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LA Hound Seeks San Diego Birthday Dinner Location

Four of us are coming down to San Diego in two weeks to celebrate a friend's birthday, and am looking for some suggestions as to where to go. She lives in Rancho Bernardo, but we are willing to drive to other areas for good chow. Looking for something "nice", but not super expensive (maybe around $50/person before tax & tip and without alcohol). Any type of cuisine other than Thai or Italian. Japanese is good, a steakhouse would work, but open to other ideas.

For those of you familiar with LA dining, I'm looking for something along the lines of Nook Bistro, Mako, AOC, Jar...something unique to San Diego.


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  1. If you like Japanese, do Izakaya Sakura on Convoy St.

    1. Being a big fan of Jar and having enjoyed Mako as well, I would strongly suggest Market in Del Mar. It is new, unique to and in San Diego, and is a quick hop across the I-56. www.marketdelmar.com. It might press your budget a bit but you won't be disappointed.

      1. Asia-Vous in Escondido, which is about 10 mintues (or less) North of Rancho Bernardo.


        1. Another to consider is Cavaillon in Santa Luz (about 15 mins s/sw of RB). Here's the link to their website: http://www.cavaillonrestaurant.com/ I think it's one of the best places in SD, and it's also one of the best price-wise for the quality.

          Staying in RB, I'd say check out El Bizochco (www.ranchobernardoinn.com/bizcocho/) especially if Gavin's in the kitchen. He just represented the US in the Bocuse d'Or and though he didn't come away with the prize, he's still deservedly considered one of the best chefs in the US.

          1. Wine Sellar and Brasserie: www.winesellar.com

            Weird location, outstanding food, one of the best wine lists in the country, strange decor.

            1. I would strongly second Market, Cavaillon and El Bizcocho. Market would be my first pick among the three--comfortable, casual upscale atmosphere and the food is ALWAYS good. El Biz will be the most formal out of the three. Cavaillon's decor is French countryside-ish--less "modern," so to speak. If you go to Market, make sure you request to eat in the dining area. There are tables in the bar area that you can eat in, but the area is not as "nice" as the dining room.

              I would also strongly recommend Nine-Ten, Jack's La Jolla Formal Dining Room and Tapenade, all in La Jolla. Nine-Ten will give you the best food for the buck. Tapenade will be the most pricey.

              Winesellar and Brasserie's food is a step below Market, Nine-Ten and Jack's. I think their strong point is their wine but the food itself seems to be lacking that extra special "something" that the others have.

              Izakaya Sakura has great Japanese food, but it is by no means anywhere near an upscale atmosphere. If you have another dinner to do, I would go here. Maybe not on the celebration meal.

              1. Market had a review that came out in the L.A. times about two weeks ago. She gave it a terriffic review. They're always busy so make early reservations.

                1. Based on the atmosphere it sounds like you're looking for - I would second the recommendations of Market and Jack's, and would also add Blanca (in Solana Beach).

                  Jack's has a few different "venues" and is always hopping - the Oceanview rooftop one might be fun - www.jackslajolla.com. If you are willing to come downtown, you might also enjoy Cafe Chloe, the Guild, the Bondi, Stingaree, J Six, Confidential or Chive. The Guild and Bondi are brand new - so haven't tried them yet, but they are sort of the hottest thing in town and early reviews are good. Cafe Chloe is pretty casual but very good - it's kind of girly and hip.

                  Whatever you decide, have a great time, and let us know what you thought of it!


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Alice Q

                    I would avoid Stingaree and Confidential if you are not planning on eating early and especially if you are coming on a Friday or Saturday unless you are looking for a serious party environment. Both are popular nightclubs (Stingaree in particular) with DJs and will become extremely loud and filled with club-goers as the evening rolls on. Bondi is also a bit on the casual party side and I was not blown away by the menu (although I haven't eaten there, I only had a few beers).

                    Downtown, I like Oceanaire, but it isn't unique to San Diego, being part of a chain... however there isn't one in LA. I also like Red Pearl Kitchen location/ambience, but they just opened one in Hollywood :) . I can wholeheartedly back the recommendations of El Bizcocho, Market, and Jack's (the oceanview terrace is great with nice weather), if you are looking for San Diego unique location-wise I could also add The Prado and Island Prime. Neither one is going to exactly blow you away, food-wise, but they are both solid and have extremely unique San Diego environments (Prado is in the middle of Balboa Park in the historic hospitality house with a very nice patio, and Island Prime has a fantastic view of the harbor and downtown across the water). Island Prime will be pushing at the high-end of your budget for sure, though.

                    If you're feeling Sushi you might consider Sushi Ota, the ambience is reasonable, the price is about right and the food is among the best in San Diego sushi, but I'm sorry to say it doesn't quite stand up to the LA sushi standouts.

                  2. Thanks to everyone for the help! Market and Jack's look nice, but I'm a bit concerned about price at both locations. I didn't see prices for Asia Vous. Anyone know what that's like? Market really looks the best to me...might just have to suck it up on price and go there :-) Thanks again!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: WestsideLisa

                      I think Market would be within your price range, though just barely - entrees in the mid to high 20s. Asia Vous is probably about the same - 20s-30s. Jack's Grille or the rooftop place would probably within your price range, but probably not the fine dining.

                      JRDN, at the Tower 23 hotel in Pacific Beach is another idea. We went there in Dec. for my husband's birthday and we really liked it. It's lively and definitely a unique San Diego experience, being right on the beach. They also have a sushi bar. I wrote about it on my blog - www.aliceqfoodie.com - a few months ago. I can't access the site from work to give you the direct link, but it should be in the December archives. I also wrote about Asia Vous in Jan. Good luck!!

                      1. re: WestsideLisa

                        Prices are lower than either Market or Jack's. You're probably, on average, looking at the $8-12 range for apps, $18-32 for entrees and desserts are probably all $6 or $8 each. I remember thinking the last time I was there how reasonably priced the menu really was, especially in terms of the quality of the meal. This is a generalization, but Escondido can't bear the same price points as Del Mar and La Jolla. Different client base.

                        Asia Vous is small, intimate and the chef/owner well trained (CIA grad), experienced and skilled. If you're concerned about the prices just call them and ask. It's a family affair. His wife runs the front of the house.

                      2. The San Diegoans have suggested Roy's in response to my suggestion of Asia Vous. I have been to Roy's (Maui & Woodland Hills) -- how do you think it compares to Asia Vous in terms of food quality and price?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: WestsideLisa

                          It's little like comparing mangos and papayas, both are tropical fruits but taste a lot different than each other. It's probably more what kind of dining experience you're looking for and what your tastes are.

                          Roy's is a chain, Asia-Vous is a family affair. He cooks, she runs the front of the house. Asia-Vous is small and intimate and would like to be thought of as a New York-style supper club with a fusion twist. Roy's isn't exactly that small and would like to be thought of as (sorta kinda) Hawaiian with an upscale twist. Roy's has that kind of slick corporate feel, Asia-Vous does not. It's Riko and usually only 1 other cook in the kitchen at Asia-Vous. Roy's has a chef and more than 1 other production staff person.

                          Food is less expensive at Asia-Vous because, frankly, Escondido isn't La Jolla and the market doesn't typically carry the same price points. Both restaurants are fully capable of consistently turning out very good meals. Whether one is "better" than the other is probably subjective and more a matter of personal taste than skill in the kitchen.

                          1. re: WestsideLisa

                            I haven't eaten at Roy's, so I can't really answer the question, but I would really encourage you to try Asia Vous. Asia Vous is unique to San Diego and locally owned, and will likely be a more intimate and interesting experience. You can view the menu (not sure about prices) on their website at www.asiavousrestaurant.com - I also wrote about it (with pictures) a couple of months ago: http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2007...