Review of SD Trip
I knew I wouldn't be able to hit all the ones on my to do list in San Diego but this is where I ended up going:
The Fish Market - hands down the worst meal of our trip. We wanted to go for a walk near the water and have fish for lunch. Big mistake. House salad was a joke and croutons were a few broken stale baguette slices sprinkled with balsamic hidden under iceberg lettuce. Ahi tuna (ahi ichiban) was okay. "Fresh" Eastern scallops were over breaded deep fried scallops - not what we were expecting. My chipotle grilled mahi mahi was perfectly cooked but the shrimp "salsa" was oily and flavorless. UGH.
Sevilla - The menu had changed so my colleague asked the server to recommend food for our table. My Spanish colleague liked a dish with beans - reminded her of mom's dish. Another colleague agreed that the menu was different than before AND not as tasty. I found the food generally oversalted - my favorites were the cheese stuffed dates wrapped with bacon and the lamb chops served with the beans. The paella was bland and the sangria watered down. Not a fan of the dim lighting and the loud surroundings. Could not tell you more about the food since I wasn't sure what I was eating half the time.
Royal Thai - After the previous day's horrid food debacle, we were happy to see Royal Thai. Nothing spectacular, but the food was wonderful compared to the day before. We were happy to see solid (albeit a bit generic) food at reasonable prices - a place that might make my regular rotation for lunch if I worked in the area. I had the tom yum soup with shrimp, papaya salad, and yum talay. Coworkers had pad thai, spring rolls, salad with chicken, and another soup. Solid and not a bad choice in the Gaslamp district. The papaya salad had a nice kick that I don't normally see and I liked the fresh kaffir lime leaves in my soup. Again, nothing mindblowing or destination worthy but a decent choice in the Gaslamp.
Cafe Chloe - I can't thank the 'hounds enough for the Cafe Chloe rec. We loved it so much that we went back for an afternoon tea and a lunch. Dinner was fantastic - we had a wonderfully attentive and funny server. We started off sharing the cheese platter, charcuterie plate, and pommes frites with a trio of dips. Wonderful simple cheese presentation - loved the Brillat Saverin with the assortment of bread. Pommes frites were addictive - loved the leeks(?) fried with the perfect shoestring potatoes and the dips. We had fun determining what the green dip - it was a watercress sauce that was light and green-tasting. Spanish friend had the roast Jidori chicken and deemed it perfectly juicy. The other colleague had the sea bass special. I had the mussels provencale. We ended sharing the pear and rosemary galette and a pistachio brioche bread pudding. We left so happy that we decided to book reservations for afternoon tea a few days later.
Sultan's Shwarma - Nice simple lunch. I had the beef shwarma sandwich plus a side of hummus and pita bread. The owner/chef was very nice. Very generous portion of beef shwarma - had a bit of crusty bits lots of surprisingly moist bits. Hummus was on the bland side but not bad for a snack later. Another place I'd visit if I had to eat in the Gaslamp.
Nobu - We ended up going to Nobu attached to the Hard Rock Hotel as our blow out meal. We all went for the $120 omakase. We loved the starters (will add in notes later) but were surprised to been have served full sized entrees as our hot dishes. We each had half a Maine lobster AND a rather large portion of American Wagyu teppanyaki. Desserts weren't a hit...we liked the grapefruit basil granita (palette cleanser) more than the dessert. Overall, we liked the service and the cold dishes and thought the food was good on an expense account (but not good enough to spend $120 of our own money).
Cafe Chloe - Afternoon tea. For $25, I had expected a bit more food but it was WAAAAY better than the afternoon teas I've had at Lovejoy's in San Francisco. The watercress dip we enjoyed with the pomme frites made an appearance on our cucumber open-faced sandwich. I really didn't mind a second tasting of the pear and rosemary galette. The staff were wonderful and accomodating - I really wished I had a place in my neighborhood like this.
The Better Half - I was too stuffed from afternoon tea but I made it to the Better Half for dinner anyway. I picked a Gewurztraminer and my friend K selected the red. (I didn't take good notes as I was busy catching up with my friend). We started off with the duck confit rolls and the charcuterie plate. The owner told us that almost everything except the wine and bread are made and cured in-house. He hopes to bake his own bread at some point as well. Loved his grandmother's bread and butter pickles and his pastrami. K ordered the stuffed quail and I had the skirt steak. Wonderful, perfectly cooked steak. Unfortunately, we were too stuffed to eat much of the entrees. The owner was funny and warm and our server Charles was helpful and friendly. K lives in Hillcrest and will be taking her husband to the Better Half very soon. Another neighborhoody place I'd visit often (though I don't really drink).
Extraordinary Desserts (5th Ave) - VERY packed the night we went. Took over 20 mins to order and another 30+ minutes to get our desserts. I had the passionfruit napoleon with passionfruit ice cream (served with kiwi, strawberry, and I think mango sauces). I ordered the marble financier and the chocolate strudel to go for my coworkers. The puff pastry on the napoleon was rather hard and hard to "fork" but the dessert had a wonderful aroma and flavor. K just had an ice cream she was happy. Coworkers and I adored the fresh flower decorations on the desserts but found the chocolate desserts VERY rich and a bit dense. The financier was especially heavy, dense, and a bit on the dry side. The passionfruit napoleon made a decadent breakfast the next day.
Cafe Chloe - Lunch. Service was a bit more brusque than our other two meals. I'm not a fan of rosemary or lavender, feeling that most people are too heavy-handed with the herbs. Not at Cafe Chloe. The lavender lemonade was very refreshing and the rosemary was very light and balanced with the galette. (Will finish my thought later as my plane is about to begin boarding).
All in all, I think we ate reasonably well on our trip, minus the meals on the first day. Coworkers thought the food was atrocious at the Fish Market but my dish wasn't bad, just meh. I've recommended Cafe Chloe to my friend K who I know will LOVE the restaurant.
721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Cafe Sevilla Restaurant
555 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
207 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
127 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
543 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
2929 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Here's the link to the topic I had posted inquiring about SD downtown restaurants:
I forgot, I also had breakfast at Cafe 222. I had a fruit cup, 2 eggs sunny side-up, and their plain waffle. Eggs weren't greasy, fruit was fresh though I don't usually like bananas in my fruit salad. The waffle I wasn't blown away by - I've had better ones from the cafeteria at work. It was good, but not $6 good. See, I even forgot about it until this morning. =X The server and staff were very nice and welcoming though. Not a destination spot for me but a solid breakfast that was far superior to the hotel offerings.
222 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Great report, Cafe Chloe is definitely the one I'd recommend from your list. It will seem a little expensive, but in my experience exceeds it with delivery. The key is to order about 3 dishes per 2 people.
Extraordinary Desserts is consistently too rich, but if that's what you like you'll love it. I really wish they'd make desserts you and I can handle, but in lieu of that I go once every 2 years and split a dessert 2 or 3 ways. For the opposite extreme, Sage Cafe in Convoy has nice and very light cakes - located next to Nijiya market.
You were probably looking for downtown SD places, but if you ever go more north towards Encinitas, Kaito sushi will probably be a better experience - cheaper and even better than Nobu. Kaito is more about food than decor.
For Thai, I'd recommend Celadon or even Taste of Thai in Hillcrest. Reasonable price and usually delicious.
The Better Half is a unique gem - their in-house ribs were the best ever. Other dishes are good and have a home made taste to them. Their half bottle wine concept is great, and the bottle we got was reasonably priced and very nice.
Coming from SF, I found Cafe Chloe's prices to be very reasonable for the quality. Dinner (no wine though) was ~$135 incl tip for 3 people that included a charcuterie plate, cheese plate, 3 other small bites, 3 entrees, and 2 desserts.
Is Sage Cafe more of an Asian-style bakery or cafe? I love the Nijiyas up here. I do agree - Extraordinary Desserts' style is a bit heavier than I'd like though that napoleon was very good.
Sadly, I did have to exclude Kaito, Izakaya Sakura, other Convoy restaurants, Super Cocina, and Mariscos German due to the lack of transportation and time constraints. Next time! =)
My friend K agrees - she likes Taste of Thai a lot in Hillcrest and she visits fairly often.
Extra notes on Sultan's Shwarama, Nobu, The Better Half, and Cafe Chloe:
I thought the food was very nice but one coworker disliked the beef shwarama. She said it didn't resemble the "mystery" meat she so adores at Sam's Meditteranean in Davis, CA. (I found Sam's too greasy back in my college days.) SF said the chicken shwarma sandwich was very tasty and not at all dry. Very nice owner/chef indeed.
- "amuse bouche" (forgot the Japanese name) - crab with bonito gelee and chives
- toro tartare with caviar and wasabi soy sauce
- sashimi - amaebi, rockfish (?), aji, tako (octopus), and this clear thing with greens in it...tasted of the sea
- sashimi (don't remember what kind of fish) salad with Nobu sauce
- half of a Maine lobster, sauteed in a garlic, soy sauce, with shittake mushrooms and asparagus (loved the shittake mushrooms, lobster was ok)
- American Wagyu teppanyaki with citrus soy, served medium rare (the sizzling citrus soy reminded me of paper skin chicken [za zee gai] with its citrusy aroma and the salt)
- nigiri - Tokyo tamago, toro, mackerel, squid, kampachi, and something else I don't remember
- miso soup with clams
- grapefruit-basil granita (palette cleanser)
- dessert: some sort of mousse with white chocolate chip and cabernet reduction, baked apricot with pine nuts on top of a ginger cake with some sauce and a tangerine chip
My main gripe with this omakase was that the hot dish portions were far too large! (I can't believe I'm saying this.) I thought the "cold" dishes were portioned well - a few bites and tastes of various dishes but then WHAM...half a lobster and WHAM a steak-sized portion of beef. The tastes were overwhelming in comparison to the two/three bite cold plates. We thought we could have split 1 entree 3 ways. The food was good...but it seemed imbalanced on the hot dishes side. On the other hand, we certainly got a relative "bargain" with the omakase in comparison to the regular menu prices.
Cafe Chloe (Afternoon tea):
I had the Dragon Eyes black tea (scented with longan)
The savories: prosciutto and gruyere croissants, house-cured gravlax with capers on brown bread, open-faced cucumber sandwiches with watercress dressing, open-faced BLT with bacon, butter lettuce, cherry tomato and avocado
The sweets: sables, scones, banana mini muffin, pear rosemary galette
Winners at afternoon tea IMO: scones, galette, and croissants
Coworker also had the decadent macaroni and cheese and a side of pomme frites to go. She said the mac and cheese was phenomenal but very very rich.
The Better Half:
We also had an amuse bouche of a elk, venison, and some other game meatloaf. Also, we had a tiny ice cream cone filled with lemon sorbet as a palette cleanser...served in an artist's brush palette.
Cafe Chloe (Lunch):
I started with the brandade fritters (deep-fried cod and potato) and had the bistro salad with poached egg, pancetta, and brioche croutons. SF started with the lentil soup with coriander that we had at afternoon tea the day before and had the ham and cheese crepe. Our other coworker started wtih the tarte flambee (caramelized onions with pancetta) and had the crepe special as well. My bistro salad was comprised of all frisee. The pancetta came in 1" x 0.5" cubes and reminded me of the Chinese style pork belly/"bacon" my grandmother used to dry in our garage. I'm a sucker for poached (or over easy) eggs over anything.
The three of us loved the cafe, the service, and the food at Cafe Chloe. I KNEW I'd eat multiple meals there and I'm glad my friends enjoyed the place so very much as well.