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


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

Jim Strain | Apr 16, 2006 06:30 PM

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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