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May 4, 2014 05:30 PM

Sea 180 Coastal Tavern

So if ya'll can get past that this is a dreaded Cohn Group restaurant, I'll tell you about the lunch I had there today.

First of all, the location is just about perfect. The build out on the restaurant probably falls into the casually elegant genre. Neutral colors, distress or faux sun bleached woods, sophisticated seaside/nautical decor; ocean view from nearly ever table inside. Outside is a large patio with well spaced tables, a fire pit, and, oh yeah, it's literally right on the sand. Best ocean view dining. View and ocean definitely rival the Marine Room in La Jolla. Being only about 3 miles north of the border, it definitely had a Baja or Mexican playa vibe to it.

We each had a cocktail, Campari and soda for my friend and a Pisco Playa for me. My cocktail was a combination of pisco, mango, orange and pineapple juices, house-made sweet & sour, egg white and orange other words a cousin to a pisco sour. It was a nice cocktail but got a little muddled about have way through. But, if you like pisco sours, this would be a nice variant.

We ended up splitting 4 appetizers.

Baja Stone Crab Potstickers with burnt orange sauce and swiss chard. We both liked this dish, although I was probably a little more enthusiastic about it than my friend. Didn't taste much of the burnt orange sauce, but along with some ginger in the dish, it did enhance the swiss chard, which was (thankfully) not over cooked. $12.95, I think there were 4 potstickers on the plate. I would definitely order this again

Green Olive Pistou Calamari with shell beans and zucchini noodles. We both liked this dish, although my friend was more enthusiastic about it than I was. The claim to fame with this dish is that the calamari is sauteed rather than fried. I am not a big fan of zucchini, but I really liked their noodle rendition. The calamari was tender, rings and tentacles, but a tad fishy for me. For me it also needed a couple shakes from the salt shaker. My dining companion, who adores seafood, didn't need salt, nor did she think it was a little on the fishy side. $10.95, portion is generous, easily enough for 2. While I didn't like it well enough to order it again, if it came to the table, I wouldn't pass on it either ;-)

Gingered Pulled Pork Empanadas with Mango & Black Bean Salsa. 3 to a order, they came with a drizzle of lemony crema over the top. We both liked these a lot. The empanada dough had baked up tender and flaky, the pulled pork was flavorful and the mango and black bean salsa a very good accompaniment. $12.95, would definitely order this again, with a small side salad it would make a nice meal

Duck Carnitas Quesadilla with caramalized onions, pineapple salsa, aged goat cheese in a corn tortilla. The kitchen had changed it up a bit today and instead of goat cheese, it was a mixture of asiago and parmesan. The quesadillas arrive in a large, shallow bowl with a nice mound of lightly salted arugula along side. The arugula was not dressed, but the juices that inevitably drip out from the quesadilla mingled nicely with the arugula creating a pretty tasty little side salad. The duck quesadillas themselves were delicious. My only quibble with them is that as good as commercial corn tortillas can be, this dish would have been over the top good had the kitchen made the tortillas in house. $15.95 for 3 duck quesadillas and the arugula that came with it. This is a substantial dish and can easily be shared. I would definitely order this one again.

We had one dessert...okay, I was the one who had dessert...Frozen Meyer Lemon Mousse with Huckleberry Jam, Pepita Brittle and a fried truffle made from white chocolate with hints of lemon. The lemon mousse was wonderfully cool and creamy, the huckleberry jam a nice contrast and the pepita brittle a nice bit of crunch. The fried truffle, however, missed the mark. The truffle itself tasted pretty good, especially if you like white chocolate, but it was coated in panko and fried and that part didn't work for me. $8.95 and, yes, I would order this dessert again in a heartbeat.

The space is relaxing, conversation easy (as in it's not too noisy) and service friendly, attentive and not too intrusive. Parking sucks, so really, the only option is to valet park. The restaurant validates which reduces the cost to $3. I was surprised by how much I really liked this place. If I didn't live so far away I would probably go much more frequently.

2 cocktails, 4 dishes, 1 dessert and 2 coffees came to $100 including tax and tip. I consider my $50 share well spent...

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    1. DD, how full was the restaurant? While I like IB, it always seems kinda a PIA to get into and just out of the way, and I was wondering if it was getting local support or was it people staying at the hotel. I suppose if anyone could make it work, it would be the Cohn group. Chandlers up in No. County is nice, but my S.O. and I just seem to drive by it and we usually end up eating in downtown Carlsbad. It also never seems that full, never really that many people out on the patio.

      4 Replies
      1. re: littlestevie

        Sunday was a nice day, the patio was full. The dining room was probably 1/2-2/3 full the whole time we were there.The bar is small, but all seats were taken. We arrived at 1 pm and the inside dining room was more than half full. By the time we left at 4 pm, not so much.

        I think it's a mix of locals and hotel guests. I was curious about the place + the friend I was meeting lives in Chula Vista, so it kind of seemed like a doable choice. IB is easy enough to get into on Palm, it's 3-lanes in each direction. As with most beach communities, parking around the hotel is almost non-existent, forcing you to use valet parking whether you want to or not.

        I do think this is a great location for a "staycation". The hotel is all suites and we were told they all have ocean views. They are pricey to be sure, and that price will go strataspheric from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But it is literally right on the sand, a block to the pier and there are enough little shops within walking distance to occupy a few hours.

        The issue with me for CRG places is that they start out strong and then over time degenerate into mediocre. At this point in time Sea 180* is not mediocre, it's actually pretty decent, but can they sustain that level of food and service over time.

        1. re: DiningDiva

          Thanks, I am always curious to see how hotel restaurants are doing. For me, coming from north county, IB seems such a trek, but I guess Chula Vista really is not far at all. I was also wondering how the Cohn's would do in a hotel setting, then I remembered 333 up in Oceanside, and they do pack them there with a mix of locals and guests.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            We have been twice during Happy Hour (which I think starts at 3pm, 7 days a week). Really good deals on food and the bar and patio were jammed.

            1. re: foodiechick

              I bet they were! They do have some pretty good HH deals, not to mention their location is hard to beat. A new Happy Hour speical I haven't seen before, but I thought it was awfully nice was Military Monday

              Military Monday - 18% off food and non-alcoholic beverages with military ID

              Tuesday Date Night - 3 shared plated + a bottle of wine for $39/couple (that's deal!)

              Wine & Waves Wednesday - $5 glasses of select wine paired with sound waves of live music on the terrace

              Thirsty Thursday - $5 infused cocktails featuring seasonal in house spirits

              Yeah...I tossed the HH card that came with the check in my purse ;-). I'd never remember all that stuff without it

        2. A friend and I went shortly after they opened. In fact, they were still finishing construction on the hotel and restaurant patio. We both liked the duck quesadillas. The potstickers were just okay. My friend had the steak sandwich - good but messy. I had the seafood potpie, which was decent. Nice hunks of seafood and the portion was perfect. Crust could have used a tad more seasoning, but all in all, a good meal. Considering they'd only been open a very short time, I was impressed. I was even more impressed with the quality of service, an area many new places seem to struggle with.