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Vagabond (San Diego) report

Josh Mar 3, 2007 06:57 PM

Finally tried this place tonight, after hearing many positive things (and a few negative ones). I was pretty impressed. Definitely will go back.

There were a couple of things that struck me right off the bat. One was that the menu has very detailed descriptions of the items. Two was that the bread was served with an awesome saffron aioli. I ate far too much bread dipped into far too much aioli, but the saffron, garlic, and olive oil combo was just too addictive for words.

We started with an appetizer that we spied at a neighboring table. It was a Vietnamese summer roll, paired with three spring rolls. They came with the requisite lettuce, mint, basil, and cilantro for garnishing, and the standard dipping sauces. I was surprised at how good these were, while not being wholly authentic.

The spring rolls were very crisp, not greasy, and filled with a vegetable mixture strongly flavored with mushroom. The summer roll was filled with tofu, rice noodles, and veggies, and was cool and refreshing.

I ordered the paella (which I'd heard was good), and my s/o had the halibut special. Her fish was very fresh and well-cooked, though there was too much sauce, which kind of overpowered everything.

I was quite happy with the paella. It had a generous amount of chorizo seco, rabbit, sausage, and shellfish, and the rice had a wonderful flavor and texture. Lots of saffron, good olive oil. The only complaint was that a couple of bites had broken mussel shell in them (ugh).

Despite the two minor issues, we were very happy with our meals and will definitely return. This is a nice addition to San Diego's dining scene, and isn't really like any other place I've been in town.

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  1. kare_raisu RE: Josh Mar 3, 2007 07:28 PM

    Josh - how would you compare this Paella agianst other versions you have tried? Sounds appealing, so many different taste, textural components. Bone in Rabbit?

    5 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu
      Josh RE: kare_raisu Mar 3, 2007 07:35 PM

      Boneless. I'd never had good paella, honestly. Usually the rice is an afterthought (dried out, overdone), the dish is greasy, and the protein-rice ratio is weighted heavily towards the rice. I think bone-in rabbit might have been better, as the rabbit was a bit dry.

      1. re: Josh
        DiningDiva RE: Josh Mar 3, 2007 10:08 PM

        I am glad to hear they corrected the paella. I had it and it contained broken clam shells and the rice was a little on the gummy side. Have they corrected the noise problem.

        1. re: DiningDiva
          Josh RE: DiningDiva Mar 3, 2007 10:25 PM

          No, it was pretty loud.

          1. re: Josh
            Alice Q RE: Josh Mar 8, 2007 09:46 AM

            I had a really good lunch there with a friend - we shared a charcuterie plate, and I had the mussels and a glass of wine - then we split a chocolate bombe dessert with coffee. Our meal was much better than the dinner I ate there with my husband - and it wasn't crowded or noisy. The menu changes periodically, but I did not like the Carne de Seco (sp?) or the Coq au Vin, and I have heard the paella was gummy.

            It really is kind of hit or miss - but I like the atmosphere, and the neighborhood has character. I'd go again for the mussels alone - they were wonderful.


            1. re: Alice Q
              Josh RE: Alice Q Mar 8, 2007 10:16 AM

              Paella wasn't at all gummy on my visit. Each grain of rice was tender and distinct. They must have worked out the kinks with that dish.

    2. s
      stangoldsmith RE: Josh Mar 7, 2007 02:32 AM


      Nice to hear your review Josh.

      We ate at Vagabond and were pretty disappointed, though we wanted to be happy!

      I got the coq-au-vin, which was waay too oily and I couldn't eat half the dish because of the bones, etc. The taste was of vinegar and oil, like a bad Philipino Adobado, I felt upset stomach and hungry later.

      The Partner got a steak, which was overcooked and overdone and bland!

      We vowed not to go back! But maybe we should....?

      South Park is home, and South Park B&G, while passable, isn't cutting it for nice food, and Sombrero, while certainly a 1-2x a week stop, is not Vagabond, and none are REGION RIP...

      Sorry if I put a damper on your review, perhaps a return is in order.

      san diego food blog

      3 Replies
      1. re: stangoldsmith
        Josh RE: stangoldsmith Mar 7, 2007 10:47 AM

        No damper here, we enjoyed our meal! ;-)

        Your complaints sound like pretty legitimate gripes to me, though expecting filet mignon to be anything BUT bland is probably a mistake. I didn't get the impression from the menu that either steak or coq au vin would be good choices there. Just a feeling.

        1. re: Josh
          mikec RE: Josh Mar 7, 2007 01:17 PM

          Although I've had mostly very good experiences at Vagabond, I've had less-than-stellar experiences as well. It's almost as if they let their dishwashers do the cooking sometimes, the mistakes that are made seem beyond egregious. When Vagabond is off, it can be very, very off.

        2. re: stangoldsmith
          Bobierto RE: stangoldsmith Aug 20, 2007 06:31 PM

          My sentiment exactly, I really wanted to like this place! The atmosphere was great, so was the service, but the food was boring. And the margarita quite lackluster.

        3. stevuchan RE: Josh Mar 7, 2007 07:47 AM

          For the Paella fans, there is a market in PB, Pata Negra (Garnet and Jewell) that sells all the essentials for creating paella, the chorizo is top shelf (a bit $$). Stop by and give check them out, is always disturbingly empty, although I think they also run a catering business out of the same location.


          5 Replies
          1. re: stevuchan
            honkman RE: stevuchan Mar 7, 2007 08:54 AM

            Is this the shop associated with the Costa Brava restaurant ?

            1. re: stevuchan
              DiningDiva RE: stevuchan Mar 7, 2007 09:33 AM

              Garnet & Jewel? Where is it in relationship to Great News!, Lotsa Pasta and Charlie's Bread?

              1. re: DiningDiva
                mangiatore RE: DiningDiva Mar 7, 2007 09:46 AM

                It's actually sort of attached to (and I believed owned by) Costa Brava restaurant (south side of Garnet b/w Ingraham and Jewell) Btw, if you've never been, Costa Brava is one of the coolest restaurants in SD IMO. I'm not a huge fan of Spanish food, but I love going there for Sangria and a couple tapas at happy hour.

                1. re: mangiatore
                  DiningDiva RE: mangiatore Mar 7, 2007 10:03 AM

                  Thanks, I know exactly where that is.

                  1. re: mangiatore
                    stevuchan RE: mangiatore Mar 7, 2007 12:50 PM

                    You are correct.

              2. MVNYC RE: Josh Mar 7, 2007 08:36 AM

                What was the damage $$$?

                1 Reply
                1. re: MVNYC
                  Josh RE: MVNYC Mar 7, 2007 10:46 AM

                  For appetizer, two entrees, and no beverage (except for iced tea) it was around $50, not including tip.

                2. Paladar RE: Josh Mar 7, 2007 09:25 AM

                  I've been to Vagabond twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. I am still craving the kung pao calamari appetizer. It had a light breading, possibly rice flour and a really great spicy (flavorful not too hot) ip to it. I could go back and order that for my entree with a side of rice and be very, very happy.

                  1. crave RE: Josh Aug 20, 2007 12:05 PM

                    Ate here last Friday evening, we enjoyed it. It was a busy night. Good mix of people. I only noticed 2 servers that evening, with the manager assisting. Anyway taking that into consideration, the service was ok. Love the "fresh from the oven" bread with the aioli spread. The menu was well priced, as well as the wine. The food was also ok. I will say that this place was worth the try, and that I will recommend it. Try the Basil Martini, Sea Bass and Chocolate Triangle, coffee is ok. Skip the Narai.

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