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Apr 16, 2006 06:30 PM

Cafe Cerise, San Diego: a winner, but don't wait

  • j

Having read all of the laudatory words here over the past several months, I decided it was time to give Cafe Cerise a try. I didn’t take any notes, so my comments are kind of sketchy; suffice it to say, though, that the folks who have been singing the praises of Cafe Cerise are right on tune. It was really pretty wonderful. Jason Seibert is a skilled and imaginative chef, and there wasn’t a single false note in the meal.

For openers, Diana had the soup, a creamy puree of apple, celery and fennel, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche. The dominant flavor was of the celery with the fennel as a lower note. There was no actual flavor of apple that I could discern, but there was a nice, understated sweetness that was probably contributed by the fruit. My salad, “Farmers’ Market greens with heirloom radishes,” was as good a salad as I’ve had in a while. The peppery greens and sweet-hot radishes were moderated by baby green and wax beans that I think had been parboiled, as they were really tender. The dressing, which I believe was billed simply as “Italian” was more like a creamy Caesar, and it, too, was a best of breed.

For our entrees, Diana had a dish of pappardelle with mussels, tiny clams, a fantastic spicy sausage that must surely have been house-made, little mushrooms (cinnamon cap?) and tomatoes. It was just the kind of hearty meal that was perfect for a rainy night. I had Corvina that was served over risotto with spinach, and it was one of the best pure-play fish dishes I’ve had in a while. The corvina had a lovely crust, and it was very firm without being overdone. Yummy.

For dessert, we shared two: an apple cinnamon cake and a dish that I don’t know the name of. Okay, it looked like two big slices of tofu (but it wasn’t) with the consistency of a rich ice cream (but it wasn’t). It was anise flavored, and topped with thin strips of candied fennel. It was so different, but so good, I was kicking myself ten minutes after we’d left that I didn’t find out more about it.

Finally, my coffee was served in a French press and was the most fragrant and flavorful I’ve tasted in years.

Now, then, if you’re going to give this excellent chef a try, I recommend that you do it soon. We arrived for dinner at 6:45 and left about 8:15. During that time there may have been a total of about six parties in the place -- all couples. It may be that Cafe Cerise does a great lunch business, but for a Friday night, the number of diners made for a pretty forlorn atmosphere. Unfortunately the place is located away from most of the tourist/convention action -- about four blocks too far north. The closest neighbors are a low-cost pizzeria, a Mexican style chicken joint, and an -- um, budget hotel. After 6 p.m., all of the parking lots in the office buildings close their gates, and you pretty much have to find a place on the street.

I’m really grateful that we finally gave these folks a try, and thanks to the Hounds who turned us on to it. We’ll be back, but I hope that others will be, too.
Cafe Cerise is located on Sixth Avenue, between B and C Streets.
. . jim strain in san diego.


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  1. Awesome. Glad to hear it was so good.

    Your dessert sounds like it could have been panna cotta. I've had some interesting panna cotta preparations there. Once, there was an unsweetened one accompanying my lunch.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JS

      Yeah, I was going to say it was very much like a panna cotta, but I've never had it before where it looked like it had been sliced from a loaf. Also the waitress called it something else -- pastisse or something. Whatever it was, it was delish'.

      1. re: Jim Strain

        The "sliced from a loaf" description perfectly matches what I had.

        Might she have said "pastis"? I only ask because that's an anise-flavored liqueur, which sounds like it would match the candied fennel.

        If you make another visit, ask about charcuterie items - they make some tremendous pates. Oh, and you were likely right about the sausage - they make their own in-house.

        I need to get back there soon. It's one of the few restaurants where I don't mind dropping some cash.

        1. re: JS

          Okay, that makes sense. I'm sure you've got it right.
          . . jim strain in san diego.

    2. Thanks for the kind words and im glad you enjoyed my craft. i put my soul into CC, i dont know where it will go next.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jason seibert

        This sounds a bit ominous, Jason! I've been a fan as well, though live pretty far away. Are you planning something new?

      2. Do you happen to have a phone number for Cafe Cerise the weblink is apparently not working?

        1 Reply
        1. re: stook

          Unfortunaltely Cafe Cerise closed about three (?) years ago.