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Cucina Urbana: Another Great Experience

m
mayache Mar 8, 2010 01:14 PM

I am unsure about posting this for fear of increasing the popularity of an already too-full restaurant, but gotta give a great spot its due.

My girl and I went to Cucina Urbana Saturday night for dinner (this was my second time there). We shared all the following dishes.

We were pretty hungry already walking in, so we ordered some focaccia, which comes with their sun-dried tomato pesto. I think the gf may be leaving me for that pesto, which was quite good. Very sweet, and in fact I won a bet that it has no sugar or other sweetener added (the sweetness comes from the tomatoes alone).

We opened the meal with their daily polenta board, which is possibly the best thing on the menu. The creamy polenta is made with mascarpone, and topped with a ragu which changes daily. In this case it was duck, port, and mustard greens, three of my favorite things. The dish was even better than expected, loaded with flavor and "unctuous", to apply an overused food-reviewing term.

Next up was the mint fettuccine with lamb sausage, a classic English flavor combo turned Italian. The sausage was terrific, packed with lamb flavor and definitely the centerpiece of the dish. The fettuccine wasn't too minty or overbearing like mint jelly; very subtle, you could taste the mint if you ate the pasta by itself, but in combination with the sausage was clearly serving its proper place as a condiment. Also in the dish were some tomatoes (roasted? confit? not sure...) which once again radiated sweetness. Only off-note in the dish was the pieces of roasted parsley root, which were bland and out of place. Maybe I just don't like parsley root.

Our final entree was a veal scaloppine, with a mushroom marsala sauce and the famous umbrian lentils. Quite tasty all around, in particular the lentils which complimented the veal nicely. That came with speck, which we ordered on the side since I don't eat pork. Girlfriend reported she enjoyed it.

At this point we were overstuffed, so we decided, "Hey! Let's order dessert!" This was actually the only weak point of the evening. It was a bread pudding with rhubarb compote, roasted apples, and pistachio gelato. The ingredients didn't meld too well, especially the compote which was too sweet and overrode everything else. The bread pudding was much more "bready" than "pudding-y", and in general we both prefer the latter.

Perhaps the best deal at CU is the wine, which is sold at retail + $7 corkage. Some interesting bottles in the "funky stuff" section. We had a Feudi San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico (not too obscure, but not common in restaurants), which was delicious, fruit-forward, and rich. Good service too. Our waiter was helpful, personable, and prompt, a little "friendlier" than I usually like but that actually works in this kind of lively restaurant. He actually asked before replenishing our wine from the bottle, which is great as that automatic refill is a pet peeve of mine.

Personally I think this may be the best restaurant in San Diego when you factor in price. After moving here from the East Coast several years ago I was disappointed by the lack of quality Italian, and I have finally found it. Not 100% traditional, but the updating to local ingredients and tastes is very welcome (and very Italian).

  1. SDGourmand Mar 13, 2010 09:14 AM

    I just went here for the first time the other night and thought it was great. Definitely one of the best restaurants in SD. I had the squash blossoms which were good but a little to cakey for me. I like them to have a nice light batter and still be able to see the color of the flower. The sauce made the dish. Fritto Misto was good seafood was cook properly but just needed some acid. Actually everything I had could have used a little acid. I liked two out of the three bruschetta's. Polenta was good but my girlfriend said it was a lot better last time she had it. Had the rabbit pasta and the burger. Burger tasted like it was dipped in liquid smoke. Totally inedible had to send it back. It's to bad because it was cooked perfectly and I wanted to enjoy it but the smoke flavor was to overpowering. Also got two pizza's which were ok. Looking forward to giving it another shot. I'd give it a solid B.
    Pics here http://www.flickr.com/photos/45483817...

    1. m
      mayache Aug 27, 2010 11:20 AM

      Went back again last night, fantastic once again. Burrata and fig compote, ricotta gnudi, chicken fried sweetbreads, squash blossoms, duck sausage cavatelli, then the cannoli with roasted peach for dessert -- not an off-note in the bunch.

      7 Replies
      1. re: mayache
        b
        Beach Chick Aug 27, 2010 11:44 AM

        Great report mayache!

        SDGourmand..your pics are mouth watering..

        1. re: Beach Chick
          SDGourmand Aug 27, 2010 11:58 AM

          Thank you! I think I have more on my regular blog and Facebook page listed in my profile.

          1. re: SDGourmand
            m
            mayache Aug 27, 2010 12:04 PM

            By the way I just noticed your original report said the squash blossoms were too cakey, and looking at the pic I agree. They were definitely not like that at all last night, the squash itself was uncoated and the blossoms lightly battered. Perfect.

            1. re: SDGourmand
              b
              Beach Chick Aug 27, 2010 12:05 PM

              SD..Facebook link does not work on your profile page..

              1. re: Beach Chick
                SDGourmand Aug 27, 2010 12:23 PM

                Try this one http://www.facebook.com/gourmandsreview

                1. re: SDGourmand
                  d
                  deeznuts Sep 17, 2010 02:29 PM

                  Nice dress SDG!

                  Caught some Robuchon on the paris episode of No Reservations. I know he's probably very exacting, but seemed like a good fella, for being the Chef of the Century!

                  1. re: deeznuts
                    SDGourmand Sep 17, 2010 02:35 PM

                    That's my girlfriend in the dress... Don't think there is any pictures of me in a dress on there... Haha

        2. 4
          4wino Sep 8, 2010 11:15 PM

          My first visit to CU, and I had great expectations based on the reviews here. My wife and I shared a number of appetizers and all of them were very good. We started out with some cocktails, I especially liked my Mango Picante.

          Then we shared the watermelon salad. Very good, I would have liked more greenery, but otherwise very good.

          Then we had the antipasto platter and that was very good, especially the salmon plate. Very moist and a great oil dressing.

          Next the roasted Brussls sprouts--fine not great, the fried chicken sweetbreads were good, but the spinach stole the show--give me a plate full of spinach, and I'll be happy. We also had to try the big meatball and that was also very good.

          We shared a bottle of the 2009 Alban Viognier and the price of $29+$7 cannot be beat. Fantastic prices on wines, and I have to say that their wine list is quite eclectic, and extremely reasonably priced. I would definitely steer away from the BTG wines and go for a full bottle.

          All in all, this is a must place on my restaurant rotation.

          Kudos to Christian, our server, who did a wonderful job.

          The SD Chowhounds have done it again!!!

          9 Replies
          1. re: 4wino
            p
            palmtree38 Sep 10, 2010 07:24 AM

            Wow your pictures are fantastic.. Beach chick recommended this to me and after looking at the photos we will have to go!!

            1. re: palmtree38
              p
              palmtree38 Oct 2, 2010 08:34 AM

              Might head here tonight to mix up all the mexican food we have been having:). Is it casual dress? How far drive us the zoo from here?

              1. re: palmtree38
                DiningDiva Oct 2, 2010 09:29 AM

                It is fairly casual, everything in SD is fairly casual. But, I wouldn't try going without a reservation, especially on a Saturday night.

                As the crow flies it's probably only about a mile from the zoo. It's walkable, but probably not with younger kids. To drive from the zoo to CU is probably about 3 or 4 miles because you have to wind through the park and shouldn't take much more than about 5 minutes if the park isn't packed and traffic isn't awful

                1. re: palmtree38
                  SDGourmand Oct 2, 2010 09:42 AM

                  Definitely going to be very tough to get in on a Saturday without reservation. I would say best shot is to try and get there as soon as they open.

                  1. re: SDGourmand
                    p
                    palmtree38 Oct 3, 2010 10:10 AM

                    Thanks we ended up going to fish market. The WORST service in our hole trip to the point we spoke to the manager. Food was decent ,

                    Would we need a resize for Sunday at CU??

                    1. re: palmtree38
                      SDGourmand Oct 3, 2010 10:42 AM

                      I would make one. I just checked open table and they have some openings.

                      1. re: SDGourmand
                        p
                        palmtree38 Oct 3, 2010 10:35 PM

                        All tables were booked. We ended up with the community table for walk INS and it suited us fine. Great service. Over the top!!
                        Squash blossoms ! Unique. And flavorfull
                        Proscuto salad fresh but Lacking flavor. Needed some garlic!! Very blah and for $13 for such a small portion over priced.
                        Lasagna Hot from oven with superb flavour
                        Spouse ordered the duck sausage and enjoyed it ! If was my meal I would I'd been disappointed just not my flavor.
                        Kids Make your own pizzas was a fantastic idea and well liked.

                        Ambience and decor was unique and intimate

                        Will defiantly return!!
                        Request waitress Ameroca as she is warm, personable and top shelf!!

                        1. re: palmtree38
                          Fake Name Oct 6, 2010 04:22 AM

                          We've been many times and finally MrTen ordered the "Make your own pizza". When I saw it on the menu, I thought it was like "choose your pasta and your sauce"- but no. They bring the par-cooked pizza dough and the requested ingredients to the table for MrTen to do the final assembly. We had the discussion if the proteins should go on top or underneath the cheese layer.

                          Once assembled the server returns, followed intently by MrTen, to the oven for it's baking.

                          Great way to involve kids in the process.

                          1. re: Fake Name
                            p
                            palmtree38 Oct 6, 2010 08:51 AM

                            very good way to keep kids entertained.. :O)

            2. 4
              4wino Jan 23, 2011 08:36 PM

              For wine lovers the Sunday corkage free dinners cannot be beat. Tonight I had the 2006 Ladera Cabernet for $38!!! That is a crazy price for a restaurant. Food is good as always.

              1. d
                diningwithkids Jan 24, 2011 03:02 PM

                Will throw in my .02 cents too....food is fantastic and it is indeed a great place for kids. We went a week ago and the night we went, ours were the only kids there, but they offer the make your own pizza for kids which totally kept them occupied while the Mr and I ordered several dishes. Hands down favorite of the evening was the fried squash blossoms. Just the like ones we used to eat in Italy, but actually better with the addition of the pesto. We also tried the gnudi, little pillows fillled with creamy melty ricotta and bathed in butter. The beet salad was pretty good, loved the cheese it came with (obvious cheese them here), and also had the short-rib papardelle, which was pretty good too (not total love, as the short ribs were actually a tad dry, but still tasty and the pasta itself was perfect).

                Also loved the wine list, with some unusual gems. We had the Aglianico, which always is good with this type of food.

                All in all a great evening, even better because the kids were amused!

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