Farm House Cafe - San Diego
Some friends (Mary and George, fellow CH'ers here: mimosa and rotie77) had noticed this place being renovated with the sign: "Rustic French Bistro" along Adams Avenue (almost across from the Trolley Barn Park). Address is 2121 Adams (I remember that because Cafe 2121 used to be there, but has now moved farther down Adams, to a location even less auspicious...).
We were greeted at the door by the chef's wife, Rochelle. Very personable and gracious, we'd made reservations for five and had a late addition. The place was nearly packed, it's a very small place, with a wine bar with about 12 seats, maybe 14 tables with banquet seating on one side, a couple of tables outside. One negative was the noise level, all the surfaces are hard and there were a couple of loud groups (unfortunately we were seated next to one of them for the first hour).
Menu is fairly limited, but Rochelle said that they were going to rotate a lot of items. Five appetizers/soups/salads, five entrees, five desserts. Apps were $6-10, Entrees were mostly $14-18, with the burger and fries being $10, desserts were around $6-8. One nightly special appetizer and two special entrees (I forgot both, since I wasn't going to order one after listening to the descriptions).
For appetizers we ordered the Salmon confit , leak and potato soup and the appetizer special: flat bread with carmelized onions, balsamic vinegar, parmesan and fresh basil(IIRC). Of those, the clear favorite of the group was the flatbread (presented like a pizza). My favorite was the Salmon confit, and there was a generous serving of very nice looking Salmon (about 5oz), but others in the group were less enthused. I didn't try the soup.
For entrees, we had Braised Lamb Shank on a bed of polenta, Sea Bass with sliced fingerling potatoes (IIRC), pasta with pesto, flat-iron steak with frites. My favorite of the ones I tried was the steak and frites, the steak was very flavorful and the frites were as good as I've had in San Diego, and although I didn't try it, everyone else said the pasta with pesto was very good. I thought the lamb shank was good, but the lamb was very gamey and had some tendon (I guess that goes with it being "Rustic"). A couple of others in the group thought it was just too gamey and the lamb pieces were a bit tendony. Also the polenta was a bit dry, even with the braising liquid. We all went almost in unison: "Remember the polenta at Pizzeria Via Italia!". The Sea Bass I only tried a small piece of and thought it was OK, but probably not something I'd order.
For dessert, we ordered a couple of peach clawfuti's with rosemary ice cream. This was very good, the rosemary ice cream was wonderful.
We brought in our own wine (three bottles), and I don't think they had a corkage policy before us, so they waived corkage.
For six people total bill (without drinks) came to $185.
All in all, I thought this was a place with a lot of potential. The chef (forgot his name) and Rochelle are super-nice people. If I'd ordered the Salmon confit, steak and frites and peach clawfuti, I would have absolutely raved about this place.
Chef is Olivier Bioteau. Bioteau honed his skills at Vignola (closed), Avenue 5 Restaurant & Bar and as a longtime private chef. Expect top-notch food from this French-born chef as he fulfilled his military service cooking in Paris at France’s equivalent to our White House. And Rochelle used to work at Laurel.
I loved the salmon and thought the portion was quite generous too. My favorite dish of the night was the onion flat bread appetizer which was not on the menu, just the blackboard. The soup was nice with good flavor. Also found the steak frites to be wonderful and the meat very flavorful. The pasta dish was nice too and would make a fine vegetarian option. I liked the flavor of the lamb but found the polenta overwhelmed it a bit and the tendon (gristle-like) was too prevalent. The dessert I had rocked - it was the flourless chocolate cake and it was verrry decadent. Made me happy I didn't scarf down more of the lamb. Also had a decent espresso to cap it off.
The place was hopping and I'm told it was their busiest night yet. It's small so I recommend reservations or you might have a wait. Sheila (also from Laurel) is reprising her role behind the bar so if you were a fan of Laurel 'back when' you'll see a few familiar faces while you wait for your table.
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We took our two children (ages 10 and 7) to Farmhouse Cafe this evening, and it was truly one of the better dining experiences of the year so far. What a pleasant surprise on Adams Avenue. As Kensington residents, we have loved seeing the resurgence of exciting dining throughout the Mid City, and Farmhouse is leading the charge.
We arrived at just after 5:00 without a reservation, and if it was any later, securing a table would have been a challenge. For a Wednesday, the place was hopping, and the cozy space invited fun, casual conversation among the various diners. It truly has a neighborhood feel, and considering how so many San Diego restaurants cater to non-locals, this experience was all the more special.
As for the food, the presentation and quality was terrific. My husband had the salmon and I had the halibut entrees. The kids split a hamburger. The portions are small but exquisite, and I would order a starter next time around. The highlight, however, was the chocolate sampler for dessert. Considering how many restauarants in San Diego outsource their dessert courses, the chef's expertise in preparing a variety of delicious bites is truly remarkable. Service was attentive but busy navigating the small space; overall, very good considering that they've been open for just three months.
This is what we all wished Bleu Boheme was supposed to be - perhaps they can trade spaces so the Farmhouse can have more tables!