Thank you George Washington! Until late last week, I'd forgotten that Monday would be a holiday. Alas, the wettest rainstorm of the season arrived the same day, so naturally Di and I thought the sensible thing to do would be to drive from La Mesa to downtown in the midst of the storm to get some lunch. On the way in, we had to pick our way around three accidents on the 94, each with at least one SUV on its side like a dairy cow on the first day of deer season.
The last block was covered on foot, beneath a too-small umbrella, but we finally burst through the mahogany and glass front door of Dobson's Bar & Restaurant on Broadway Circle. We were met by the proprietor, Paul Dobson, who thanked us profusely for braving the elements to eat at his place, and escorted us to a table in the mezzanine dining room. Perhaps it's because Dobson himself was once a torero and still has some bullfight-themed art on the walls, but I always want to describe Dobson's using the title of the Hemingway story: A clean, well-lighted place. The room is old, and the crown molding at the edge of the ceiling could use some fresh paint, but there's a familiarity and coziness about the place that isn't all that common in San Diego. Despite the fact that it was a holiday and raining, over half of the tables were occupied.
While looking at the menu, we ordered a bottle of wine, and a generous slab of sourdough bread soon appeared on each of our plates. Since we were in no hurry, we decided to share an order of mussels. These are billed as "Mediterranean mussels in coconut curry broth," but the flavors are a lot more complex than that description might imply. The shellfish are smaller than the Carlsbad or big green-lip varieties that are most commonly seen here, but they were very tender, and absolutely delicious. The broth was laced with onions, garlic, and sliced chiles (serrano, I think). It had an unabashed bite to it, but neither of us thought it was too much. We used the last of our bread to sop up more of the broth.
I have to disclose that many years ago, the very first time I tried Dobson's signature Mussel Bisque en croute, was the first time I ever had a mussel dish that I really LIKED. Since then, I've become a fan of the black-shelled critters, but I still think that it's only in recent years that good ones have become widely available in San Diego, and a good number of our chefs seem to know how to cook them. If we hadn't had them as an appetizer, I would surely have ordered some of that bisque.
For our entrees, Di had the veal sweetbreads. She almost ALWAYS has the sweetbreads, and I can't really say I blame her. Dobson's sweetbreads are served in bite-size pieces, crispy on the outside, with a tender and meaty interior and tossed with a slightly smoky, fig-based sauce.
I had the sea bass, which was panko crusted and had the shape and size of a great big crab cake. The crust was nice and crunchy, and somehow the fish inside the crust was perfectly cooked -- exactly en punto, not even close to being overdone.
Both entrees were served with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes, and a little pile of what I think was spaghetti squash, and which seemed to serve the same purpose as a sprig of parsley, but not as pretty. Maybe every meal has to have one little low note to enable you to appreciate the highs. It was a great lunch, and Paul Dobson, as always, was the perfect host. My only problem with him is that he's such a terrific-looking and charming man, the contrast with yrs truly is too sharp for comfort.
Dobson's is located at 956 Broadway Circle (just around the corner from the Spreckles Theater). Lunch M-F, Dinner Mon-Sat (dark on Sunday).
. . jim strain in san diego.