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May 14, 2009 11:16 AM

El Vitral Restaurant in San Diego

Anyone been yet?

Newly opened 815 J street.

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  1. Yes! My folks live downtown and went twice in a week (and they are very hard to please). I was in town for the second visit, at dinner. They went for brunch initially.

    The owners really know what they are doing...had a long soft opening to get the kinks out. Their attention to detail is evident everywhere you look (and taste). The menu is different than your run of the mill Mexican restaurant - more unusual real food from Mexico. I had Conchinita Pibil, which you rarely see in the states.. pork slowly cooked with citrus and other heavenly spices in banana leaves. Mom had chicken mole with the absolute best mole I have ever had. Truly. Dad had the pork loin with a pepita sauce...the depth of flavors was incredible. Both sauces had some serious heat, but on the back end where it belongs, so all the other players have a chance to shine.
    The owners remembered my parent s and comped us some apps (very nice touch) - we had the shrimp ceviche and traditional guacamole. I would not normally order shrimp ceviche but it was quite good. The guacamole as passable but not the best I've had. Two women next to us were grazing and got both a ceviche sampler and a guac sampler (didn't see on the menu but who knows). Beans and rice are served in separate dishes (each) and were some of the most flavorful I've had.

    The bar is attractive and I could pretty much live there if I lived in San Diego. Their attention to detail extends to the restrooms, with beautiful tiles and interesting mirror hardware. Server and busser uniforms are tasteful and elegant, plates are pretty without being fussy.

    House margs are made with Sauza blanco, and were a little acidic /limey for our tastes (I ordered Hornitos blanco). They have a ton of tequilas and the wine list is all Central/South American. Dad had a good red blend, but serious winos may want to BYOW. Although this food is tough to pair with wine, I think they did a pretty admirable job of trying to stay true to their vision.

    All in all, I would definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for something beyond a casual Mexican meal. Service was terriffic, too. Can you tell I liked it?

    5 Replies
    1. re: sbgirl

      In a word? Disappointing.

      Had dinner last night at El Vitral before heading over to Copely Symphony Hall for the Dia de los Muertos Mariachi concert, which was fabulous.

      The space is gorgeous and well done. Loved the wall of tequila, loved the bar and loved the decor. Didn't love the food.

      Really nice selection of tequilas. We had Chimayo Reposada which was fine and smooth as silk. Sangrita was tomato based so we skipped it. Would have preferred a citrus based sangrita which would have complemented the Chimayo really well.

      Queso Fundido Appetizer - Under seasoned, nondescript puddle of white cheese in a white dish served with 3 small store-bought corn tortillas. Dull and uninteresting and w-a-y more cheese than tortillas. (This was an off-menu selection that was being offered as part of their $25 pre-fixe)

      Raviolis in Nogada - nogada sauce was pretty good, raviolis were pretty al dente, filling was nice

      Sabana Invierno - meat was tender, not especially flavorful, sauce was bland.

      Black Bean Puree - excellent, truly a good bean dish

      Cilantro Rice - good, not great

      Churros w/Coconut Dipping Sauce - awful. These were not churros, I'm not sure what they were, but they were NOT churros. Way way too soft, some interiors not done. Coconut sauce had very little flavor

      Mexican Coffee - coffee, Kahlua & cream, really good, except the coffee was lukewarm

      Cafe de Olla - awful. No trace of piloncillo or cinnamon and also lukewarm. Sent it back

      Service - somewhat indifferent

      Dining companion not willing to give the place another try. I know Sunday is not the best night to dine out, I'd be willing to give them another go on a busier night to see if the kitchen has any chops or not.

      I am a big fan of alta cocina, this wasn't it. I wanted to like El Vitral but it was horribly inconsistent. Some flashes of very good and some flashes of very bad. Hope they're better during the week, if not, we'll be seeing them on the Closed Restaurants in a Down Economy thread

      El Vitral Restaurant
      815 J Ave, San Diego, CA 92118

      1. re: DiningDiva

        that's too bad DD..hope you didn't spend a lot of $$.

        the time stamp is 11:08 am on 11/2/'s 10:54 am here in SD..are you not in SD, DD?

        1. re: Beach Chick

          I'm here in SD. I think CH is having "Fall Back" issues. You're time stamp is 11:55 ;-)

          I probably posted around 10 am +/-.

          Total cost of the meal, including tip was $55. Not awful, but also not worth it.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            you can say that we are two chicks ahead of our time!
            ; )

      1. This place looks awesome...anyone been lately besides sbgirl..steve?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          I've been eying it too. The menu looks rather interesting and, frankly, while I love traditional Mexican cooking and street food, I'm finding alta cocina most intriguing these days.

          Maybe a chowdown (when the Padres are not home) is in order?

          1. re: DiningDiva

            We went on a Sat . night and found it one of our new next favorites.. The raviolis were wonderful.I cant think what else we had it was about a month ago.. Sun is definitely an off night.. I would try it again..

            1. re: butterbutt

              Mexican raviolis?

              Did they have guac in them?

              1. re: stevewag23

                The only thing Mexican about the raviolis is the nogada sauce. The filling was either beef or butternut squash or a combo of both. Had the ones my dining companion recieved not been so al dente and chewy it would have been a good dish. Visually, it's a very appealing dish. FWIW, Naomi Wise reviewed El Vitral last Thursday and reported the same problem with the raviolis that we experienced...the pasta is too al dente. Several of our dishes were under done, which is indicative of a kitchen that isn't executing well.

                I really want to like this restaurant, it clearly has a lot of potential. Our experience was pretty ragged and that's, essentially, what Naomi Wise reported in her SDReader review (which I had not read prior to going)

                El Vitral Restaurant
                815 J Ave, San Diego, CA 92118