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Mar 3, 2007 06:57 PM

Vagabond (San Diego) report

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. 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

      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

        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: Josh

            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

              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. Hello

      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

        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

          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

          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. 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

            Is this the shop associated with the Costa Brava restaurant ?

            1. re: stevuchan

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

              1. re: DiningDiva

                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

                  Thanks, I know exactly where that is.

                1. re: MVNYC

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

                2. 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.