Okay, so fine dining in San Diego with only a few exceptions is probably an oxymoron, but does it exist at all in the East County?
I took my mother and aunt to brunch at Terra this past Sunday. During the meal they were lamenting the fact that the East County had nothing comparable. I don't know that I would consider Terra fine dining. It's more on the casual end of upscale for me, but the room is nice, the food usually very good and the service attentive. We tried to think of any restaurants in the East County that were upscale or could be considered fine dining. We couldn't think of one.
The best my mother and aunt could do was the Brigantine on Mt. Helix. But, good grief, this is a chain. And while this particular location does a nice job on food and service, it isn't my idea of fine or upscale dining.
So is there any place in the East County that could be truly classified as a fine dining experience? By fine dining I mean -- a dining experience where the food, service and ambience are all outstanding, i.e. - great raw ingredients, prepared so that the best qualities of each ingredient shines, where taste, texture, flavor and visual appeal all mesh, where the intent of the kitchen is clear and defined, where the wine list has interesting choices to complement the food served, where the service is polished and effective, and where it is all enhanced by physical surroundings that create a mood and ambience that fits with the food and goals of the restaurant.
East County is full of chains, lots and lots of chains. Some of them execute their objectives well, many don't. East County has lots and lots of small hole-in-the-walls and taqueria upon taqueria. Some of these are pretty darn good, some of them mediocre at best, hardly any of them truly poor. But where is the East County restaurant (or restaurants) that can knock your socks off? My contention is that there isn't one. I'd sincerely like someone to prove me wrong :-))
(I define East County as being from about Mission Gorge Rd. East to Alpine and including places like Santee, Spring Valley, La Mesa, El Cajon, etc.)