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Oct 18, 2010 02:07 PM

3 Nights in Carlsbad - Review

Mother-in-Law gave us her timeshare for the weekend. It was rainy and gloomy all weekend so hubbie and I did what we like to do best - drink and eat!

Friday...Le Passage French Bistro, Vigilucci's Seafood & Steak

Upon arrival to Carlsbad, we lunched at Le Passage French Bistro. It was almost completely empty except for another couple. We got a bottle of affordable French white wine and split the soup of the day - Potato Leek. I was expecting it to be creamy, but it was chunks of potato and sauteed leeks in a delicious broth. I opted for the Lavender Chicken Sandwich and Hubbie got the Cordon Bleu Crepe. Both were tasty and filling. I especially enjoyed the crispy shoestring fries and garlicy-butter dipping sauce.

Dinner on Friday night was at Vigilucci's Seafood & Steakhouse. I was a little skeptical because reviews were mixed, but was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the food. Agree with reviews that the dining room was loud, but it didn't bother us. We had a great table table in the dining room, right near a window. Patio was not an option for us as it was drizzling and cold outside. We split a generic Caesar Salad. I had the Penne Vodka with Spinach, Fresh Tomatoes and Langostini. I'm used to Vodka Sauce being more creamy (NY-syle) but I liked this version a lot. It was only served with 1 tasty Langostini and I would have wanted another, but the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. Hubbie got the Prime Rib - cooked nicely medium rare and served with a cooked perfectly baked potato with all the toppings and some veggies. Wine of the evening was a half bottle of Borolo. Service was attentive and quick.

Saturday...Market Restaurant and Bar (Del Mar)
We went to Old Town San Diego during the day (had a decent lunch at El Agave - sampled some tequila - they have over 2,000 varieties of tequila). Had some drinks in Gas Lamp district - tried to get into Noble Experiment, but they were booked. Totally cool, underground bar and will definitely make a reservation there next time we visit!

We hit Market Restaurant on the way back to Carlsbad. We were seated immediately even though it was packed. Our server was awesome - friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. I started with the Blue Cheese Souffle - so decadent and not overpowering like I expected. It was served with fresh pear slices, candied pecans and micro greens. Hubbie started with Lobster and Arctic Char Chowder - this was amazing! It was so creamy and rich and had huge chucks of lobster and fish. For entries, I had Duck 2 ways (Breast and Leg Confit) and Hubbie had Short Ribs. Both dishes were excellent, very flavorful - Short Ribs were the winner though. The duck came with a sweet potato gratin that I found overly sweet, and in combination with the sweet sauce the duck came with it was a little over the top. I was happy to contrast the sweetness with the sauteed swiss chard it was served with. We were so full, so skipped dessert - but our server brought a little taste of huckleberry pie in a spoon. It hit the spot! I think we had a Spanish wine with dinner.

Sunday...Pizza Port, Paon
I'm pizza snob, so the pizza at Pizza Port didn't really do it for me. But they had a great selection of beer and hubbie was happy to be watching football (though they didn't have all the games).

Paon was definitely the highlight of the trip, but before dinner we stopped at Relm for a glass (or 2) of wine. We really enjoyed the selection at Relm - shared a white flight and red flight then settled on 2 glasses of red. We had the cheese plate also - nothing really special.

We loved the relaxing and soothing atmosphere at Paon, It was a Sunday night around 8pm, so I wonder if it is always like that. We decided to split a few things, as we weren't starving. We started with the Oysters and an awesome glass of Sauvignon Blanc that the server suggested. There were 6 Oysters and they were super fresh and delicious. I love that they were served them with fresh grated Horseradish. Next we split the Butter Poached Prawn Salad. The Prawns were succulent and tender and the greens fresh. Did I mention the service was amazing? They split everything we ordered on individual plates and plating was gorgeous. 3rd course was there homemade gnocchi - with a creamy sauce and vegetable rag-out. I couldn't stop eating this dish! They had a huge selection of steaks, but we were "meat-ed out," so we opted for the grilled chicken. It's hard to cook chicken this tasty and they definitely succeeded. It was moist and flavorful - served with mashed potatoes, variety of roasted veggies and lemony-caper sauce.

All-in-all, the food in Carlsbad and surrounding areas did not disappoint! Paon was definitely my favorite of the weekend.

P.S. The timeshare had a kitchen, so we didn't venture out for breakfasts.

Pizza Port
301 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672

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  1. Thank you very much for the report Obessed. So happy that you liked Paon, the people over there are great, and the food is up there too.

    1. Thanks for the timely review. Heading to Carlsbad tomorrow for a 5 night getaway at the beach. Since the weather is looking crummy I think I'll need to focus on the food!
      I was wondering about Paon and it sounds like that's definitely on my list. Anyone else been and have some favorite dishes to recommend?
      May have to try Vigilucci's. I too am skeptical about the Vig options, ate at the Italian one on State St and was underwhelmed, but I picked a rather plain pasta dish which really isn't my style anyway, so that may have been my fault. Everyone else was happy with their dishes. Plus I have a gift certificate since forever so might as well try the one you went to.
      Market. I pass that place all the time, but have never been. Maybe Monday on the way home may be the day. You've almost got me covered!

      Anyone been to West Steak & Spirits?

      20 Replies
      1. re: Island

        West is a steak place and just that, not terrible, not great. If I had a choice, I would probably pick Donovan's or Red Tractons up in North County. Went a couple of years ago, have not been back. Ambience is nice, if a bit dark.

        Red Tracton's
        550 Via De La Valle, Solana Beach, CA 92075

        1. re: Island

          I would never waste my money or time dining at any vigilucci's.. I don't understand why anyone would.. The food is not good at all..

          1. re: SDGourmand

            OP liked it. Have you had a bad experience at all of them? We're staying at the beach in the Village (Tamarack?) and only want to go to dinner where we can walk to so looking for options.

            1. re: Island

              I have been to most them and it's mediocre Italian food at best. The steak & seafood one is all about the view. Which is pretty much how all the restaurants are with ocean frontage. The don't focus on the food or anything else for that matter because they know people will come in for the view alone. IMO the only option in Carlsbad village is paon.

              1. re: Island

                We stayed at Tamarack also and it was a great location :)

                I mean, Vigilucci's Steakhouse wasn't the best Italian food/steakhouse I have been to (i.e., compared to places like Cut and Valentino in LA) , but it certainly was acceptable and definitely better then mediocre.

                1. re: Obessed

                  To each is own. I'm very tough to please when it comes food especially Italian.

                  1. re: SDGourmand

                    SDGourmand do you have any other recs for dinner in Carlsbad, walking distance in the Village? Thanks.

                    1. re: Island

                      Paon is the only one that I can recommend..

                2. re: Island

                  Fish House Vera Cruz: is in the village, casual, seafood. Fish is good, sides ok.
                  El Norte: popular Mex place, pretty standard American-Mex food.
                  Flippin Pizza: actually not bad thin crust, pretty much a take out place.
                  Pizza Port Carlsbad: good beer, hit or miss pizza
                  These places are all in the village. I really don't find Viggy's all that horrible. It sure isn't the best It Italian in town, but I always found it to be decent and I have never had bad service. Have not been to Paon so can't comment.

                  Fish House Vera Cruz
                  417 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

                  Flippin Pizza
                  7662 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA 92009

                  1. re: littlestevie

                    I have to disagree regrading Fish House Vera Cruz. The fish isn't good, it's great and the best in S.D. county. No fancy sauces or preparation, just high quality fish simply grilled over mesquite. Prices are reasonable although they gone up considerably in last few years.

                    Fish House Vera Cruz
                    417 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

                    1. re: pantani

                      If Fish House VC is the best in SD we are worse off than I thought..

                        1. re: pantani

                          I like to buy fish at vera cruz because they have the freshest fish at great prices. I will give you the mesquite grill is very nice as almost nobody grills over wood anymore. But they generally overcook if you don't request specific temp, and let's face the cold hard truth, their sides are just sad.

                          1. re: SeanT

                            Good summary. Its my favorite to place to buy fish either from the market to cook at home or eat in the restaurant. It's about the only place in town that has Opah which is my favorite. I have not experienced any overcooking but I don't like my fish "seared" or raw inside. The side dishes could be a lot better but I find the rice pilaf and steamed vegetables edible. The fish is why I go there.

                            1. re: pantani

                              Agree with pantani & SeanT -- Great fish, soso sides. Except the Potatoes Romano, which I like.

                              Fish House Vera Cruz
                              417 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

                3. re: SDGourmand

                  100% agreement on any of the vigs. My wife receives well intentioned gift certificates to vigs that rot on the vine. Really tough to get motivated to go to any of their offerings. Norht county has a bounty of quality Italian offerings. How vigs keep their doors open astounds me. What they do to quality beef is just a crime. Nutmeg, a spice I love in proper context, should not have any presence what so ever on a prime steak. In addition, it is a high crime to treat prime beef to a regular old charbroiler.

                  to the op, pizza is the secondary offering at pizza port, you go for the beer which is among the finest offerings in yes, you are about to read it, the world!!

                  1. re: SeanT

                    "Norht county has a bounty of quality Italian offerings" - Which ones ?

                    1. re: honkman

                      Thats why I really don't bang on Viggy's too hard. Is Trattoria I Trulli that much better? I found it to be fine but again not great. When in Rome and Pino's closed. I like Firenze and it has a nice ambience but is it the best in town?I was disappointed in Via Italia and Gusto. I have not been to Fresco in a while but it too was no great shakes. I suppose Vivace at the Aviara is the best up in North County, but I have not been there since the Hyatt took them over.

                      Trattoria I Trulli
                      830 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                      When in Rome... Restaurant
                      1108 South Coast HWY 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                      1. re: littlestevie

                        We are awash in overpriced pretentious Italian joints in north county.
                        No wonder some have gone under.
                        To be honest I would rather eat Italian at home.
                        When we do go out for Italian, usually go to Pizza Nova because they have some decent pasta dishes, really good salads, addictive bread rolls with oil, garlic and rosemary and newly remodeled bar area serving Paulaner Hefeweizen.
                        Pizza isn't that great though.

                    2. re: SeanT

                      The pizza at pizza port is good but it's family style pizza. It's like a high end version of Pizza Hut or Roundtable.