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Our thoughts on Market in San Diego...

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whatwedig Feb 1, 2007 03:31 PM

Some asked that we post a review we did of Market on our blog (www.whatwedig.com) here... We were there for restaurant week a few weeks ago with some friend. Hope you find it interesting:

Market Restaurant & Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014
(858) 523-0007
http://www.marketdelmar.com

Dined there on January 10, 2007 at approximately 7:00 p.m.

Due to timing constraints this week, we were only able to go to one restaurant during Restaurant Week. We knew exactly which one we wanted to try and made our reservation for Carl Schroeder’s (previously of Arterra) new endeavor in Del Mar. Market describes its offerings as “Fresh, regional and seasonal cuisine” and is located at the old Blackhorse Grille site off Via De La Valle heading into Rancho Santa Fe from the 5 Freeway. The awning still says “Blackhorse Grille” and the main street sign is a tarp with Market’s logo over the old Blackhorse sign. Hopefully, this will be replaced soon as it gives a sense that the restaurant is not quite completed.

The interior is vibrant and colorful with a retro 60s feel. Playful reds and dotted color lines cover the booths with mood-setting dangling shimmery things scattered about. The atmosphere is lively, but the sound levels allow for comfortable conversation. A 50 inch plasma that hangs in the bar area displaying a closed circuit view of the kitchen. Some might find this interesting; we thought it a bit bright and distracting. Luckily, from the main dining area, you cannot see the plasma.

We ate with two of our favorite dining companions — Jora and Bryan — and were able to sample a strong offering from the Restaurant Week Menu. A caveat: a restaurant week menu is somewhat limited because of the mass production nature of the event. Nevertheless, we were not disappointed by the meal.

Despite it being restaurant week, the chef sent out a light amuse buche for the table which consisted of tangerines, strawberries, caramelized walnuts, and diced green apples served in an Asian soup spoon. This lovely combination set the stage for the freshness of the food we would be eating. Our table sampled each of the starter offerings. Two of us had the Hot & Sour Petrale Sole & Prawn Hot Pot, which included Maine Lobster, Hon Shimejii Mushrooms, House made Tofu and Konbu. These came out in simple deep white bowls that were covered to keep the pot hot. The lobster, mushrooms and prawns were perfectly cooked and infused with the subtle Asian flavor of the broth. Servers provided a spoon to finish the broth with and we are glad they did. This starter was perfect for winter without being the usual heavy offering that the season often calls for. The second starter we tried was the Homemade Italian Sausage Chopped “Cobb” which was prepared with organic Romaine, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Gorgonzola Blue Cheese. Gil opted to skip the blue cheese as he is not a fan and enjoyed this salad thoroughly. Being a Cobb, it came out appearing drenched in dressing, but the lightness of the dressing made it a perfect amount for the combination of flavors. Across the top of the salad was a beautiful Italian sausage that complimented the flavors of the Cobb perfectly - it was sweet and not spicy at all and added a different angle on the traditional Cobb. The ingredients tasted fresh and healthy and we left nothing on the plate. The final starter was the Baked Bucheron Cheese & Citrus Salad which included a house made puff pastry, roasted beets and honey glazed walnuts. Jora described it as having perfectly roasted gold and purple beets with grapefruit and orange sections tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette over curly endive. That was topped with the crunchy, not-too-sweet walnuts. And then, cheese (a soft, crumbly, tangy, we think sheep’s milk) was baked in the puff pastry with a honey glaze on top. Jora’s overall comment… Yum.

We ordered a 1998 Merryvale Napa “Profile” which is a Bordeaux style Napa meritage. It was initially tight and acidic, but it opened up nicely as we poured it out to reveal a soft not too heavy red wine that went perfectly with the fish and red meat dishes we ordered for the main course.

For entrees, the table managed to sample two of the three offerings. We missed out on the Game Hen Tasting which was a tough call. Two of us – Jora and Gil — had the Tempura Black Sea Bass which came with Yuzu Remoulade, Soba Noodle-Pea Tendril Salad and Gingered Vegetables. Although the breading on the sea bass was a tad bit heavy for tempura, the fish was tender, moist and flavorful. Two pieces of fish were each on different sauces. The Yuzu Remoulade had an orange/red jam color consistency to it and tasted like a better version of traditional sweet and sour sauce. The other was on a tartar sauce-like creation that complimented the fish very well. We described the dish as a gourmet fish and chips with soba noodles and veggies instead of chips. The Soba noodles were perfectly cooked, light and flavored with a spice we could not identify but could not miss because of the heat it generated. The gingered vegetables were well cooked, flavorful and an excellent accompaniment to the dish.The other two at our table – Krista and Bryan — enjoyed the Prime Flank Steak & Shortrib Tasting which was served with roasted root vegetables, whipped sweet onion potatoes and cabernet jus. The Shortrib was served in the middle of the whipped sweet onion potatoes and was easily cut away with only a fork. The shortrib did not have the usual smoky flavor one often expects, but rather a nice subtle meat/deep red wine flavor that accentuated the freshness and quality of the meat. The flank steak was served in thinly sliced segments and was also tender and perfectly cooked to ordered temperature. The chef let the meat stand almost entirely on its own – a fine choice. While the cabernet jus was available for coating on the steak, it was just an added bonus. The meat itself was perfectly seasoned and needed no additional accompaniment.

For dessert we ordered everything on the menu. Two of us enjoyed the Espresso Panna Cotta with Devil’s Food Cake, Sugar Toasted Almonds, and Orange “Confit.” This was one of the better Panna Cotta’s we have tried. The espresso flavor was ever present, but not overwhelming and the Panna Cotta sat on the Devil’s Food Cake as a pie might sit on the crumb lining a pie pan. Jora ordered the Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Tangerine Milkshake and Cocoa-Citrus Macaroons and exclaimed “Oh my God” upon tasting the milkshake. After each trying a bite of the macaroons we asked for more so we could keep enjoying the amazing combination of flavors. Finally, Gil ordered the Spiced Bread and Butter Pudding with Dried Figs and Pear Compote and Vanilla-Black Pepper Ice Cream. Gil is a huge fan of bread pudding and one can assume he will always order it if it is on the menu. This bread pudding did not disappoint. It was the perfect combination of bread and egg and the butter added an extra layer of decadence that was enjoyed to the very last bite. It is rare to enjoy every dessert offered, but this was one of those moments. Pastry Chef James Foran should be applauded for his efforts here.

The service throughout the evening was spot on with a well-versed server providing enough information to make selections easy while not lingering or bothering us throughout the meal. He also gets extra marks for bringing us a menu to take home with us and additional macaroons for the table without hesitation.

Despite the pressures of Restaurant Week, Market presented an amazing meal that all but guaranteed a return visit. Each of us thoroughly enjoyed the menu and vowed to return to see what else this amazing restaurant had to offer.

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    daantaat RE: whatwedig Feb 1, 2007 06:49 PM

    we also made it to Market over SDRW and loved our dishes. The tempura sea bass was my favorite entree of all the three nights we went out (compared to Jack's La Jolla and Nine-Ten which were both excellent in their own styles) and the espresso panna cotta was delicate, light yet very satisfying in a chocolate craving way. We got to relish our friend's tangerine milkshake b/c she has a "thing" about citrus in milk.

    1. Alice Q RE: whatwedig Feb 1, 2007 07:11 PM

      That's awesome that you guys tried all of the desserts. I take classes from Chef Foran and I know he would be thrilled!

      1. l
        Lynnester RE: whatwedig Feb 2, 2007 08:42 AM

        Just went to Market last night. The service was a bit slow as they were swamped on a Thursday night. The three friends I was with were moaning all throughout the meat. The short ribs are addictive. Can't wait to go back.

        1. b
          Bob Foster RE: whatwedig Feb 2, 2007 07:23 PM

          As you can tell from earlier posts, we think this is one of the very best places in all of San Diego. Go!

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