is widely considered the best restaurant in San Diego. It recently received a star from Michelin, which has finally gotten around to reviewing California restaurants outside San Francisco. I was a bit nervous about trying it, because there is only a five- or ten-course tasting menu option. I had had bad experiences with tasting menus: getting way too much food, feeling uncomfortably stuffed half-way through and wishing I could slide the last courses into my bag the way children dispose of unwanted peas.
We chose the five-course menu. It really isn't accurate to describe it as five-courses because along the way there is an amuse bouche; canapes; Parker house rolls with three flavors of butter; a snack of crisps and dip; a palate cleanser; and a selection of sweets. These were interspersed between the five courses. The portion sizes were perfect. At the end of the evening, I was full, but not stuffed and I took the selection of sweets home. If you have a hearty appetite, you can take advantage of extra servings of the rolls that are offered throughout the meal and there is also a cheese course available.
The evening was a true culinary journey not just of flavor, but of texture and temperature, as well. There was briny, salty, bitter, sweet, earthy, citrus, umami notes - I actually need more adjectives to convey all the flavors. The textures ranged from the delicate, icy crunch of the cucumber granita to the flakiness of crackers to the unctuousness of butter to the chewy to the melting texture of a sorbet.
We started with mocktails. They offer a nice selection, as well as a cocktails and, of course, an outstanding wine selection with wine pairings available. My friend had an excellent kiwi "mojito". It was so flavorful, he didn't miss the rum. I had a juice blend based on pomegranate juice. It was wonderfully complex with an interesting earthy undertone that suggested a hint of beet juice.
The amuse bouche was a delightful feta cream on a cucumber granita. We were then treated with a selection of canapes: gougeres with a bacon liquid inside; caviar tartlets; and crisp "cigarettes" with salmon. The first course was Alaskan king crab in a broth with passion fruit, basil and coconut. This was amazing. The sweet crab was complimented by the acid, yet sweet passion fruit. It was served with little coconut crackers. I'm just going to put up the pictures now. I didn't take a picture of everything. I could have added another ten pictures.
|This amuse bouche was perfect. I could have happily had this as a course|
|Some of the canapes|
|The rest of the canapes|
|This crab was exceptional. I think it was my favorite dish.|
|This is sea bream with artichoke and was slightly spicy|
|Ris de veau with a thin slice of black Australian truffle.|
|Duck with cherries|
|This was a palate cleanser. There are "pearls" of Asian pear and gold leaf|
|This little cake offered pleasantly bitter notes and had a cassis sauce|
The meat course offered a choice between wagyu beef and duck. I chose the duck which was a classic canard aux cerises. My friend had the beef and raved. I didn't even get a bite. The palate cleanser was fabulous and beautiful. I would have been happy with that as a dessert. The final course was a rich chocolate cake. I loved it, because it wasn't over-the-top sweet and offered many complex flavors of fruit and coffee.
We went home with our closing offering of sweets - coconut macarons, fruit pates and chocolate mints. Guests also receive a box of toffees, which I haven't eaten yet.
The service was outstanding. The staff was attentive, friendly, explained each dish well and answered our questions. They showed us the Australia truffles, which is an ingredient I was not familiar with. The restaurant is very beautiful and looks like a Venetian palace. It is on the grounds of the Fairmont Grand in Del Mar, so even the drive to the restaurant was pretty.
This is an expensive restaurant. The price for two without wine, but including tip was almost $600. To me it was worth it. The dishes were imaginative and also visually stunning. Each dish was an edible work of art. It was a very special evening!
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