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Region report, Hillcrest, San Diego, lengthy

rotochicken | Aug 14, 200507:06 AM

Well, we went to Region on the one year anniversary of our first visit. Went last year on my date's Bday due to the recs on this board and have been back probably 20 times since. We can neither afford nor resist it, sadly and ecstatically, respectively.
Clearly, Region is our favorite place. You might find a better meal on any given night, but there is no chance that any place in SD can deliver roughly 20 meals over the course of a year that rival the diversity and quality of Region.
Ok, on to the food. We were celebrating, remember, so we ordered at whim. Date ordered a fresh fruit drink (non-alcoholic) from the bar. She received a fantasticly sweet melon, strawberry, something else concoction. I ordered a glass of El Coto rose for 6.50. A lovely, dry fruity summer wine (I have never, never had a dud wine at Region. Scotty has a great list, a great policy, and great prices). For the first course date ordered the soft shell crab (listed online as very limited so we arrived at 5:30 - opening time - to ensure a crab) for 13.50. All I can say about the crab is holy s#$%. We have had the crab as an entree and it was great. It was better today. Unbelievable. It has the unavoidable slightly plastic-y shell, but the meaty parts - holy smokes. It literally, literally dissolves in your mouth with a huge burst of crabness. It is served with lemon (not sure why) and arugula dressed with a basic vinagrette. The best part about this dish (okay, second best part) was the brilliant arugula. While eating the crab it is inevitable that crab juices escape onto the plate. So once the crab is gone, mushing the arugula around in the crab juices makes what is quite possible the Best Dressing Ever for arugula. They could sell an arugula salad with crab juice as a starter and I would buy it. Okay, on to the other first course - grilled octopus ($9). This is a relatively common antipasti. And almost always mind-blowingly good. Today, tremendous. Perfectly grilled and a very generous pile of it. Slight, smoky mesquite flavor, perfect texture - not in ANY way tough or chewy. Just perfect in flavor, texture, seasoning (a perfect lemon slice served alongside), and flavor. The rose worked well with both the crab, arugula, and octopus.
Okay, on to the entrees. Date ordered the duck confit. I wanted to order the duck confit or the scallops, but my date had the scallops earlier this week (and loved them) and I just wanted to try something new. I ordered the odd 'grilled beef roast'. I'll start with the beef (about $20). It is a chuck cut grilled to medium rare. I expected it to be tough, but cut against the grain it was not. It was VERY beefy. If you love beef, you'll love this. Served with cranberry beans, which I had never had before, and an aged balsamic (10 year). Sounds simple, sounds easy. But the genius on Region is the simple-easy is transformationally great. The depth of the balsamic and the ever-so-slight sweetness of the perfect beans elevated these three ingredients. Really, really good. I had a glass of Esca bordeaux blend ($9.50?). I had this with the lamb last week and loved it. This is a great wine (bottle was less than $40 - could not rec more highly - if anybody knows where this is available please post). Deep cherry and sweet nose. Works superbly with the lamb and the beef (perfect with the lamb). The sweetness of the beans and balsamic killed the sweetness of the wine - which was great because it brought out the aromatics in a truly ethereal way.
Second entree - duck confit (about $21). There is not much to say about the duck confit. Okay, that is a complete lie. If you ever see duck confit on the menu at Region you should move Heaven and Earth to eat some. If God makes fried chicken it tastes like this (I mean that as a compliment). Without question the best duck confit to pass my lips. My date literally got chills. Unbelievable. Served with a corn and lima bean ragu. If Region had a motto it might be "the best lima bean you've ever had" (the implication being if a lima bean makes you swoon, think about what the duck can be). The corn is as corn should be (another likely Region motto - food as it should be, but better). Reminds me of the corn I used to eat from the cornfield visible from my bedroom window in Minnesota, cut immediately before eating. So sweet and creamy you can barely believe it and wonder what crimes grocers committ to sell the fibrous wilted junk you see all summer. And the lima beans were, of course, perfect. Without any doubt one of the best entrees either of us have ever had anywhere.
On to the side dishes. We ordered pan fried fingerling potatoes and green bean casserole. We asked if the taters could be fried up in some of the duck fat from the confit, which they were. Taters were really good, though better with a little sea salt (I am a salt freak - date loved them as is). Green bean casserole was a generous bowl of huge beans with finely chopped bacon and parmesan. Very, very tasty. Both side dishes about $5-6.
Dessert. We ordered two desserts and a glass of Vialla Giado (?) Moscato d'Asti (about $7). Choc. arborio rice pudding (about $7). This was okay. If you had it in a roadside diner in Peoria you'd be thrilled. Here, disappointing (especially as the most expensive dessert). Caveat- I like chocolate, I don't LOVE it. As far as I know the chocofreaks might love it. I thought it was the worst dish, by far, I have ever had at Region (and it was pretty good). Date had a fig tart (about $6). Whoa, one of the best desserts Region has ever had, and, IMO the best post-Jack dessert. Appeared as a slice from a 10-12 inch tart pan. Half inch crust that was absolutely dead-perfect, sort of short-bready, buttery and no hint of brittle-toughness. Just a great, great crust - especially at that thickness. A true culinary feat. Crust painted with a fig (maybe with quince) paste and topped with fresh figs. The figs were clouds of figness, just airy, light flavor clouds. Absolutely delicious. I have had the good fortune to eat figs warmed by the sun and taken from the tree, washed and eaten within a minute or so. These were as good. I cannot emphasize enough how great the crust was or how figgy the figs were. A pantheon dish, quite possibly the best $6 I have ever spent.
Total bill, $124 before tip for 2 starters, 2 entrees, 2 side dishes, 2 desserts, 3 glasses of wine, and a fresh fruit drink. An absolute bargain.
As a side note, I do not rec the Trust the Chef option. Sounds great, but most nights there are things that are very good and things that are fantastic. Tonight we observed a neighboring table order trust the shef and not get the crab or the octopus or the confit. We didn't see what they got for dessert, but if they didn't get the fig tart....

In any case, please forgive my verbosity, but when they have the right menu Region is beyond belief good.

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