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Jun 26, 2011 01:02 PM

Recent account of Georges Modern

This is a pretty lengthy account of some of the dishes we ordered a la carte. I believe most of the menu is still the same.

Review with pictures is here:

"A quick note on service: it was among the best I’ve had. Course timing was perfect, and glasses were never empty. At one point, a dropped utensil was replaced so quickly that the original the ground.

The view is amazing, the entire back wall of the modern dining area is comprised of large glass windows overlooking the ocean. Our party arrived at sunset and dined beyond it, as the lighting in the photos will show.

House Bread - Salts
The bread basket arrived with a trio of salts. A sole bread offering may appear like an afterthought, but I had to restrain myself from filling up on the fully flavored multi-grain and smoked sea salt.

Date Salad - arugula, goats cheese, walnuts, pomegranate vinaigrette
Meaty dates and walnuts provided some substance to the otherwise delicate salad. The pomegranate dressing was very sweet and paired particularly well with the slight tang from the goat cheese.

Smoked Foie - pickled plum puree, beets, marinated kombu
I much prefer seared foie as opposed to terrine or pate but I still enjoyed this. The presentation highlighted the lighter more delicate side of foie. A hint of smoky salinity, to go along with the sugary plum puree and large beat sections.

Fish Tacos
The menu description notes, “hard to explain, just try it” and I would suggest anyone visiting does. Having been featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I ever Ate, this is a dish the restaurant is known for, and it did not disappoint.

Smoked Eggplant - ricotta fritters, zucchini artichoke salad
Moving on to entrees, this was an item from the vegetarian side of the menu. The ricotta fritters were main component of the dish, a crisp outer shell which led way to a light ricotta interior. The smoked eggplant was actually found in the base emulsion, which added an extra savory note when paired with the milder ricotta.

Local Yellowtail - carrot-miso puree, bok choy, tangerine butter
This yellowtail arrived just seared and perfectly rare. The supporting elements to go with the flaky, buttery fish reminded me of some of my favorite meals. The carrot-miso puree was as authentic a carrot flavor as the one I had at Salt of the Earth. Next, the unlisted honshemeji mushrooms, which became a favorite after I first tried them at Notion. A standout regardless of the fond memories.

Maine Lobster Seafood Stew - toasted pasta, marcona almonds, orange aioli
Our waiter mentioned there was only one stew left for the evening – of course it was ordered. The picture above does not show the sheer size of the dish, with enough seafood to represent a quarter of the pacific (lobster, mussels, shrimp) and all of it expertly prepared. Whole marcona almonds added a great texture to the more supple pearl pasta, and the sweet creamy orange aioli meddled the slight tang from the tomato broth.

Peanut Butter Rice Pudding - bananas, crispy wild rice, graham cracker streusel, cocoa crumbs, roasted banana sorbet
With the components listed I was expecting a knockout. But this was one actually did not turn out to be particularly memorable. The crispy rice was a bit too hard, and I didn’t get a particularly strong flavor from any of the components.

Cardamom Doughnuts & Dip - pistachio whipped cream, pineapple- curry marmalade, vanilla-rose syrup, white chocolate-saffron sauce
Doughnuts were much more successful. The dessert would have been fine if the pillowy light pastries were served solo, but the “make your own” set-up took it to another level. I’m not ashamed to say I finished any left over accompaniments with my spoon, and probably would have drank the rose water if the waiter had not cleared the table (kidding..almost)."

Georges California Modern
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

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    1. re: daantaat

      haha thanks, I really enjoyed it so I wanted to share. I've seen some hounders' write it off as toursity, but that wasn't my experience.

    2. great review! thanks for posting this - my experiences upstairs on the Terrace were forgettable (i think that's what generates most of the "touristy" knocks), but i've always enjoyed excellent food and top-notch service in the dining room. i haven't been there in quite some time since i moved away from SD, but i recently sent friends from LA to George's for a special dinner, and they absolutely loved it.

      1. We recently returned to georges and really enjoyed our experience. I loved the beautiful plating, and the flavors were amazing, I also loved the fish tacos. I particularly liked the lighting in the dining room, the room itself was quite dark, but they used spotlights to light up the table, which worked really well for me. I've found a lot of restaurants are so dark you can hardly see the food!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jennywenny

          agreed, it was still a bit dark - but I was too lax with taking photos I could have done better. I will on the revisit.

        2. Just as a point of reference, I also went there about 2 months ago and my experience was drastically different:

          When I first moved to San Diego, I was still a closet foodie. Upon doing some research, the fine dining restaurant that seemed to be the consensus best restaurant was George's California Modern (better known just as George's). Being the closet foodie, I feared that by going there I was way ahead of myself in my ability to appreciate the food, and developed almost an Eleanor-like trepidation about the place. Fast forward to today and I had still never been to George's.

          George's kitchen is run by Trey Foshee, a graduate of CIA Hyde Park. His style emphasizes the flavors of that which are fresh and local. As such, the produce at George's is sourced from Chino Farms, and the menu makes no secrets about hiding that fact. Chef Foshee was named one of America's Ten Best New Chefs in 1998 and a James Beard House Guest Chef.

          One of the little-known things about George's is that there's actually a 7 course tasting menu for $95 (George's also offers a 5 course tasting menu for $65 which everyone knows about). Apparently the 7 course menu is so unknown that when I called to make reservations for the 7 course menu two weeks in advance, the special events director that I was direct to was unaware of it. However, she did go check with the kitchen and then confirmed that they do in fact have a 7 course menu. Furthermore, when I inquired more about the tasting menus, I was assured that I would be able to pick some dishes that I definitely wanted off the main menu and the chef would be sure to incorporate those into the tasting.

          Excited that I would get to pick the highlights of the meal, I set about studying the menu of the restaurant prior to arriving so I could determine which wine to bring. I was even called to confirm my reservations and asked during the confirmation if I was still interested in the 7 course tasting menu. Because I figured I would have some command of the menu, I confidently selected a Spanish Red, which would otherwise be very dangerous to bring to a seafood establishment. Upon our arrival, the waiter asked what we would be having and I informed him that I would like the 7 course tasting and that I had 3 of the courses I wanted. He diligently wrote down my requests and went to check with the kitchen if my request could be accommodated. However upon his return, I was informed that I was not allowed to order the 7-course menu and that I had "not called early enough" to arrange the menu. To add insult to injury, I would not be allowed to select any courses from the menu because the tasting menu for the night was solidly prix fixe. Of course this caused even more problems because one of my companions had a dining restriction against pork, which was the main course of the evening. Luckily, the waiter confirmed that a substitution to a hangar steak was an option for this course. Despite feeling like I had arranged to go on a date with Bait and Switch to end up on a double date with Conflict Diamond instead (see 5:40 of video), we went ahead and ordered the 5-course tasting menu.

          Update: I was contacted by the General Manager of George's to say that I should try the "Chuck Eats Tasting Menu" and to get that menu, should contact the restaurant at least 4 days in advance and not dine on a weekend. Furthermore the reservation should be made specifically with their Director of Sales, Kristine Fogarty.

          Amuse Bouche:
          Crab with picked ramps on top of shaved radish and bits of apple
          This course failed as an amuse. Because of the way it was composed, it was very difficult to get all the elements into my mouth in a single bite at once. Once the elements were in my mouth, I felt like there were too many vegetables and the flavors formed a dissonant chord rather than the harmonious one. I also felt like the course lacked some salt (at least in the crab) to bring out some more flavors.

          First Course:
          "Inside Out" Fish Tacos
          After being featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the food network, this dish has received a lot of attention, and rightfully so. The fish for the day was yellowfin tuna, but the waiter informed me that the fish changes daily based on whatever would work the best. A tune tartare filling is wrapped in a sliced tuna shell with bits of fried corn on the outside and the dish is accompanied by a piece of fried avocado.

          This dish was the best dish of the night - the flavors were outstanding and there was both hot and cold contrast and textural contrast in the dish. The oil of the fish was well-complemented by the oil in the avocado. The cilantro added a very good freshness to the dish as well.

          My only complaint about this dish is that while it was a great dish, it was not a "wow" dish for me. I feel like I have eaten the elements of this dish before, but it is more evolutionary (to include texture contrast) than revolutionary.

          Second Course:
          Smoked foie gras - picked plum puree, beats, marinated konbu
          This was another successful dish. One of my companions had a bad experience with foie gras (goose) in the past and was fearing that she wouldn't like this dish. However, the foie gras (duck) in this convinced her that she just had one bad experience. The marinated konbu was a nice compliment to the foie gras and the beats. I didn't really understand the picked plum puree as the sweetness of it was covered up by the sweetness of the beats, and there really wasn't enough of it to add much flavor. The slice of ginger added a nice small spice kick.

          As for minor nitpicks, the flower didn't really make sense to me in this dish, and the large piece of ginger didn't make much sense either. I feel like mincing the ginger and integrating it more in the dish would have made more sense than just sticking a large slice there.

          Third Course:
          Porcini-Glazed Bone-in Halibut - peas, asparagus. braised radish, Meyer lemon yogurt
          Although there are many incarnations of the dish, the halibut at George's seems to be considered the signature dish, and has both been much maligned and praised. I fall into the camp of hating it.

          First the good stuff; what I noticed immediately when this dish arrived was that the aroma of the halibut was heavily prevalent and that the dish could be experienced with smell much before taste. The halibut was cooked well, as were all of the vegetables.

          Despite good cooking technique, this dish fell flat. While the individual components were made well, I didn't understand the big picture of the dish. The peas were bathed in the Meyer lemon yogurt and I didn't feel like they taste worked at all. The long green leafed herb was overpowering in the dish. After eating the small spring with a bite of halibut, I only tasted the herb.

          Fourth Course:
          Cider Braised Pork Belly and Slow Roasted Loin - Chino Farms Greens, blue cheese,
          caramelized onion arancini
          I took one bite of the loin and another of the pork belly and sent this dish back. Whoever seasoned it was very heavy-handed with the salt, and the only thing I could taste was salt. I had to drink one and a half glasses of water after the two bites to recover my palette from the salt overload.

          After the pork was removed, we were informed the chef decided to substitute with the hangar steak.

          Fourth Course (take two):
          Prime Hangar Steak
          Before getting into the steak, let me point out that the companion with the pork dining restriction was served this at the same time as the pork. When the pork was removed, the companion's hangar steak was not removed. This made it so that one person at the table was eating while the rest were watching him eat. By the time the replacement entrées were brought, the first person had finished eating. At this point he was forced to watch the rest of the table eat.

          The steak was cooked very well, and the hangar cut imparted a lot of natural flavor into the beef. The greens with shitake complimented the steak very well, but the mashed potatoes were a failure. They potatoes had a smoky flavor to them, but the smoke was more of an acrid and offensive smoke than a gentle infusion of smoke. Furthermore, it seemed like the temperature of the potatoes was not correct as I found clumps in the potato that made the texture unpleasant as well. The half baby carrot also didn't make sense to me as the flavor didn't really contribute much to the dish.

          Fifth Course:
          Red Wine Compressed Chino Farms Strawberries - goat cheese espuma, lemon balm, baby brioche, black pepper sorbet, strawberry dust
          My first bite into this was one of immense satisfaction as I felt the dessert had captured the essence of strawberries. My second bite included some of the goat cheese, which I felt complimented the strawberry, but mellowed the flavor somewhat. My third bite included some of the sorbet, and I was almost forced to spit out the food. The black pepper flavor of the sorbet was so compressed that the pepper gave a huge offensive peppery kick to what otherwise should have been sweet and delightful. The sorbet was akin to inviting a heavy metal guitar soloist to launch into a solo during the climactic moments of a classical symphony.

          By the time I had removed the sorbet from the dish, my palette had been contaminated by the pepper. Each bite no longer tasted as good as the previous ones and the dish was ruined.

          2 Replies
          1. re: karaethon

            awesome to have you comment Karaethon, I've read your reviews and eve commented once or twice (I'll be sure to do so more often).

            Your time did seem to be a miss overall, but there were a few saving graces and I had seen so much praise that I still had it high on my list. I would like to go back for the chef's tasting. I know that Chuck and UE were recently in town for a visit. Perhaps we will see some new dishes soon.

            1. re: Rodzilla

              The part that annoys me about what Chuck and UE got is that it's not on the normal menu.

              It seems to me that if a restaurant is capable of serving awesome food like that, it should be on the menu for everyone to enjoy and not be something that you have to specially arrange ahead of time. It was definitely nice that Chuck included the information of how to set up such a reservation though.

          2. We celebrated out anniversary dinner here a couple of weeks ago. The food was awesome, service was great (professional but fun), and a nice bottle of wine. Also very nice is the wines had what seemed like a reasonable markup, not thee typical 2-3x retail.