You will be invited to taste the later attempts, and pass judgement, if you are interested (and if I actually get my act together and do this thing). :sheepish:
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#15 Carlsbad

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 07:47 PM

Welcome FrogPrincesse. I like Tapenade very much, and your description of your meal there was excellent. It made me want to return soon. Your mention of Vivace also has me thinking about about going back. Thanks.

#16 mmm-yoso

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 12:44 AM

Nice post Frog Princesse - Hope to see much more in the future!

#17 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 09:47 AM

mmm-yoso, Carlsbad, Kouign Aman - Thank you for the warm welcome!

Kouign Aman – of course I am interested! Thanks for the offer. I may have a source for Breton cider… I need to check because that would be perfect with the cake.

#18 Kouign Aman

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:32 AM

kalypso, what do you think of Extraordinary Desserts?
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#19 golden brown

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:12 PM

Not a restaurant, but a great find is Venissimo Cheese on West Washington. They will track your purchases for you, special order for you and you can order on line.

http://www.venissimo.com/store/

#20 Honkman

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:25 PM

kalypso, what do you think of Extraordinary Desserts?

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I am not kalypso but just some comments on ED. I think ED is quite controversial. A lot of people love it, the other don't like it because it is too sweet, too expensive, too crowded etc. I belong to the first group and think that ED is a great place if you like excellent, rich cakes and desserts. I prefer ED in Hillcrest, even so you have to wait often but it is much more relaxing than the one in Little Italy. The only two comparable places in SD are Michele Coulon Dessertier in LJ which is ok but nothing compared to ED and Heaven Sent Desserts which just open recently haven't visited so far.

#21 Honkman

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:28 PM

Not a restaurant, but a great find is Venissimo Cheese on West Washington.  They will track your purchases for you, special order for you and you can order on line.

http://www.venissimo.com/store/

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If you like Venissimo you should also visit Aniata in Del Mar:

http://www.aniata.com/

#22 golden brown

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:54 PM

Not a restaurant, but a great find is Venissimo Cheese on West Washington.  They will track your purchases for you, special order for you and you can order on line.

http://www.venissimo.com/store/

View Post



If you like Venissimo you should also visit Aniata in Del Mar:

http://www.aniata.com/

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Honkman,

Thanks for the tip. I'll be at Arterra on Sunday, so I will check it out!

#23 Octaveman

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:48 PM

I'm on the fence with E.D. The deserts are rich and tasty but can be equalized with some coffee. Seating is cramped but can be romantic with the right table. Long lines at times but can get lucky. The slices of cake are also very expensive. My wife and I can't walk out of there without spending $25-$30. Pretty steep but a treat. See? On the fence. Haven't been there in a while though.

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#24 Kouign Aman

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 11:13 AM

Has anyone been to Aqua Blu ?
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#25 kalypso

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 11:23 AM

kalypso, what do you think of Extraordinary Desserts?

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Buon Giorno........

I just returned from 2 weeks in Italy last night -- and am awaiting the delivery of my wayward luggage :sad:

Extraordinary Desserts is actually quite good, but I can do without the attitude. I much prefer Just Desserts in Kensington, on Adams Ave, just East of the I-15.

The ambiance is terrific, kind of a pastel, retro, Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass sort of feel. The desserts are spectacularly good being neither too sweet, nor too overly wraught. There is also a well designed, small menu of non-dessert foods including a better than average Kobe burger. Chef Beryl has been featured on Food Network several times and will be participating in one of their baking challenges soon. Her other claim to fame is that she does Fabrage Egg style confections out of chocolate.

ForgPrincesse, welcome, I loved your description of your meal at Tapenade, it is indeed a wonderful restaurant, as are many of the others you've listed. If you haven't been to Asia Vous, by all means go, it's delicious and creative. I did a post here on eGullet about it back in December 2005. It's truly a family affair, Riko's wife decorated and runs the front of the house, while he concentrates on the cooking. BTW, Congratulations on the pending addition :smile:

Honkman's right about Aniata Cheese Shop in Del Mar. Fantastic selection - and they'll let you sample any, and everything - with a well educated staff that can answer seemingly any question related to cheese. They also have an interesting selection of American artesianal cheeses, many from outside of California that are well worth investigating.

Has anyone tried Modus yet, the new place in the old Belgian Lion space. I'm having dinner at Vagabond in South Park next week, anyone have feedback on that for me?

Edited by kalypso, 15 May 2006 - 11:25 AM.


#26 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 02:22 PM

kalypso,
Thanks for the recommendation.
I need to thank you twice because I already followed your advice a few months ago, and had a great evening as a result. When you posted about restaurant week, I had completely forgotten about it. I made a reservation at Arterra after reading your excellent review. My husband and I were not disappointed and had an excellent meal for only $30. We will definitely go there again.

As for Extraordinary Desserts – I used to live just a few blocks away from its Fifth Avenue location, so I had quite a few occasions to try the various offerings there. I would say that, compared to most pastry shops in San Diego, it’s quite good, although a little bit on the “heavy” side. Karen Krasne was trained in France (Cordon Bleu/Lenotre) but I think that her style is more American than French in general. The portions are very large and the cakes that are on the regular menu are a little overwhelming, but the specials can be great. They often run out of the specials early in the evening so it’s better to come early. The tea pastries (scones, cookies, etc) are ok but can sometimes be dry and/or boring despite the beautiful presentations (flowers, gold leaf, etc). I’ve been disappointed a few times (a super salty chocolate cookie that I was served once comes to mind) and the service is always pretty poor (read – extremely slow, and definitely an “attitude”). It’s also expensive (I believe that specials run about $10). The tea selection is great and includes Mariage Freres.

Champagne in Del Mar has good French pastries although they’ve slightly reduced their selection. I recommend it.

I have not tried Just Desserts (is it the same place as “Just Fabulous”?) in Kensington so I am adding it to my list of places to try.

Someone mentioned Venissimo on Washington Street – it’s a great cheese shop. It’s tiny but the selection is great, they’re super friendly and will let you try anything.

#27 kalypso

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 08:47 AM

I have not tried Just Desserts (is it the same place as “Just Fabulous”?) in Kensington so I am adding it to my list of places to try.

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Drat! Chalk it up to jet lag and crossing 9 time zones in one day. Yes, it's Just Fabulous, not Just Desserts. And it really is worth a visit if you haven't tried it yet. I think a lot of the chocolate desserts are outstanding.

#28 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 11:04 AM

I just went to Just Fabulous last Friday and sampled a few of the desserts (I had the chocolate sampler). Everything was good and the Gianduja Crunch Pyramide was really outstanding. Here is the description of this pastry from the website: a luscious hazelnut infused milk chocolate base (gianduja) flecked with crunchy bits of tuile cookie. Dark chocolate mousse center, chocolate glaze. I loved it even though I don't particularly like hazelnuts (but I do love chocolate!). The cake was very moist and the crunchy tuile bits gave it a great texture.
I'll have to go back because the selection is huge.
Thanks kalypso for recommending it.

#29 kalypso

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 05:01 PM

I'd heard what a great new place Vagabond was. That it was packed every night. That the food was "really, really good". So when a friend proposed checking it out, I jumped at the chance. It's not fusion cooking, it's more like taking some of the best things from around the world and trying to pull them together into a cohesive context. World kitchen is what they call it, I think. The meal ended up being something of a mixed bag.

Vagabond is located at 30th and Juniper in South Park, a neighborhood undergoing a renaissance of sorts. The space is small, the surfaces hard, the crowd trendy and local. While the restaurant has a lot going for it, it's also got a couple of real glaring problems. The first is that it's exceedingly noisy. Three of us were seated at a standard sized four-top and by the end of our meal we could not hear each other at all..........and we were there early. I don't mind normal dining room buzz, but deafening roar does not translate into a great dining experience. The bar area is snug and it was even noisier in there. The other problem was that the space was hot with very little ventilation. Granted yesterday was a warm day in America's Finest City, but when the weather really heats up, without some air circulation that room is not going to be pleasant place to eat.

2 of us started with very respectable, refreshing and generously sized Pisco Sours. Our 3rd had a Campari & Soda. We ordered 2 appetizers while finalizing our selections from the short list of entrees. The deep fried calamari was a stellar rendition. The rings (and tenacles) had been very lightly battered and were crispy and amazingly greaseless. They really didn't need the aioli that was served with them.

Our other app was the charcuterie plate. It arrived with an assortment of 3 cheeses, some dry/hard salami, country pate, duck liver mousse, olives, gerhkins and, of course, chewy country-style bread. The duck liver mouse and the olives were addictively outstanding. The salamis could have been a little more flavorful and there should have been greater distinction between the cheeses. The blue veined cheese on the plate lacked the usual assertiveness and tanginess of blue cheese and tasted remarkably like the other 2 cheese on the plate. All three cheese were actually pretty good, they just tasted a little too similar to each other. I would order the charcuterie plate again, especially as a lunch entree.

The mussel entree has, apparently, become something of a signature dish at Vagabond, and sure enough, one person at our table ordered it. The Prince Edward Island mussels arrived in a 2 qt. (or maybe it was a 3 qt) souffle dish; and the portion is generous! They had been steamed off in a tasty broth along with onions, celery, fennel, spices and finished with a health dose of cream. The resulting sauce was pretty rich and tasty and really good with bread. The mussels were nice and fat, though a bit gritty.

All the presentations at Vagabond are interesting and fairly well thought out, carrying the theme of each dish through without being over the top. One of the best presentations is the Vegetable Stew, which comes in it's own tajine. The generous bed of couscous was topped topped with chick peas and a variety of stewed vegetables. All of it was set off by a yougurt sauce and harissa. I managed to snag a taste and it was pretty good. The person who ordered it really liked the hit that the harissa added.

The least successful dish of the evening was my entree, which was the paella. It arrived in it's very own paella pan looking very seductive. This kitchen is not afraid of spices and using a good amount of seasoning in what it cooks. Unforutnately, the seasoning they decided to use in abundance in the paella was salt. I like salty food - in fact, salty snacks are my downfall - but not to the degree present in this dish. The excessive salt was also not the only problem with the dish. One of the clam shells had cracked into several pieces which were scatter throughout the dish, one of the mussels in the dish was shriveled up and there was far too much grit in the shellfish. The shrimp in the paella, OTOH, where tender and succulent. The morsels of chicken breast meat tender and not overcooked. I just wish I could have enjoyed it more than I did. The salt I can almost forgive, the broken clam shell, shriveled mussel and grit I can not.

We passed on dessert, in part because we were full and in part because it was too hot in the room and we were tired of yelling at each other to be heard. The waitstaff is young, fairly well trained, efficient and attentive without being intrusive. Our bill for 3 Pisco Sours, 1 Campari & Soda, 2 appetizers and 3 entrees, including tax and tip was $90.

Would I go back? You bet. Vagabond has only been open a couple of months and good restaraunts aren't exactly built in a day. They are doing a lot of things right. Drinks, appetizers and service are strong. The salads I saw at other tables also looked very good, and I might be more inclined to order and app and a salad instead of an entree. Some of the entrees we saw going to other tables - most notably the rack of lamb (the entire rack) and the filet of beef - looked like they might have been better choices than our own. The neighborhood is already embracing the place and the longer it's open the better it will become. Vagabond is definitely worth a visit, just know that it's still evloving and deciding what it wants to be when it grows up.

Edited by kalypso, 25 May 2006 - 05:06 PM.


#30 Toliver

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 11:35 AM

I was hoping this could go into the "San Diego Cheap Eatz" thread, but it wasn't that cheap. :angry:
Phil's BBQ in Mission Hills
We arrived mid afternoon on Memorial Day. We lucked out because Phil's isn't usually open on Mondays. We also lucked out because usually there's a line out the door and you can see by the picture that there wasn't a line when we arrived. Don't let the small restaurant front fool you. The restaurant runs deep and can seat a large number of people.
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There's a large free standing menu sign posted outside for those waiting in line to order.
Once you step inside, dine-in customers order right then and there.
There's a menu sign inside in case you forgot what you were going to order. :wink:
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The BBQ smell is fantastic as you walk up to the joint (apparently, after they opened, neighbors in the area actually complained (!) about the constant BBQ smell...imagine that).
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Sorry the picture isn't better but this is a cropped close up from a wide shot with some heavy tweaking in Photoshop to make it look half-way decent.
They use mequite wood to grill the meat. Note the use of wordage. Unfortunately, this isn't a true BBQ joint. They have a separate kitchen away from this grilling area. We happened to be seated next to a door leading to the actual kitchen. The employees would stream in and out out of the kitchen carrying a large stainless steel pot, for instance, and yelling "Hot beans coming through!" to warn customers as they walked down the narrow corridor leading from the kitchen door to the front grilling area.
From what I saw, the kitchen is filled with electric smokers. :shock: :angry: I'm guessing they were smokers from their configuration (metal racks holding trays of chicken parts and ribs). They weren't professional convection ovens or even regular professional ovens since I know what they look like which is why I am guessing they were smokers. It looks like the meat is pre-cooked in the smokers and then carried on a tray out to the front grilling area to be finished. In fact, everything is brought out from the kitchen to the front grilling/serving area, from buckets of sauce, to beans and coleslaw.
As for the food:
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This is almost a half-rack of ribs (we dug into them before I remembered to take a picture). They sell the ribs by the bone (see the menu on their web site). The ribs were quite good with the meat being fall-off-the-bone tender. They did have a great smokey flavor while the sauce had a sweet tang to it. I thought $13 bucks was a bit steep for a half-rack. You can get either two sides with the order of ribs or one large side. I got the slaw and beans (the beans came in a separate container). I was very disappointed in the beans. While they had a decent flavor, I was surprised by the absolute lack of any sort of BBQ flavor in them. Most BBQ joints will toss BBQ meat odds and ends into the beans to help impart a nice BBQ flavor. But this wasn't the case with Phil's.
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This is the Pork Broham sandwich. It's one of the least expensive menu items ($5.95). The pulled pork is flavorful and mixed with BBQ sauce. They put the pork on top of the coleslaw which was odd since I think with most other BBQ joints the slaw usually tops the pork to help retain its crunch. The one drawback is that the bun top is "gi-normous" and quite chewy (there is also a bun bottom down there somewhere). We ended up attacking the bun top with a plastic knife and fork and topping the bun pieces with the pork and slaw...sort of like a BBQ bruschetta, if you will. :wink:
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This is a large order of their batter-dipped onion rings. This could feed four people. They were rich but each table in the restaurant comes with a bottle of malt vinegar which helps cut through the grease. If you want ranch dressing it's 50 cents extra.
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Each table has its own roll of paper towels since your fingers tend to get a little messy eating the ribs and onion rings. They have this hand washing station in the middle of the restaurant with a sink to rinse your hands off and gobs of paper towels to dry them.
I love good barbecue, I really do. And while Phil's was good, knowing that it wasn't "true" BBQ kind of colored the experience for me and the cost will certainly prohibit repeat visitations.

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