San Diego Restaurant Week 2007
I've been greatly enjoying the few SDRW reviews that have been posted lately and reading through everyone's thoughts and comments. I've learned that Pamplemousse is not making the impression I had expected and it is also adding a 20% gratuity to the bill (Baleen did this, too). I've learned that 1500 Ocean is probably worth a stop on a regular night (and didn't add 20% gratuity) and Tapenade is now on my list of places to try.
While I like the detailed, individual reviews, I thought it would be nice to have a spot to comment on SDRW in general. Like:
Who else is tacking on 20% gratuity and do you think it's worth it? Are they also the restaurants that are charging $40 instead of $30?
Do you still feel you're getting a value at $40, or are the dishes leaving you feeling like you paid an extra $10 than you should?
If you've been to the restaurant before, do you think the service or quality of food is dramatically different (either extra effort to show off or a lack of caring quality)?
If you tried a new restaurant, would you come back to pay full price (for an entree, and maybe split dessert) or are you just glad you got to check it out at a "reduced" price and if you have a special occasion you'll come back? Conversely, did you have such a sad experience during SDRW that you won't come back even if they're lauded as wonderful the rest of the year?
I'll start below..
My wife had read last years reviews of Mille Fleur and wanted to try them out. I had a lunch at Tapenade and wanted to go there for dinner. So we compromised and she decided we were going to Mille Fleur. :)
Looking at the pictures on their website, I was thinking "hmmm, kinda reminds me of Masa's" in San Francisco. It must have been the flowers.
We had the salad and cauliflower soup for appetizers, fish (baramundi) and lamb for entree, and finished with coffee chantilly (mousse?) and blood orange with ice cream.
Even before dinner was over my wife asked me what I thought of the meal. The one word that kept coming up was "pedestrian", so I blurted it out. The reaction on her face pretty much said "I agree...unfortunately".
The salad was very sparse. It looked like someone was looking on the menu and just grabbing the ingredients listed and throwing it on a plate. This person had very small hands or short fingers because the salad hardly covered the small plate it came on AND it was all over the place. There didn't seem like any attempt at making the first plate visually pleasing. The soup with the shrimp raviolli( they called it something else on the menu) was just O.K but a few of the shrimp "dumplings" had an unwelcomed "crunch" when I bit into it.
My wife thought the fish was fine but nothing stood out. My lamb is where that word (pedestrian) started filling my head. To start, it was close to well-done, and they didn't trim the excess fat or the little splinters of vertebrae were still on the end of the chop. The field greens were abrasive/fibrous in texture. The ends of the stems showed that the greens were hand torn which is fine, but some had those stringy attachments like when you break a stalk of celery and the ribs have that stringy stuff. It's like they saved the tender stuff for the regular patrons and "treated" us to stuff I would have thrown out.
Dessert: not much to report. By this time I was so dissappointed that I didn't even finish my ice cream. Oh, I remember thinking "they should have at least cut the core of the orange out..." It too was very fibrous and on two pieces I had to just gum the orange for it's juice and spit the core out.
When the Maitre D said "we hope you come back..." I actually answered "yeah, that'd be something wouldn't it?" and left".
We batted a home run on all 3 out of 3 places that we picked this year. Nine-Ten, Jack's La Jolla Fine Dining Room and Market. All of them were $40 menus and we did get the 20% tip added on but this was expected b/c there were anywhere from 6-7 of us at dinner. Only Market did not add on automatic gratituity for a party of 7.
We've been to all three before and thought the service was as good then as it was this week.
Jack's had a wine tasting menu for an additional $25.
Market's bar area has a flat screen tv w/ a camera showing live action in the kitchen--kind of fun to watch.
Portions were small but ample at all three places, given that we were all quite full by the end of dessert.
Best salad was Nine-Ten's shaved vegetable salad.
Best entree was Market's tempura sea bass w/ soba noodles.
Best soup was Jack's celery root puree with hazelnut foam.
Best "side dish" was Jack's spicy pickled carrots and short rib.
Best dessert was Nine-Ten's half-baked chocolate cake (more like a big bowl of thick, rich, warm chocolate pudding with a little bit of soft cake along the sides!).
Best (a very close) 2nd dessert was Market's espresso panna cotta.
Everybody who went out with us loved all of their dishes at each restaurant.
The best part about this, besides 3 bargain meals, was being able to compare 3 different cooking styles nearly back to back!
No question here, we'll be going back to all three at full price!
I'll post a long review on our Chive dinner, but here's a quick summary.
Chive tacked on 20% gratuity as well. I don't have a problem with tipping 20%, but I've come to experience subpar service specifically during SDRW, so I think forcing me to tip 20% is a bit lame. Chive's menu was $30, but for $40 you were offered two extra choices in both the 2nd and 3rd courses (none of us went with this option).
We thought $30 was a pretty good value for 4 bites on small plates. However, some items I wouldn't order for $8 alone if the portion was the same. We left full and not stuffed and everything was quite tasty.
This was our first visit to Chive, and we may go back for happy hour or a couple of dishes, but probably not for a full dinner (I don't really like the small (small!) plate format and it was really loud. I don't know what it's typically like, but the service was pretty slow and there were long pauses between each course.
Went to Market last night and ordered off their SDRW menu. All dinners were $40 for 3 courses. While the waiter said the portions are slightly smaller than off the regular menu, they were very ample. And we got to try the desserts that we might have otherwise skipped. The food was superb and the deserts incedible. Service was excellent and attentive. No tip was added, but I rounded up and left about 22%. Will definately return.
I had complained earlier on this board that on a recent visit they seated us in the bar. This time I called ahead to be sure we were given a seat in the dining room and that was confirmed. Overall I think Market is one of the best restaurants in the area, balancing great food, resonable prices with many entries in the $20's, and top service.
We went to Oceanaire and Island Prime this week. Reviews are forthcoming, but here are my thoughts based on your questions above.
I would not return to Oceanaire on my own dime because of the service. We definitely feel we got "restaurant week service." This began when we were seated 20 minutes later than our reservation with no apology, follwed by our waiter disappearing completely after we placed our order, and ending with when we had to flag him down for both another bottle of wine and even later, ask a busser for coffee with dessert. He was also extraordinarily condescending. It's always a disappointment when you know you've had better service at a chain restaurant than somewhere that's supposed to be fine dining. Concerning price, while our main course was good, the app and dessert left me feeling a little cheated for the extra $10 they were tacking on to the normal $30 price. Gratuity was left to our discretion.
On the other hand, Island Prime had superb service, good food and a killer view. All of the courses were enjoyable and I will absolutely be returning there on my own dime in the next few months. With an attentive yet unobtrusive server, they made us feel special which was very nice. I would have been totally fine paying $40, instead of the $30 we were charged. They also did not tack on an automatic gratuity.
Please clarify, Ya-Ya, your posts seems to say you were charged $40 at Oceanaire and $30 at Island Prime when both are listed differently on the SD Restaurant Week website - perhaps I'm reading that incorrectly?
To the question of 20% service, we were charged that at Mille Fleurs last year and I had no problem with it. We had such a warm and friendly waitress who seemed genuinely interested in how our food was that and explained it so well that I probably should have added more. (I normally tip around 20% anyhow.)
This week is a great time to try those places, we only have dreamt about. ALways looking for a new taste treat after many years of eating at home or the usual all American.
Last nite, I went to CAVAILLON in Santa Luz area, which is part of the developing area of Carmel Valley, which only a few years ago was a collection of palm nursery farms and a couple of muddy tire tracks to get to them. Now on it's on the way to getting built up. I have looked for some better places for an occasional gastronomic treat and look forward to making use of Restaurant week to find them.
Here is what I enjoyed, and believe it to be one of the finest meals, that I have ever had any where around the world. Very nicely prepared and presented, even though I sat at the bar and learned as much as I could. They were booked for restaurant week, but have tables for more diners at other times. There were a number of walk ups, that were turned away.
Probably the best authentic gourmet meal, that I have ever had the pleasure to eat. The chef has worked his magic around town at some of the most noted places after his experience/training in France before Cavaillon was created a year ago.
Got a taste of squid ink sauce, which is used to sprinkled on the Calamari with Saffron Risotto appetizer!
I preferred my Appetizer of Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Port Wine, White Truffle Oil, a little sweet, but I left the plate clean (with the help of bits of bread). Then for the Main plate, I chose the Tasmanian Trout, a larger salmon-like fish without bones, served with Glazed winter Root Vegetables, Roasted Garlic Chantilly. I left the plate clean with a use of a nice warm bun. Dessert was a Manjari Chocolate Tart (Madagascar chocolate with small red cherries) topped with Passion Fruit Custard, Coconut Ice Cream. I had the fork to soak up the Coconut cream and bits of the Custard as best as I could. Nothing was left at any time! That is how good it was.
There is no doubt of all the new places I choose the past two years, this is at the TOP of the list! It is reasonably priced for the quality of the foods enjoyed. I would be hard pressed to recommend a better place. Some of the secret must be, that it is not located in a busy part of town with a pace to enjoy the fine tastes.
At $40 Prix Fixe week's Menu, I think it is reasonable at any other time, but moreso on Monday nites if you miss the last two nights of this weeks special event.
There is a MONDAY'S Prix Fixe dinner menu at $32.00, which I plan to take advanatage of as OFTEN as possible. For example, the Main Course
featured Braised Short Ribs, Burgundy Style, Pan Roasted Salmon, or Mushrooms and Butternut Squash Risotto. Appetizers are a choice of Escargots in Garlic and Parsley Butter, Eggplant and Goat Cheese or Classic French Onion SOup.
For Dessert you can choose Cheese Cake Moussse with Passion Friut and Pinapple, Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis, or Profiterole with Pistachio Ice Cream and Hot Choc Sauce.
I programmed the Navigation System to take me there without a problem. Just put in the Street without the street number, since it is newer then programs in the new car. It is off I-56 at Camino del Sol North. But the directions on their website will get you there and it is worth the effort with the reward on arrival! For us mid North County folks, it is a sign that we have arrived and have exceptional foods to experience. I have watched this valley build up from home at the top of Mira Mesa/Scripps Ranch East of I-15. It seemed further then it really is, and it is closer then driving into downtown or LaJolla without the traffic or crowds, lots of parking,once you get there. Cavaillon is located across the patio from the Fitness Studio. They paced their reservations, so that no parties had to wait for a table.
I really enjoyed visiting with the staff from the MaitreD, to the waiters, who kept me company at the bar. Having waited tables in college, I learned how to run a restaurant, and how to enjoy excellent fine foods.
Now, that I have been there, I plan on enjoying the exceptional cuisine and friendly atmosphere as often as possible. You should try it also, and let us know how much you enjoyed it. Don't be afraid to mention, 'Nutrition' wet your appetite, when you make a reservation!
14701 Via Bettona, San Diego
1500 Ocean and Tapenade both were $40, and both had fairly priced wine selections. Gratuity was at the diner's discretion.
As far as I'm concerned, both of those places were bargains.
1500 Ocean was new to us, but we'll definitely be back when we feel like venturing over the bridge to Coronado. Tapenade had been on our "occasional" rotation for several years, and the quality of the SDRW offerings, in my opinion, was pretty typical of the talent in the kitchen.
By the way, last year's RW was our first time eating at Oceanaire. Even though we weren't the kind of expense account diners that seem to frequent that place (think $100 appetizer plates), we were treated *very* well, and thought the entire experience was a steal. We've since been back several times on our own dime, and while not every meal was worth setting off fireworks, they were all pretty good, and the memory of that Restaurant Week experience has kept us smiling.
. . . jim strain in san diego.
Baleen (as you see above and in my separate review) is adding 20% and I would probably let it slip if they stuck with a $30 price. Or if I felt extra-special like they make me feel at Ruth's Chris (even if they do tend to talk more to my bf than to me).
Last year, we felt we got away with highway robbery at the Marine Room for $30 (their lobster bisque alone is $12!). The quality and enjoyment of the food at Baleen didn't leave us feeling like we spent too much (wine and cocktails are another story). It also didn't leave us feeling like we got a bargain, though.
Baleen was new to all of us and since they're in the process of changing the menu, I'd wait to see how that ends up looking. The food was good enough that I'd like to go back, but we'd probably order just an entree and split an appetizer or dessert, since it's not a place I can envision spending over $100 for two (and their bread isn't that great). I also have no idea how expensive their regular menu is, since we didn't get to see it at dinner.
We're hitting up Chive tonight. I'll let you all know how that goes.