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Farm House Cafe - San Diego

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  • mikec Feb 8, 2008 09:53 AM
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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.

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  1. Thanks for the report! Btw - it's spelled clafouti :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alice Q

      If I'd thought ahead, I would have known to write notes down, rather than rely on my (admittedly flawed) memory... It was only on leaving that Mary went: "So, you're going to do the post on CH, right?".

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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!

          1. i am going to be visiting the San Diego area in a couple weeks. my boyfriend and i are going to take his parents out for a nice meal and this place was recommended. is there a web site that i can check out? does anyone have any other suggestions? thanks!

            11 Replies
            1. re: loveisfood

              It's a lovely little cafe with very nice food at a good value, but last time we were there (2 months ago) the noise was deafening. Much more quiet and charming for a relaxing weekend brunch. A small little gem so I would definitely make reservations.
              http://www.farmhousecafesd.com/

              1. re: loveisfood

                After two visits I think this is a good restaurant with potential but also lacks still a lot of quality regarding the food (and also to some extend with their service). The restaurant will not completely disappoint you but I think there are better options in SD for french inspired food like Cafe Chloe, The Better Half, Cavaillon.

                1. re: honkman

                  What did you find lacking about the quality? That to me implies inferior ingredients - which I have never encountered there. Have you tried the chef's housemade chocolates - or the chicken liver mousse? I also think it is at least as good as Cavaillon- and much better than the Better Half. Cafe Chloe is good - but quite different.

                  1. re: Alice Q

                    We tried the chicken liver mousse and a few other things (flatbread, fettuchine, two fish specials etc.) and all were OK but nothing really special. For dessert we tried some icecream and chocolate cake which both were really disappointing as was the worst cappuchino ever. Farmhouse Cafe is not even close to the Better Half or Cavaillon regarding the quality of the food. They are both much better.

                    1. re: honkman

                      Actually, I was VERY disappointed with Better Half, and underwhelmed by most of what we had at Cavaillon - only a risotto and a dessert were better than average. - but to each his own I guess!

                      1. re: honkman

                        have to agree with Alice here, my experiences (and I've eaten at Farmhouse many times) are that it is considerably better food than I've had at the Better Half, and on par with Cavaillon (though Cavaillon has the best Coq au Vin I've had in the states). As she says, to each his own.

                        1. re: rotie77

                          We just got back from the Farmhouse. It was excellent. We started out sharing a plate of seared fois gras on toast with carmelized onions and frisee salad. Then we went for the $30 prix fixe dinner. Started out with the Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi and this was the best Gnocchi I've ever had, I finished the whole plate. This was followed by the Braised Veal Shank with Polenta and Winter Greens served Au Jus that was also delicious. The dessert was a Chocolate Cake with Mangoes, also quite delicious. I had my meal paired with wines, and I was very surprised at how generous the wine pour was (maybe 4-5oz) and the wines were very good, especially the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cote de Rhone.

                          1. re: 4wino

                            Sounds fantastic, love the Farmhouse. We were there a few weeks ago, had no idea they are doing a $30 prix fixe. Is it limited to certain hours or days?

                            1. re: foodiechick

                              FC, it is a special celebrating their 1st year anniversary. It will run till the end of February.

                              1. re: 4wino

                                Do they have upgrade options on the prix fixe or is it only offered as is? Was the foie a special? It wasn't offered last time we were in.

                                1. re: mimosa

                                  Mimosa, it was a special and we ordered it in addition to the prix fixe menu. Price was either $14 or $16.

                2. as an aside: this weekend we ate breakfast at the Cafe 2121 (on Adams). Had a nice breakfast menu: crepes, stuffed french toast, pancakes, omelets served in a skillet, etc... The stuffed french toast was DAMN good, omelets average.

                  Actually the service is just plain weird: there is a server to take the orders and bring the food but you have to get up to get coffee (not mentioned anywhere, I had to ask). They serve toast dry, so you need to ask for butter - not sure if they have jelly. We never got a check, went up to the counter and told them what we had.

                  If you want breakfast on the weekend check it out - it was fairly empty so you can get seated and served quick.