Sessions Public - a trip report
Friday night, Barbarella, myself and two friends hit up the new, awkwardly-named, Sessions Public in Point Loma.
For those who want the bottom line -- it was a bit loud but we had a great time, very much enjoyed the food, and the staff, and the small wine list that is populated with some really nice wines at extremely reasonable prices. We will be going back and recommend that you check it out.
On to the specifics...
Sessions Public shares a wall with the old Catalina Bar on Voltaire. The space is long and narrow, a bar along one side, a dozen or so tables in the back, and one deuce on the patio basking in the light of the 7-11 across the street. The acoustics are loud and lively. The music is loud, conversations are loud, and when the place is hopping, you'll need to raise your voice to be heard.
It is the brainchild, and the first restaurant venture of owner Abel Kaase. For Sessions, Abel brought in a consulting chef to develop the menu which I would characterize as New American Tapas (mostly). Abel told us that he and the consulting chef developed the menu to satisfy his personal tastes and to be one that could be well executed by whomever was in the kitchen. We were told that the staff has been trained on (i.e. sat down and actually tasted) all the menu items.
The menu is divided into Small Plates, Shared Plates, Sandwiches, Salads, and a few Large Plates. On this trip we stuck with Small, Shared, and Sandwiches, though I saw the Prawn Salad and the CAB Burger delivered to the table next to us and they looked great.
On the night we were there it looked like this:
Fries / garlic aioli $5
Thinly Sliced Serrano Ham / artisan bread $6
Bundnerfleisch thinly sliced air-dried beef / artisan bread $6
Asparagus / lemon aioli $5
Blistered Tomatoes / chiffon basil, garlic, artisan bread $3
Nueske Bacon Tempura Lollipop / chili lime dipping sauce $8
Alsatian Onion Tart $7
Cheese Plate (3 or 5 cheeses) $10/$15
Duck Confit Thai Summer Rolls / sweet chili dipping sauce $8
Roasted Beets / goat cheese, sherry vinegar, pine nut brittle $9
Sauteed Crab Cakes / celery root slaw $13
Spicy Calamari / confit tomato ragout $10
Salt & Pepper Wings / scallions, ginger garlic dipping sauce $9
Crispy Chicken Oysters / Frank's Red Hot Sauce, celery $9
CAB Natural Burger / Winchester Gouda, arugula, confit tomatoes, garlic aioli $12
Roasted Portobello Mushroom / grilled zucchini, confit tomato, fresh Mozzarella, chevre, basiI mayo $9
NueskeTempura Bacon BLT / confit tomato, arugula, soy lemon aioli $12
Short Rib Slider / garlic aioli, pickled red onions, arugula $11
Sausage of the Week, served with condiments $9
RLL Salad / garlic balsamic blue cheese dressing / add ribeye $6 $8/$10
Spicy Wild Mexican Prawn Cobb / bacon, farm egg, avocado, blistered tomatoes, Sriracha dressing $11/$14
Farm House Poached Egg/ frisee, crispy duck, shaved asparagus $10/$13
Side Salad / baby Romaine, pear tomatoes, pickled red onions $6
Duck Confit / mushroom broth with udon noodles $17
Ribeye Fries / 8oz ribeye, blue cheese, truffle oil, herb salad $20
Orecchiete Pasta / seasonal wilted greens, truffle butter $15
Seared Albacore Tacos / mole, corn relish $19
Brick Chicken / quinoa, salsa rojo $16
Here are my impressions on what we ate...
Bundnerfleisch thinly sliced air-dried beef / artisan bread
A small mound of the dried beef, about the size of the bottom of a wine glass (sorry, forgot to get photos -- will remember next time!) served with toasted baguette, thin sliced on the bias, and pickled red onions.
I thought this was o.k., though I was hoping for more flavor from the beef. I thought the mild-flavored beef contributed more to the texture than the flavor so I would recommend going easy on the pickled onions.
Blistered Tomatoes / chiffon basil, garlic, artisan bread
A bowl (about 3/4 cup worth?) of roasted, small tomatoes (possibly heirloom -- some were yellow , some red).
This too was o.k., not bad, just not as exciting as I had hoped. If the tomatoes had been charred and seasoned a bit more, this could have been quite nice. Barbarella liked this dish, and the crispy thinly sliced toasted baguette that came with it.
Nueske Bacon Tempura Lollipop / chili lime dipping sauce
An order here is three strips of bacon, each on it's own skewer [N.B. Abel says that most dishes served in multiples will have an odd number of the item because it looks better on the plate. If you have an even number in your party and want to share, be sure to ask for an extra piece when necessary.]. The bacon has been dipped in a tempura batter and deep fried resulting in an almost candied bacon-like product. The chili (sic) lime dipping sauce is fish sauced based and is like a spicy nuoc nam.
Our table was loving this item that is fast becoming the Sessions Signature Dish. If you like bacon (and who doesn't?) then you should enjoy this. One of our friends even used the bacon to build a sort of BLT using components from our other dishes. He probably didn't notice that there is a Tempura bacon BLT on the menu. Will definitely have to try that next time.
Duck Confit Thai Summer Rolls / sweet chili dipping sauce
This was like the fresh garden rolls you might find at a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant, but instead of pork, the kitchen used duck. The roll was thinner than what one would expect (about the diameter of a quarter or just a little less), cut into eight, 1" long pieces.
In general, I think the idea of making the roll thinner to increase the duck-to-veg ratio was a good idea. However, that said, the mild flavor of the duck was a bit lost here. Overall, pleasant, just not very duck-y.
Spicy Calamari / confit tomato ragout
Our charming and helpful server, Brittany, recommended this as we were looking for more things to try.
The calamari was excellent -- very nicely battered and fried -- and while the tomato confit was also tasty, I preferred using some of the spicy chile sauces from the other dishes.
Crispy Chicken Oysters / Frank's Red Hot Sauce, celery
A bowl of breaded and fried chicken oysters. This is NOT "chicken-fried oysters", but rather the two wonderful, teaspoon-shaped bits of dark meat from the back of the bird known as the chicken's "oysters". If you saw the film, Amelie, there is a scene where the man, whose tin box of memorabilia is found by Amelie, is shown taking apart a chicken that he has roasted. We are told that the first thing he eats, as a special treat, are the oysters. Accompanied by Frank's Hot Sauce, celery sticks and a lovely balsamic vinegar/blue cheese dressing.
This too is my favorite part of the chicken and I was very excited to see this on the menu. And while, perfectly fine, I thought that the breading, deep-frying, and dipping in Frank's Hot Sauce somewhat mitigated the glories of the oysters. Another part of the chicken, a bit of thigh meat perhaps, would have served as well. Something like a skewer of grilled oysters might prove a better showcase for this tasty morsel. Still, I am heartened to see someone appreciating and featuring this often overlooked delicacy.
Short Rib Slider / garlic aioli, pickled red onions, arugula, fries
Three short rib sliders with the fixin's.
Very enjoyable. I especially liked the fries (which are fried in duck fat) dipped in the garlic aioli with its nice bite of fresh garlic.
Sausage of the Week, served with condiments
This night's sausage was a lamb sausage served en croute, like a Beef Wellington (if you're the fancy-smancy sort) or like a pig-in-a-blanket (if you're not).
Either way, this was one of my favorite items of the night. The condiments were a whole grain mustard,a fig jam, and the aforementioned very tasty garlic aioli. The dish comes with just one sausage so I recommend ordering at least two (if you're like me).
We shared two bottles of the Leal Syrah -- a wine we have enjoyed many times before -- a steal, priced at an extremely reasonable $29 (which is the price this wine is often sold for in retail shops). Abel told us that he wanted to offer great wines, but that he wanted to keep them all priced under $40.
The wine list:
Redmon Chardonnay $39/$12
Canyon Road Chardonnay $16/$5
William Hill Central Coast Chardonnay $19/$6
Snapdragon Chardonnay $18/$5
Trione Sauvignon Blanc $36/$11
Handley Sauvignon Blanc $22$7
Laird Carneros Creek Pinot Grigio $29/$9
Canyon Road Merlot $16/$5
Tobin James Made in the Shade Merlot $30/$9
Jade Merlot $25/$6
Canyon Road Cabernet $16/$5
Justin Cabernet $38/$12
Sonoma Junction Cabernet $24/$7
Tobin James Ballistic Zinfandel $29/$8
Rosenblum Zinfandel $30/$9
Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel $25/$7
Leal Syrah $29/$9
Edna Valley Syrah $23/$6
C. Donatiello Pinot Noir $36/$8
Acacia.Pinot Noir $30/$8
And, as it is a public house, the beers...
They have a very good selection of beers on tap that are listed on the chalkboard above the bar. (I am guessing there were maybe 20? I should have counted or taken a photo.)
Miller Lite $3.50 120z
Miller High Life $3 120z
Pacifico $4 120z
Delirium Tremens $9 330ml
Hop Rod Rye $9 220z
Big Eye IPA $4.50 120z
Lost Abbey Inferno Ale $17 750ml
St. Feuillien Triple $18 750ml
Maredsous Blonde $8 11.2oz
Houblon Chouffe $9 11.2oz
Chimay Red $10 330ml
Chimay Blue $11 330ml
Racer 5 $9 220z
Hacker Pschorr Weisse $6 11.2oz
Duvel $9 11.2oz
Russian River Consecration $20 120z
Russian River Damnation $12 120z
Newcastle $4.50 120z
Blackthorn Cider $5 120z
Ballast Point Wahoo $9 220z
Stone IPA $4.50 12oz.
Bittburger $4.50 120z
We went on Friday.
Had the burger and it was very very good.
We also had the chicken oysters which were really good as well. They came with Franks hot sauce so a plus in my book.
We also had the RLL salad which was good as well.
After we sat at the bar and talked to the bar tender who was really cool and told us to come back on Thursdays for beers and muscles.
They have great beers, but also have a full bar which is a plus as well.
Service was a little bad but to be expected for a new restaurant. The food made up for it.
I highly recommend.
Had the pleasure of running in to Dave and Barbarella at Sessions Public. We enjoyed the blistered tomatoes, duck confit summer rolls, tempura bacon lollipops and the shortrib sliders with arugula and pickled onions. Every dish was well executed and tasty. The chili-lime dipping sauce that came with the lollipops had some serious after burn heat which was a nice foil to the salty, smokey bacon. The duck fat fries that came with the sliders were perfect and the accompanying garlic aoli packed a serious garlic punch. Service was great (also taken care of by Brittany), especially considering she took care of several large parties in the back room. The sandwiches looked great as they were delivered to the tables around us - definitely going to try those and the chicken oysters on a return visit. Really good values on the wine list.
Only down side for us was the noise level when the room was full, they might want to address that with some adjustments. Also, at least at night, the glare from the fluorescent lights at the 7/11 across the street was pretty harsh and unappealing. I would not be happy sitting in the front room in the evening until they find a way to shade it out.
Nice addition to the neighborhood. We'll be back when we find ourselves in the area.
I tried Session's Public about two weeks ago and really liked it. I love the decor which is a kind of a wharehouse look. We went early, so it wasn't very loud. We started with the serrano ham appetizer. The app was tasty and the pickled onions which I normally don't care for, were delicious. I did think the portion of serrano ham was a bit on the small side. For our main dishes, I had the hamburger and my dining companion has the pasta. Both were delicious. The burger was one of the best I've had in San Diego and was perfectly seasoned and cooked. For me, the big difference in a burger is the bun and this was spot on with a soft but not wimpy brioche bun that the get from Con Pane bakery down the hill. My companion's Orecchiete pasta was delicious and to large to finish at dinner. The bill didn't break the bank also, which was a nice bonus. There were many other items on the menu that sounded good and I look forward to trying them all. I think this place with go on the frequently visited list! We were so full we didn't notice if they had desserts yet, anyone know?
EGAD! I FORGOT THE DESSERTS!!!
We ordered two of the desserts -- the peach cobbler and the brownie with bourbon sauce.
The cobbler wasn't at all what I would expect of a cobbler. It wasn't crunchy or pie-crusty. It was cooked peaches in a bowl under what seemed like, for lack of a better word, a sweet pancake. It was a bit strange. Not unpleasant, but not very inspiring either.
The brownie, however, was spectacular! It was a great brownie, both cakey and chewy, topped with a scoop of ice cream (vanilla, I think, but I don't really remember) and the all important caramel, bourbon sauce. It's too good to be split more than two ways.