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Modus, San Diego (report)

Josh Sep 16, 2006 04:51 AM

After having heard a variety of things about this place, finally made it down tonight with my SO and another couple. While I don't have time to elaborate as much as I'd like, in a word: GO.

We had a flawless dining experience, start-to-finish, that brought back a hint of the old Belgian Lion vibe. While the place is much hipper in terms of decor and presentation, they are like the Lion in that they don't rush you through your meal, and leave you to talk to your companions.

There is a menu of specialty cocktails, all featuring fresh fruit juices. I had one called "Coulda Woulda Shoulda", made with sake, grapefruit juice, and champagne. My buddy had one made with fresh ginger and sake that was really good.

Entrees were great. I had steak frites, which was done precisely as I'd asked and dressed with garlic butter. Other plates at our table included the roast pork with potatoes and candied apples, rack of lamb, and duck confit with fresh figs.

Michele Coulon's desserts were also stellar.

Modus has legs, and should become very popular. Easily one of the top dining experiences I've had in San Diego.

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  1. Alice Q RE: Josh Sep 16, 2006 05:56 AM

    Glad to hear you liked it Josh. I went a few weeks ago and had a good meal. Naomi Wise also reviewed it this week and she really liked it. I was a little confused by the juxtaposition between the ultra modern decor and the homey food, but I liked the cooking. They had a special Chino's corn soup that night that was fantastic, and I loved their bread and butter with the crushed salt. My hubby also ordered the steak and his was overcooked - but that can happen anywhere. I highly recommend ordering an individual dessert rather than the dessert sampler - it wasn't very good, but the Torte Belge was fantastic.

    1. Josh RE: Josh Sep 23, 2006 03:48 PM

      So we went back to Modus last night. As before, everything rocked.

      Some cool things about the experience:

      - Had a cocktail they call the Devine Brown Manhattan. I ordered it because one of the ingredients listed was Charbay's Black Walnut liquer. Charbay is a micro-distillery in the wine country that makes some really great fruit-infused vodkas. I've long wanted to try this walnut liquer, so it was nice to be able to do so without buying a bottle. The combination of the black walnut and bourbon was inspired.

      - After my last visit, I emailed them about what I saw as some holes in their beer list. Lots of Belgian ales, and a few IPAs, but no brown ales, stouts, or porters. To me, with all their roasted meat dishes, this was kind of a big omission. To my complete shock, I got a reply from one of the owners telling me that he had added some of these beers to their list.

      - The herb dressing for the salad is very good. It's got garlic, basil, and I think tarragon (not sure on that one). It was great on the endive salad with apples and bleu cheese. I usually find salad dressings to be predictable, but this was flavorful and unique.

      - The portion sizes are just right. They're not small, and they're not giant. You don't leave feeling stuffed unless you order too much food.

      - The place is very relaxed. Nobody rushes you to place your order, to finish your meal, or to vacate your table.

      - The duck confit is excellent, moist and tender. It goes great with porter.

      I hope this place continues to do well. I have read some comments about loud music and a nightclub atmosphere. I haven't seen that on either visit, but I also went early in the evening. Not sure if that changes late at night.

      I think what I like most about Modus is that it is clearly what it wants to be, and doesn't feel contrived. Some of my favorite places in San Diego have that same feeling, and when you talk to the owners they always say that they made the kind of place they would want to go. There's an honesty about that which I find refreshing.

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      1. re: Josh
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        daantaat RE: Josh Sep 24, 2006 10:47 PM

        good to hear more thumbs up on Modus! We have reservations for there next month!

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