There are plenty of excellent restaurants in San Diego. Here are a few of our favorites:
Taste of the Nation (Coronado): Okay, this is not
a restaurant. It's a charity event, run by Share Our Strength.
This annual event is usually held at Loews Coronado Bay Resort on a sunny spring Sunday.
This year (2003), it is scheduled for May 18, from Noon to 4:00 PM.
Brigid and Russ have assisted since 1999, and Russ has managed
the Taste of San Diego web site since then.
For details, visit the web site, or call (619) 628-5477. In 2003, General Admission tickets
cost $50. VIP tickets (which include valet parking,
a goodie bag, assured seating, and access to a cocktail bar) are available for $75.
To be assured of learning
about plans for the next ToTN, you can
sign up for the mailing list that I set up for them.
100% of the admission fees go to hunger relief organizations. The event is coordinated
Our Strength. The food and venue are all donated, and everything is run by
volunteers. There is very little overhead, and all of that is paid for by corporate donors.
Chez Nous (Scripps Ranch, 9821 Carroll Canyon Road,
858-566-4766): Mediterranean eclectic. A family-run operation. Chez
Nous has fabulous sandwiches, and they are especially famous for their
lamb sandwich. They are very creative with their menus -- it's a
perfect place for an informal business lunch!
Aux Délices (Miramar): A surprisingly good French restaurant with California
influences. Pricing is moderate (which is to say, relatively inexpensive, as French
restaurants tend to go). 6904 Miramar Road, 858-549-9751. They're nicely hidden away behind the Denny's, across from the empty plinth at Miramar MCAS, where the E-2C used to "fly".
Trattoria Panevino (downtown): Fine italian dining. On the expensive side,
but worth every penny. Don't miss the cannoli cake for dessert.
Marine Room (La Jolla): California seafood. This place is elegant -- okay,
it's expensive, but worth it! They're into food architecture, with lots
of creative vertical constructions with your entrees, including interesting usage
of lotus root slices. The food is wonderful, and the view is hard to beat, especially
if you can time your visit to meet a high tide. The restaurant is at the southern
edge of La Jolla Shores, and the waves come right up to the restaurant. (The place is
famous for having its windows occasionally blown out by storm waves.)
Island Boy Grill (Sorrento Mesa): 858-452-7708, 10066 Pacific Heights Blvd (cross street Barnes Cyn)
Crave some Hawaiian food? This is it, buddy! Cheap, fast, good food (lunch only, I think).
Try their kalua pig, or their ribs, or their teriyaki chicken. If you want to stretch your
envelope a little, try some lomilomi salmon (salmon ceviche). Want to stretch a little
further? On weekends, they sometimes serve poi -- definitely an acquired taste. Much easier
to enjoy is the laulau -- also served only on weekends. Laulau consists of various meats and
fish, wrapped in taro leaf (I think -- in any event, it's some kind of edible leaf) and steamed.
I happen to really like it, having been introduced to it by a friend who grew up on Oahu.
Aswan Cafe (La Mesa): This is a not a gourmet place, by
any means. It's just a great place to inexpensively sample a
wide range of eclectic cuisine, including creole, african, and soul.
On Saturdays and Sundays, Aswan holds a "brunch" that runs from 9AM to
3PM. You can stuff yourself with a delicious gumbo (with crab and
shrimp), jambalaya, fried catfish, yams, greens, salmon, african egg
and chicken stew, sambosas (veggie and chicken), waffles, pancakes,
grits, eggs and omelettes to order, roast turkey, roast beef, red
beans & rice, and several desserts, including a very nice peach
cobbler. The brunch costs $15, and includes soft drinks. 7404
University Avenue, 619-464-7100 (9/7/02)
Armenian Café (Carlsbad): 760-720-2233, 3126 Carlsbad Blvd,
Carlsbad, CA 92008-2908. Excellent food. Similar to Greek. Best rack of
lamb I've had!
Ashoka The Great (Miramar): Don't confuse this with Ashoka, the
not-very-good, in La Jolla. Ashoka The Great has an excellent all-you-can-eat
lunch for $5.95 on weekends. Very nice. 9474 Black Mountain Road, (858) 695-9749
Aladdin Mediterranean Café (Clairemont): Middle Eastern. Excellent babaganoush,
hummous, salads, wood-fired pizzas, lamb, garlic dip, falafel...
Here is a Digital
City review. 5420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, 858-573-0000. They also have
another Café in Hillcrest, which we haven't tried.
Emerald Seafood (Kearny Mesa): Cantonese Chinese. Best chinese food
south of Monterey Park. This is an classy Hong Kong-style restaurant.
The Saturday and Sunday mid-day fare is dim sum, and it is among the best
in the West. Dinners are pricey, but worth every penny. You can get fresh
fish here, right out of the tank. At dinner, try the Honey-Walnut Shrimp,
for an appetizer.
Tell them "Brigid Tam"'s husband sent you! 8-)
Balboa Tofu House (Kearny Mesa): Korean. If you have a sinus
condition, or you're just in the mood for a spicey, hot soup, try this
place. For $7.50, they'll promptly serve you a bowl of bean curd
in a crock so hot that the soup is at a rolling boil when it arrives at
your table. Reach into the basket of fresh eggs, and break one into
the soup right away. Stir it into the soup. Munch on the kimchee
and pickled veggies that accompany your soup. Quench your burning
lips with the tumbler of cool roasted corn tea. When they ask you
whether you want the white or brown rice, go for the brown. It's
purplish from the black rice that they add, along with some peas.
Eater has reviewed this place. In 2001, they added several other
Korean specialties, so if you don't like tofu, you will still probably find
several things to enjoy.
India Sweets and Spices (Miramar): Vegetarian Indian.
Very cheap. Not a place to take your date. It's a good place
to get an inexpensive, decent (but slightly greasy) meal. No
atmosphere, though. It's right next to Ashoka The Great.
Bombay Sweets and Snacks (Miramar): Similar to India Sweets
and Spices, and right across the parking lot. Slightly more comfortable, and
they focus more on southern Indian cuisine, including masala dosa, idlis, rassam,
and all the other goodies. Yay!
California Thai Café (Miramar): Thai. This place is very good.
Be sure to try their mussel appetizer: We were served a crock, full of
succulent greenlip mussels in a fabulous broth, with just a hint of picante
bite, along with a garlic/vinegar dipping sauce. When you finish the mussels,
be sure to not overlook the delicious broth. I have to admit that it's been
a couple of years since we've been back to this place. It's probably time to
visit them again. 9550 Black Mountain Rd, Suite A (a block north of Miramar Rd, corner
of Black Mountain and Activity). 858-566-5021.
Marriott Harborside (downtown): Brunch. Fabulous brunch, but expensive
at $30 per person, or so.
Souplantation (all over): Salad bar/Soups/Pastas. Very inexpensive,
and potentially very healthy. This is the best salad bar I've seen.
Star of India (La Jolla): Northern Indian.
Nine-Ten (La Jolla): California creative cuisine. We were lucky enough to enjoy
a "Mercy of the Chef with Wine" dinner for four there, and the food was incredible. Every
course was a pleasant surprise. The ladies were served different dishes than the
gentlemen -- which worked out wonderfully, since we were able to double the number
of dishes we could taste. Michael Stebner (formerly of Azzura Point) is the executive
chef, and he enticed my favorite dessert chef, Jack Fisher, to join him. Jack's
signature is to use herbs in many of his desserts. You should definitely try
Nine-Ten, if you can. Like Sally's, the price is on the higher end of the spectrum,
but it is entirely justified by the quality of the food, atmosphere, and service!
Sally's (Downtown): Continental/Seafood. Sally's is in
the Hyatt Regency, right next to Seaport Village. Stephane
Voitzwinkler is the executive chef, and it's always a pleasure both to taste
his work, and to watch him and his staff do their work. How do I know
about the latter? I'll let you in on a little secret, and I hope it
doesn't backfire on me: If you can put together a party of 8-12
people, you can arrange for a "Chef's Table" dinner in Sally's'
kitchen. No, it's not hectic. It's wonderful. You get to walk
around this wonderfully efficient kitchen, converse with the friendly
staff, watch them "plate" the dishes (which Stephane usually does
himself)... You must arrange for the Chef's Table well in advance,
and Stephane will personally work with you on the menu (he has an incredible
range of cuisines at his disposal). If you like
seafood, I cannot recommend the Seafood "Appetizer" highly enough.
This is a huge platter, mounded high with ice, and loaded down with
succulent chunks of Maine lobster, king crab, the freshest oysters
(this is one of the few places I will dare to eat raw oysters),
marinated mussels, huge sweet shrimp, ... Dang, I'm
salivating! It's the best cold seafood platter in San Diego. And
everything else is every bit as good, including their amazing dessert
platter. Figure on $90 per person (before wine) for a
five-course dinner. Yes, that's a lot of money (well, we
consider it so), but it's the kind of splurge that you won't
regret! And here is a
review of Sally's.
One Market Place, downtown San Diego, 619-687-6080.
And now for a stinker:The Catamaran Hotel's
Summer Luau (Mission Bay). We received two complementary tickets
to a Summer 2003 luau at the Catamaran. I wasn't expecting much, and
yet I was underwhelmed. The face price on these tickets was
$50 apiece. For that price, you get a free mai tai, a
"Hawaiian buffet", and live polynesian music and dance.
The mai tai: the bartender was ridiculously over-generous with rum --
perhaps 3+ ounces in each 10 oz cup, filled with perhaps 5 oz of ice
-- it was disgusting, and neither of us got past the first sip);
The "Hawaiian buffet": There were a couple of noodle dishes, a dry
"teryaki" chicken breast (not much flavor), some fish that was fairly
tasty, and some nondescript beef. There was also a "salad" that
consisted solely of spring greens and an overly sweet raspberry
dressing. Despite the Catamaran's advertising, there was no kalua
pig. (They did have a roast pig on display, though.) Dessert
consisted of ice cream and coconut cream pie. While the coconut cream
pie was pretty good, I wouldn't consider it very Hawaiian.
The music and dancing were pretty good, but not good enough to entice
us to wait for the second set, during which they would be fire
dancing... Bottom line: At $20 per ticket, there would be no reason to
complain. $50, though, is outrageous for lukewarm, mediocre,
inauthentic Hawaiian food; a cup of nearly pure rum on ice; and some
decent music and dancing.