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La Jolla report -- Tapenade rocks

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La Jolla report -- Tapenade rocks

Mr Grub | Apr 10, 2001 03:34 PM

Spent a couple of days in La Jolla recently prowling galleries & chowing. Started at Top of the Cove (on rec of friends) w/ drink overlooking the sea. Tried ceviche & it was so disappointing--no, bad--that we changed our mind about dining there. For $9(!) we were served fish-flavored salsa & about 10 chips. I don't think there was more than 1/4 oz of fish in the dish. Went to nearby George's for dinner instead. Their ceviche was excellent & chock full of properly mellowed & tender whitefish. Dinner was very good, but not really special enough to warrant the cost (not as much as Top would have been, but still $25-30 entrees.) Pretty decent gnocchi & tasty halibut special. Both Top & George are on Prospect.

Lunch at La Taverna (on Silverado near Fay). This tiny sorta self-service trattoria is a keeper. For quick & excellent panino, splendid pasta, and crisp salad at reasonable prices, this can't be beat. Very small, very crowded, closes early, so lunch is best bet.

Dinner at Tapenade (on Fay across from Vons). The Grubster does not rave, except sometimes. This is a RAVE. At $58, Tapenade's tasting menu seems a bit pricey, but after eating through it, it is certainly one of the great bargains on the Left Coast. Chef Jean-Michel Diot does not miss a beat here. This is not a two-bite tasting menu scam. Every course was roughly a normal portion. Opening with a duck foie gras pate w/ fig mousse, moving through a lobster (with large claw pieces) salad featuring eggplant caviar & winter greens, two sizable scallops with grilled artichoke hearts, two small perfectly red lamb chops served with dried-fruit polenta, and finishing with a rolled pumpkin pastry & pistachio sorbet on dried fruit (a Gallic spumoni), this is a meal, every element of which hit the mark, worth the drive from LA.

Mme Grub feasted on monkfish medallions on a pancetta-wrapped potato galette. Both elements were wonderful, but the red wine reduction sauce was a bit intense for the ethereal flavor of the lotte.

The wine list is short & carefully selected--expensive, but not infuriatingly so. Enjoyed a nice $32 St. Emilion.

Negatives are minor -- an amazingly inept hostess & early closing (kitchen actually closed at 8 on Fri nite!) Fortunately, for us & them, we returned on Sat. Amazing tastes & textures, excellent friendly & attentive service, lovely modern room all make dining at this 3-yr-old restaurant a truly memorable experience.

Breakfast at Mission Coffee Cup Cafe (Wall & Herschel). Only steps from tourist-land, this joint is full of locals. Excellent coffee -- cappucino & regular, large portions of interesting scrapples, super French toast (Mr Grub is a Francophile even at bkfst.) Small, but worth the wait.

In sum: Top of the Cove -- NO
George's -- maybe, if sunset is spectacular
Tapenade -- YES, YES, YES

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