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San Diego - An out of town hound's excursion into Darkest Hillcrest (way too long)

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San Diego - An out of town hound's excursion into Darkest Hillcrest (way too long)

The SummerVillian | Sep 10, 2005 10:40 AM

OK.
So I'm not really expecting much here, you know the general idea: you guys have the lifestyle thing down but us Right coasters (supposedly) have the finess...?
As a Hound complient Bostonian, checked in with the older C.H. reviews here after a touristic and horrific lunch at the Harbor House downtown near where I was staying.
One post by some seemingly knowledgable hound caught my eye mentioning Districto Federal style
Mexican up in Hillcrest,(where we had never been)...
So couple of miles up 5 th and there indeed was
Chilango's
So, its last night (thursday) around ten of nine and we roll up : cute. unpretentious, nice sidewalk seating area... BUT not only are they closed, the grill is cleaned and they are already on their way home! I'm not ammused, but, our bad I guess, we hadn't
called, and they w e r e very friendly and appologetic...
- NB. You hounds ARE going to have to work on this cultural stuff if you are EVER going to win the World Series : ) - So, being cullinerly clueless, in a rapidly darkening restaurant scene, we attempted to cut our losses by asking the fellow (who turns out to be the owner/manager) where in the neighborhood might be good... got one rather unenthusiastic Mexican rec. and then he says "but there i s this place just across the street, its new but (I've heard good things" what kind of food? we ask... "eclectic" ok, so we cross the street on open air bungello like space, in two tiny buildings, maybe a dozen tables,and a pocket cortyard, dark, candle lit
very stylish, very quiet, very romantic, and N o t what we were ready for, we sit
are greated warmly and handed a little scroll with ribbon (ok now, this is looking worse and worse for us, we just wanted some decent Mole for god's sake! But looks like were in for the long haul now.
Menu lists an array of I think four entrees three apps. some salads and deserts,... We go for a marinated pork loin, stuffed proscuitto & gruyere,w/a port demi glase. The meat had an wonderful flavor of shallots (& it turned out brandy,) a fine sauce and lovely soft (leek / cellery root?)like braised veggies with it... like the other dishes, the whole added up to more than the parts, The Gruyere, which when I cook with it overwhelms everything, just melded with the shallots and (it turns out) brandy to make a really good rich dinner,we also had a romaine salad and some crab cakes made with some rare black rice...
Turns out our waiter (& house manager) had the hard opening of this Chef owned place the night before! Its such a pleasant, romantic, candel lit space we can't really imagine the food living up to it - It did : ) TALUS's Owner worked in some high end places in Seattle, studied at cordon blue, and cooks like a madman! -was pretty much a 9.5 of 10. salad was more fine (if tiny) with a homemade aioli/ceaser dresing... and the crab cakes (George's bank seafood eaters here!)well, we were skepticle)for outside of Dungeness Crab, Razor Clams and maybe an occasional Petrale sole we generlly prefer to leave you SO CAL warm water dennizens to stew in your lovely weather... and bland fish... But these were pretty great (if understated)
with a crab flavor nearly as good as just steamed, great texture, and what I thought was a delicate mild ancho chilli tasting sauce (but menu describes as lemon grass/curry) that was just about perfect.
Spoke with Damon (mgr)& Richard (chef/owner at length, they are really dedicated to making this small space work and excell, showed me thier "complete" menu which they have printed but are not yet serving, prefering to get(as Bobby Wier once famously said) everything 'just exactly perfect' Well, don't know about that, but TALUS and its chef may well make a mark on the S.D. landscape... I'll be interested in checking in with this board from back east to see what other hounds experiences are here, they are bound to be pretty favorable.
------------------------------------------------------
Next day lunch found us at Chilango again (much to the amusement of the owner and similarly lovely waitress (who had sent us across the street the 14 hours earlier and who handle the whole front of the house together) Our experience at a simple lunch of their hottest shrimp dish (a good balance) in a cayenne infused sauce, and some basic encheladas with a chile / tomatillo covering were great! four or five outside tables were perfect for a laid back lunch, not big bucks, and really lovely people, again here, who really care about what they are doing and what comes out of their kitchen...
Victor told me amoung his more difficult to execute dishes he is very fond of his chile en nogada -Poblano's roasted with sirloin banana peaches almonds in a walnut sauce, if anyone could pull t h a t baby off he's probably the guy, the folks at the next table ate there every week, the guy a DF native swore by the nopales leaves dish (a little hard core for this gringo, but his smile of being to get the real thing up in el norte, seemed genuine)... oh yeah, so I ask for the check and he brings instead, this huge pretty plate of house made flan floating in a pool of burnt sugar sauce drizzled with bitter chocolate and sweet carmel, AND an appology for our mistake in showing up when they were closed the night before, talk about a class act. I couldn't do romantic upscale dinners at TALUS every week (though they do advertise lunches & weekend brunches) but if i lived here, I'd be back to Chilango's a couple of times a month, just to unearth all the interesting real mexican cuisine burried in their menu.
Thank you SD Hounds so much for your help in making the edible portion of our trip so cool! I hope this post evens our accounts.

The Villian

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