My S.O. and I were recently in San Diego County visiting family over the holidays and got pretty lucky in the restaurants we visited.
Miltons Delicatessen Grill (2660 Via De La Valle, Del Mar (858) 792-2225) We went here on Christmas Day partially because not that many places are open on Christmas Day and partially because my family likes good deli. Service was a bit sketchy, but quite forgivable with the crowds there on the holiday. We had to request a plate of pickles, but they were definitely worth it quite excellent, fresh, tasty and crunchy (do they make their own pickles? I should have asked). I could have made a small meal of those alone. Pastrami Reuben (ordered by my S.O.) was excellent, piled high with great quality pastrami, rather than a shorter stack of meat and the rest filled in with sauerkraut. It was clear they just piled the sauerkraut on right on top of a full stack of pastrami. In contrast, the Monte Cristo I ordered was mediocre. Filling of meat and cheese was generous, and the batter tasty, but it was served nearly cool, to the point that I sent it back. The sandwich was served in 3 triangular pieces and they didnt even replace the one Id started eating before sending it back, but obviously just put it in the microwave and re-served the same plate (albeit with more powdered sugar on top of it). It was a bit strange to me, but so it goes. It was tasty, but not really a winner between being cold originally and then mushy from microwaving. Side order of fries was big enough for the whole table to share (and we did there were 5 of us), but suffered from the same problem as my sandwich would have been great if it was served piping hot, but instead came out luke warm at best. Overall Id give it a B+. (But Id certainly go back and try it again on a non-holiday to see if that improved things my dad said that hed never had a less than outstanding sandwich there, including the Monte Cristo.)
Kings Fish House (5625 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008 Tel. 760-431-FISH) Again, dining with family, this time including my grandmother as well as parents and S.O. We were here for a Sunday afternoon lunch and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Apparently this restaurant is part of a smallish chain (7 locations website at http://www.kingsfishhouse.com/loc.html) which I didnt realize when we were dining there. We went on the recommendation of a family friend and were certainly not disappointed. This was one of my best dining experiences ever, bar none. Service was friendly and attentive; the manager came over at one point to check on us and make sure we had everything we wanted as well as our regular server. They print new menus twice daily, so the daily specials are a great bet. Their complimentary half-loaves of bread were fantastic (we asked, San Francisco sourdough thats twice-baked so hot and crusty when served). On our servers suggestion we had the grilled artichoke appetizer and it was just divine. Buttery and tender enough to eat without any sauce and enjoy immensely (sautéed/grilled with some sort of tasty dressing on it) and accompanied by an equally tasty basil-garlic mayonnaise sauce. The sauce was great on the aforementioned bread as well. Meal wise table orders included grilled thresher shark (my order, flavorful if served the tiniest bit drier/more well done than I would have preferred), yellowfin tuna (served with a quick-seared exterior and rolled in sesame seeds and sliced sashimi style, accompanied by rice, ginger and wasabi), Mexican white shrimp (sautéed in butter, extremely tasty) and Alaskan halibut with a macadamia nut crust (this was the winner of the meal lovely big portion of fish, cooked exquisitely delicately flaky and amazingly flavorful). All of us had ordered salads with our meals and my mom raved over the honey mustard dressing to the point that we asked if they made it in house (they do, and they provided us the recipe!). I was curious about their clam chowder so we ordered a cup to share among the table also excellent, chock full of clams and a thick, tasty chowder base. Id have a big bowl of that for a meal and be (pardon the pun) happy as a clam. We also shared two desserts, crème brulee and key lime pie accompanied by fresh made whip cream. Both were delicious and the perfect end to the meal. The key lime pie was tart and light, the whip cream was wonderful. The crème brulee was great as well, nice crunchy caramelized sugar on top and a light, creamy custard. They also have a fairly complete wine list, though my family doesnt drink much, so we didnt order any alcoholic drinks. I would return here in half a heartbeat, I cant recommend it highly enough. A++
Indigo Grill (1536 India St., San Diego, CA 92101 619-234-6802)
***Disclaimer: Ate here at the invitation of a friend who is pastry chef (and I think possibly a partner) at this restaurant, so you may consider the review biased.
I dined here with my S.O. and a friend of ours who met up with us to go to lunch. At our friends suggestion we started out with the pumpkin and sesame crusted brie appetizer which was utterly scrumptious (I highly recommend it if you get a chance to dine here). This was a nice sized wedge of brie rolled in pumpkin and sesame seeds and then baked so the cheese is just gooey and amazingly good when you break through the crust. Its accompanied by a grilled tortilla (which has Indigo Grill stamped on it cute huh?), and scallion flatbread (yummy, could eat that by itself happily). Several sauces also came with that, including a mole negro, some sort of pumpkin spread and serrano jelly as well as a honey-roasted head of garlic. There were also a few slices of roasted cactus (which Id never tried before, very vegetative/herbally tasting to me). There were so many flavors going on here, especially in combination that I dont know what to go into, but I have to say the serrano jelly was the best for me (besides the cheese itself), sweet and tasty to start with and then developing a great heat in the mouth, that mounted the more you ate. Main dish wise we tried the nut-crusted buffalo burger and the Paul and Terrys Red Chile Pork Empanada. The burgers were huge and very tasty (one of my favorite hamburgers of all time I think), accompanied by grilled red onion, a cheese filled poblano chile and spicy black beans. The grilled, cheese-filled chile was tasty, though our friend who doesnt like spicy food gave his to me (yay). The empanada was quite good, but a little too sweet for my taste. It was served with the spicy black beans as well, so by combining the beans and the empanada I found a nice balance. For dessert (again on our friends suggestion) we had chocolate cajeta vulcan (I think), which was an amazingly rich, fluffy, chocolaty concoction, sort of like the flourless cakes that are so popular. It was served warm in a small cast iron skillet and had a gooey liquid chocolate center, topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Although we were full by the time we hit dessert, the three of us still devoured every bite of the dessert. The interior of the space is open and decorated attractively with themes that match the menu (a blend of Oaxacan Mexican food, southwestern and northwestern regional specialties). Service here was very friendly and engaging, and the head chef came out to chat with us briefly and see how things were (but that may have been because we were friends of her partner). We had a great experience here and would recommend the restaurant to friends. A
Last year when we were down in this area for the holidays we went to a Brazilian style churascurria in Oceanside. I since heard that it had a fire and closed, but may have re-opened recently. Any word on it? (I seem to remember the name as Samba, but not totally sure.)
Best wishes for wonderful dining in the New Year!!