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Thee Bungalow in OB

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Has anyone been? I heard that locals aren't thrilled with a Cohn operation in town, but is it good?? Josh? Honkman?

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  1. I have so far only tried Kebosabe from the Cohn restaurants and wasn't really thrilled. I know several friends who went to some of the other Cohn restaurants (Prado, Indigo Grill, Island Prime) and all of them are not really bad but they seem to quite pricey for average food. I was last year at Thee Bungalow for the Chef Celebration dinner (several SD chefs were cooking a seven course menu for the benefits of their culinary scholarship programs) and I liked the location and service very much.
    Overall I would say if you have some money left you don;t really need you should take one for the team and try Thee Bungalow (and report back) otherwise I think there are better and cheaper options in SD.

    1 Reply
    1. re: honkman

      I have heard it wasnt worth going. There are better ones for the price....

    2. I haven't been since the Cohn group took over. It was nice enough before, but even then I wouldn't have made a special trip for it. We went when we first moved to OB, the food was good and the service was great but the atmosphere was a little stuffy for my taste. Pretty much if I'm in the mood for that level of dining, I'm willing to travel outside my neighborhood to get something better. Now that it's a Cohn restaurant I would be more likely to avoid it, unless you live in OB and want something super close, since we don't have much to choose from. I have had middling meals at other Cohn restaurants and one horrific dinner at Kemo Sabe, all memorably expensive.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fauteuil

        I also haven't been back since the Cohn's took over. I had good food there before they took over, but it was never a match for the (sadly) defunct Belgian Lion.

      2. We were there under the former chef (Larry Abrams - who recently left to join Bar West in PB) and we had one of the best meals we've had in SD. My husband even posted about it but for some inexplicable reason, the moderators decided to delete his post. Haven't been since the chef change though so I have no idea if the quality is on par. We went mid-week and Larry suggested we let him do a tasting for us and we were SO happy he did.

        On the topic of Cohn Group restaurants, we like Kemo Sabe for appetizers, The Prado for lunch on the patio, Indigo for their Fire & Ice margaritas, and we've even had decent sandwiches at Corvettes. I get kind of tired of the bashing of TCG - they don't claim culinary greatness but they are definitely creative in each of the places they've opened and they strive to deliver a unique experience in each. Sure, there are better dining places around town but there are far more that fall below the quality and experience you'll find at any of the TCG properties. And for the record, I have no affiliation whatsoever with the Cohns or their businesses.

        6 Replies
        1. re: mimosa

          I also went when Chef Abrams was at the helm. My family went there for years prior to the sale and we talked about how the Cohen's decided not to try and change it but to maintain the quality of the restaurant and the wine list. Their sunset specials are such a great deal and I always liked that it doesn't try and be spectacular or showy food. Just solid good cooking. I haven't been since Chef Abrams left but I assume the Cohen's will once again not change the menu. I will though be checking out Bar West to see what Chef Abrams can do once he is in charge of his own menu.

          1. re: mimosa

            I remembered your husbands post from last year and went looking for it last night to link it to this thread. I was so surprised to see it had been deleted and couldn't imagine why. It certainly made me hungry when I read it, to the point where I remembered it nearly a year later!

            I never thought I'd say this, but I, too, am getting a little tire of the unrelenting Cohen group bashing. Like many, I've had good meals and not so good meals at their locations. I enjoyed C Level Lounge when it first opened, especially the patio, but it hasn't been consistent enough for me. KemoSabe is too loud, but I love the decor and appetizers. The food at the Prado is not as spectacular as the setting, but I've never really had a bad meal there, and they do make a pretty mean Pisco Sour (picture below), and Iowa Meats and Sisels sell really good meat. You get as big as the Cohn Group and you have to have systems in place to account for everything and everybody or, chain or not, you go bankrupt. No, they are certainly not artisan producers of anything, but it does get tiresome to read posts that sniff about how bad the Cohn Group restaurants are and the in the same sentence indicate they've never really eaten there. The fact is some are good, some are okay, and some shouldn't still be in business. I would imagine that they're laughing all the way to the bank.

             
            1. re: DiningDiva

              As possibly one of the "Cohn bashers" you refer to, I might clarify that I wasn't head-over-heels about Thee Bungalow before it was a Cohn restaurant, but I might have continued going there in order to support an OB restaurant, of which we have too few. Upon finding out it was bought by a group that owns several restaurants at which I have had expensive and mediocre meals (and I've eaten at most of them at one point or another) I decided I would rather spend my money elsewhere. Thanks to this board I've heard about a ton of places I haven't even gotten to try yet, so why make the Cohn's trip to the bank any more jolly than necessary?

              I do buy meat at Siesel's. The bf doesn't like this as he has found them very rude once when we special ordered a very expensive roast, but I've never had any problems so I go very quietly.

              1. re: fauteuil

                The Cohn restaurants are really a racket. The Prado survives only because of its location. Last weekend I stopped by for an appetizer/drink, and the appetizer was literally something I could have ordered at PB Bar and Grill -- i.e. party food for college kids. Last month I dropped by Kemo Sabe for happy hour. Talk about typical SD form over substance! We ordered the moo shu pork app and it was so sweet we couldn't finish it. Peering to the tables below us, the entrees looked like overdressed peacocks. Ridiculous. The decor looked like something out of an abstract art show gone awry.

                1. re: mangiatore

                  If you want to see the most overblow presentation in the city, order the tilapia at Kemo Sabe if it's still on the menu. Truly outrageous.

                2. re: fauteuil

                  I think the reasons for the Cohn bashing are pretty simple. They are way too hit-and-miss to justify the prices they charge. I am one of those people who can feel ripped off if I spend $5 on something mediocre. At the same time I'll happily spend $50 for food that is memorable.

                  I find the Cohn's restaurants irritating to eat at because I feel like beaucoup dollars have been sunk into every aspect except the most important one, namely the food. I don't think their restaurants are bad, I just don't find them that exciting or interesting.

                  To me, the most telling experience I've had with their approach was at Mr. Tiki. When it first opened, I used to go there from time to time because some of the appetizers were really interesting and creative, a lot of them created by their chef who had spent a lot of time in Hawaii (don't recall if he was native or not). Then one night, the menu was different. Every one of my favorite items was gone, replaced by stuff that sounded less interesting. The food that was served was markedly different than before, and not in a good way.

                  The manager walking the floor was asking tables how their food was, and when I hestiated in my answer, he prodded me for the details. So I told him what I thought. Turns out they axed the Hawaiian chef, brought in a guy who was inexperienced at that style of cuisine, and changed a lot of the menu items to reduce their food cost.

                  I happily support restaurants where I have good meals, and become a regular patron. The Cohn group restaurants have never inspired that kind of loyalty from me, dating back to when they only owned a couple of places in town.

            2. I had been to Thee Bungalow several times before the management change. I actually am a fan of Kemosabe and one or two other Cohn restaurants, definitely Iowa Meat farms, and don't understand the constant bashing here. Regardless, we were going to try Thee Bungalow out with the new crew and noticed they now have Valet Service. WTF?

              Now, keep in mind the current parking lot is about 15 spots or so large and they have taken it over with the Valet. Why do you need a Valet when the lot is tiny and already at the restaurant? Hey, do they not realize this is OB, not La Jolla or downtown!
              We changed our minds and went over to 3rd corner. We don't plan on trying Thee Bungalow.

              1. I'm also confused about the Cohn bashing. After all, they've employed some good chef's over the years that have struck out to other restaurants that now get good reviews. I've had both good meals (one of the best I ever had was at the no longer around Tupelo) and some hits and misses (The Prado specifically). I've also eaten at Thee Bungalow before and after the Cohns took over and haven't noticed much if any of a difference - in fact, while the owner's and chef may have changed, the menu and most of the kitchen staff remains largely in tact.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bythenumbers

                  I had forgotten about Tupelo when I wrote my earlier post - we LOVED it and were regulars there.

                  Given that Cohn restaurants are mostly located in ridiculously high rent areas like Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Little Italy and Harbor Island, it's no surprise they have high prices. Frankly, I'm not sure SD residents are their main demographic anyway. I think they're more directly targeting the conventioneer on an expense account.

                  That said, I think they've done a lot for the SD restaurant scene, and for the overall development of the mid-city area. Consider what 5th Ave in Hillcrest was when Corvette's opened (I think it was before Village Hillcrest or right at the same time), then go deep into the Gaslamp and recall that The Old Spaghetti Factory was one of their only competitors when they started opening places down there. 5th Ave from top to bottom is now one of the main restaurant corridors in the entire county. I believe the explosive development that's occurred throughout the area was in large part, spawned by restaurateurs like the Cohn's, who took a chance when it was still fairly seedy and a pretty risky business proposition.

                2. Glad you posted. I was wondering whether or not Thee Bungalow might be a good place to visit, and didn't know it became part of the Cohn group.

                  Of all the Cohn restaurants, my husband and I have only eaten at the Prado, Indigo Grill, and Island Prime. We felt ripped off at all of these places. So-so food for moderately high prices. Not worth it to us. But who knows, maybe their other restaurants are better?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: orchid32

                    No, there other restaurants typically aren't any better.

                    1. re: orchid32

                      Interesting that the thread veered into a discussion of the Cohn group in general. I, too, have had inconsistent meals at their restaurants, esp Indigo Grill and Kemo Sabe. But I've enjoyed Blue Point Coastal, and the Prado...maybe too pricey, but a pre-theatre meal in the park before summer Shakespeare is not a bad night indeed.

                      Maybe OT...but has anyone heard how the Cohn's are to WORK for??

                    2. I know the Cohn restaurants get a lot of flack, and I do find that some of their restaurants are too pricey for what you get, but I think Thee Bungalow is one of their better spots. We were just there in April, and they didn't yet have valet parking, so that much be brand new. We just park in the softball lots next door and walk over.

                      I've been to Thee Bungalow with the new chef they have now and the previous one and while I truly enjoyed the cooking of the previous chef, the new one is pretty good, too. I've had a pork prime rib, the duck, and a salmon dish that were very nicely done. I've always found the service to be polite and friendly and the atmosphere is cozy and not too loud.

                      Thee Bungalow isn't somewhere I'd pop in for a general dinner, but I would go back for the duck and dessert. It's not cheap, but it's affordable enough that we go for a girls night dinner. And, they tend to have the best menus when the Cohn group does their fixed price menus occasionally.

                      1. I read in the night and day that Thee Bungalow won the Restaurant Associations award for French Restaurant and it made me think of this thread. I also noticed that Tapenade wasn't even nominated. Any thoughts?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bythenumbers

                          The Restaurant Association must be made up of really old people.

                          1. re: bythenumbers

                            I believe you have to pay to be nominated/be advertised as a "winner"...

                          2. I haven't been since the Cohn's took over, but as long as the menu and style stayed the same and they're not garnishing with "tri colores chips" it's good!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: citygirl2000

                              I have a theory that with every restaurant the Cohn group opens or takes over, the quality of ALL their places declines proportionally. Way back when SD was still a culinary wasteland, KemoSabe etc. showed some creativity and had some good food. Just as an example, somehow, lately, I have had six or seven disgraceful meals at C Level. Service was an embarrassment too. Out of towners wanted to try it, and, wanting to be accomodating, and HOPING each time things would be better, because the setting in unbeatable, I'd go back. Often, ALL entrees were just terrible or subpar. I wrote into the comment info, and never got any response.

                            2. I've been to the bungalow twice since the it became part of the cohn family. Although, I too have not been impressed by the other cohn family locations (Indigo Grill & Island Prime), The Bungalo has been great both times. The service was excellent, very knowledgeable and attentive. Although the average diner age is roughly 70, they still manage to keep the atmosphere fun and the food current. My husband had the duck both times and couldn't say enough about it. Not a trend setter in terms of entrees but consistantly solid.

                              1. I don't think it's fair to judge all Cohn restaurants equally. For some reason, I can't stand Mister Tiki, but I have had good meals at Island Prime.

                                While we don't go as often as we used to, I think Thee Bungalow has some really good dishes. Their jidori chicken is one of the first chicken dishes that made me wish I hadn't ordered the duck (which I absolutely love). I've never had a bad fish dish, either - nice portions, moist, tender fish. They often have good deals on their meals during anniversary specials, which helps with the price. We've also been to wine dinners there and sampled dishes that aren't on the regular menu.

                                I don't understand the whole valet parking concept, since when the lot is full the valets park in the softball field parking... which we do ourselves for free. Thee Bungalow is definitely worth giving a chance.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: leanneabe

                                  Cohn restaurants seem to be responsible for giving San Diego a reputation for mediocre restaurants. Fortunately there are now some excellent restaurants that provide much better food for similar pricing. Restaurants like Market, Oceanaire, and others. More attention seems to be placed in the restaurant's themes than in the quality of the ingredients and the menu. But I may be a little biased; I was soliciting donations for a deserving charity auction, and while nearly every restaurant donated gift certificates for $50, $75 or $100, Cohn donated $25 and said that was their limit.