Tapas or wine bar lunch with a view?
I'm going to be in San Diego for business either Thursday, April 15 or Friday, April 16th, 2010. My wife and I are interested in a lunch of tapas (Spanish, Italian, or French--not Asian) or a wine bar with a view of the water. I know it can be a lot to ask to have good food with a good view; so if we were to choose, it would be food over view. I'll be finished with my meeting well before lunch time, so we'll have time to travel a ways from the Embassy Suites downtown for the right place. Since we're pretty flexible with our schedule, so we can pretty much go anywhere between, say, downtown and Torrey Pines. $75 for two people including tax, tip, and drinks is the budget we'd be shooting for, but would pay more for the right place. Though we're not on a tight schedule for lunch, we'll have to head back to Palm Springs pretty much right after we eat, so we won't be able to go to any places that are only open for dinner. Finally, it doesn't absolutely have to be tapas or a wine bar. If there are places that people who like tapas and wine bars might enjoy, we'd certainly be up for those, too! Thanks everyone.
Our trip was postponed for a month, but it finally happened. And we're glad it did. After much perusal of menus from restaurant websites and reviews from various websites, we didn't find much that really piqued our interest. We didn’t find any more than one or two things on any menus that sounded like they fit our tastes. We did more research and decided to take the plunge on a place where three things on the menu looked intriguing.
Well, it only takes one! It only takes one fantastic dish to make a restaurant outing one to remember. And, to our surprise actually, Brockton Villa totally delivered. The steamed mussels and clams in a piquante tequila broth with chili/lime butter was simply exquisite. The seafood was fresh and of high quality. The broth was a perfect balance of seafood tomato with a hint of spice. Make sure to include the fresh cilantro with every bite as it adds an extra dimension of exquisite complexity to the fecund flavor of the whole thing. Coupled with excellent sourdough bread (impossible to find in the culinary black hole of the overrated Palm Springs area where we live), it was an experience to remember. Wow.
So, that's all it takes to make a trip somewhere worth it--one great dish. It doesn't matter that the dish was expensive ($15 for about 6 clams and 6 mussels). It doesn't matter that the 2006 Kennedy Pinot Grigio couldn't quite stand up to the piquante kick of the dish. It doesn't matter that the other dish we ordered, the crab cakes, was both expensive ($15 for 3 small cakes) and patently mediocre. It doesn't matter that the layered dark chocolate espresso cake with raspberry coulis was inexcusably expensive at $8 and even less than mediocre, being just one step above downright bad. The "Keith Richards" coffee drink, though (4 shots of espresso w/Mexican chocolate and topped with foam), was excellently engineered. It was a perfect mix of quality ingredients. I don't have any complaints about the workmanship; the drink just wasn't our style. But it was very well made and many may like it.
Some might say that all but one of the things you got at a restaurant being mediocre or worse wouldn't warrant a rave review. But the clams/mussels dish was that good. Coupled with the incredible view, it made for an experience that was completely worth going there.
But, I've been to (and worked at) enough restaurants around the world to know that things can differ—often decisively—from day to day at any given establishment. The chef hits the sweet spot one day, misses the magic the next. I get there during a lull where the kitchen staff has time to pay attention to the last detail. Somebody else reads my rave review, but gets there at 7:30 on a Saturday evening when dishes have to fly fast and furious back in the kitchen. So nothing is ever guaranteed. But our experience here was good enough to where I’m hoping that others who go for the same dish might have a similar experience.
Some other details/suggestions. The place is famous for breakfast—so we went for lunch. It was the right call. The weather was nice when we were there, so we didn’t have to sit inside. We had our choice of the patio where you sit in the open sun (there are a couple umbrellas, but they don’t shade every table), or the veranda, which is shaded but has the views of the patio. We chose the veranda and it much to our liking as we didn’t have direct sunlight radiating down upon us during our meal. Other people might have different preferences. Instead of shelling out for the $8 dessert menu and expensive coffee drinks at Brockton, I might walk a couple hundred meters around the bend and try coffee and dessert at the Goldfish Point Café. I can’t recommend it from experience because we didn’t go there, but it’s a thought for coffee and dessert. Most people who’ve panned it on other websites were turned off by the staff rather than the coffee, though some did say that was just ok, too. But I don’t think you’re going to do much better on the coffee/dessert front at Brockton Villa.
Anyway, thank you to all who responded to my query here and I hope this report can contribute a little as well.
Brockton Villa Restaurant
1235 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Goldfish Point Cafe
1255 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
George's Terrace in La Jolla is your best bet, IMO. The view is my favorite of any restaurant in San Diego, a view of the ocean and cliffs of La Jolla. Mister A's view is OK, but it's mainly a view of downtown and the airport, plus the harbor. Not really the same thing.
The other nice thing about George's is that if you have at least 30 minutes to spare after lunch, you can take a very nice walk down to La Jolla Cove, which is very pretty.
Mister A's Restaurant
2550 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
The deck of the Fish Market Downtown has some great app's and drinks and it sits bayfront.
Candela's on the Bay in Coronado..you can take the water taxi over and the restaurant is right at the Ferry Landing.
Have fun and report back!
I agree with Doug about the difficulty of combining the two, particularly at lunch, but here's a suggestion: go to Bertrand at Mister A's for the view and a glass of wine and then walk across the street to Cucina Urbana.
Mister A's Restaurant
2550 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Neither are a wine bar, but think about going into La Jolla and having a glass of wine +/- a snack at George's Ocean Terrace (fantastic view) and then some small plates at Whisknladle (no view, but pleasant patio seating and short but usually interesting list of small plate options).
1044 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
George's Ocean Terrace
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
Yup, 11:30-3:00 daily, although now that I look at the lunch menu you do lose a couple of small plate options. But you still have the flatbread, cheese & meat board, mussels and fries, chorizo dates, scallops, pasta dishes, etc. Short menu but usually fun, especially for first-timers.
I can't think of anything that meets all of your requirements. The closest is probably Wine Vault & Bistro (not much of a view thought) and I don't think they're open for lunch.
Costa Brava has good tapas (not sure about the wine selection) but while it's in Pacific Beach, it's not on the water.
1653 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Wine Vault & Bistro
3731 India St, San Diego, CA 92103