Restaurants & Bars 3

San Diego/La Jolla trip report

Sandra | Feb 21, 2006 01:07 PM

Ok folks, we have returned from our weekend in La Jolla :) Thanks so much for all the recommendations. Hubby was quite impressed that I had ideas for where to eat every meal, PLUS I'd printed maps for every location too.

Thursday night: We were so tired after the 3.5-hr drive that we just crashed so no dining reports for Thursday.

Friday morning: Hyatt at Aventine La Jolla Room service - C+ ($38 for two)

We decided to go the convenient route and have the hotel's room service for breakfast. This was not a great idea. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great and certainly wasn't worth the price.

Cinnamon French toast topped with blueberries, 2-egg combo with rye toast, bacon & potatoes, grapefruit juice.

Presentation was nice and hubby liked his eggs and bacon (the bacon was thick and cooked well but still somewhat soft; I prefer mine crunchy). His potatoes were a bit odd and too soft cooked (we prefer our breakfast potatoes crisp or crunchy rather than moist and soft). There was also half a tomato on his plate with what looked like bread crumbs - guessing it was supposed to be a broiled tomato but the crumbs were barely a pale yellow, much less a crisp golden.
My French toast would have been great... BUT for some reason they put the syrup on it for me. (I have NEVER had this happen... is this normal down there???) So it was completely drowned in syrup, as were the blueberries on top of it. *sigh* It was sweet enough with just the fruit and cinnamony stuff in the bread, it didn't need all that syrup. Also, we'd asked for a side of bacon for me (well done and crunchy), but it didn't come. Service was good and they did remove the charge for the side of bacon without a problem... but it was a disappointing breakfast for me.

Friday snack: Chuao Chocolate, UTC mall - A+ ($26)
Chuao Chocolate Café
University Towne Centre
4465 La Jolla Village Dr. H-09
San Diego, Ca. 92122
Tel: (858) 546-1463

How can you go wrong with chocolate? Fantastic suggestion from the hounds! Service was wonderful. Friendly ladies working there who happily explained about their special Venezuelan chocolate and the many flavors, etc. They gave me a sample of Modena, a "Dark Venezuelan chocolate Bonbon filled with a soft caramel deglazed with strawberry pulp and balsamic vinegar from Modena." It's a caramel, but their caramels are more liquid than what we are used to. I liked it, hubby wasn't crazy about it.

I bought a "tease" - a 9-piece box, with a variety of chocolates. So far I've had the Modena and a GRAN CACAO, "Creamy bittersweet ganache with 73% cocoa chocolate from Venezuela." Really loved the gran cacao - sooo creamy and perfect for a dark chocolate lover.

I also bought a small “bag” of dark chocolate shells and an Earl Grey bar... almost didn't since I prefer dark to milk chocolate, but I love Earl Grey tea so I decided to try it anyway... so glad I did! These people know how to make chocolate and not overpower the cacao flavor with sugar!

Friday lunch: Japengo – A ($60)
8960 University Center Lane
San Diego, 92122 (858) 450-3355

After shopping myself out at UTC I was tired and hungry… Rather than try anything at the mall or drive to downtown La Jolla, I opted to head back to the hotel and walk to Japengo. It was a good decision! Service and food were incredible. The cost was a bit extravagant for me, but it was one of the best meal’s I’d ever eaten!
I had the crispy chicken spring rolls with a Vietnamese sweet & sour dipping sauce. WOW the flavors were just amazing; it was a flavor explosion in my mouth. Absolutely perfect. Then I had the sea bass salad – I expected a salad with chopped sea bass but what I got was a nice chuck of grilled sea bass with a side salad and some fried wontons. I didn’t care for the wontons (too spicy for me – I’m a spice wimp), but the salad and sea bass were great. The bass was incredibly moist and had a sweet teriyaki type sauce drizzled around it. The salad was an interesting mix of greens, shredded carrot, shredded daikon radish, etc. After that I was quite full… but she brought the dessert menu and I just can’t resist bread pudding. They have a “pan-fried” bread pudding with a ginger peach sorbet… sounds like an odd combination but it was nothing less than divine. I must see if I can get the recipe for the bread pudding… Of course I had to have coffee with this rich dessert (I’d just had water with my meal). The tab with tip was $60… I’ve never spent so much on a meal for myself but it was so wonderful it was money well spent!!!

Friday dinner: Azul La Jolla – B ($90)
Ok… we had 6 pm reservations, but hubby and I both had late lunches, so we canceled them and headed to the gym to try to work off a few calories. LOL Anyway, we decided to head out about 8 pm to Azul and see if we could catch dinner. Their dining room was full so we were offered the patio… we took a seat by the fire pit and it was quite lovely until the rain began. We then moved into the bar area, which was VERY noisy, but at least it was warm and dry. Service was just acceptable. Friendly but very slow – I can only guess it would have been better in the dining room.
We had the baked brie appetizer – it was brie with some apricots, candied pecans, water crackers… “Warm Double Crème Brie Cheese Torte
baked brie in puff pastry, dried fruit, candied walnuts
and 25 year balsamic reduction”
Quite tasty though we could have eaten more and felt like it was on the small side for an appetizer (though admittedly we didn’t *need* more food!).
I was still feeling a bit full from my lunch, so I opted to just have a salad. I had the mixed greens/pear salad without the gorgonzola. (One waiter pointed out that was the best part! I admitted he was probably right but my tummy didn’t handle it well.)
“Bartlett Pear and Walnut Salad
with Gorgonzola cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette”
The salad was fantastic despite the lack of gorgonzola. It had a yummy berry vinaigrette drizzled in a ring around the plate…Amazing to find a restaurant who knows that a SMALL amount of dressing works just fine!
Hubby had… oh dear I’ve forgotten exactly and it’s not on their website… I believe it was a seared ahi tuna… It was cooked on the outer edges but rare in the center… He loved it and said it was quite possibly the best fish he’s ever eaten.
For dessert we had a chocolate hazelnut mouse bomb and a trio of brulees (vanilla, banana, and chocolate), again with coffee. The bomb was incredibly rich… Good but so rich I couldn’t eat much of it. The brulees were nice and light, with good flavor though on the vanilla I thought I could taste something burnt… like the torching may have been a bit overdone. The banana was my favorite, and the chocolate was a perfect chocolate dessert – not too rich but great flavor. And they had wonderful coffee.

Saturday breakfast: Mission Coffee Cup – A+++ ($27)
1109 Wall St, La Jolla, 92037 - (858) 454-2819

Amazing service, perfect food, great value!!! This was without a doubt the hound-find of the weekend!

I had the cinnamon French toast with a blueberry (syrup? compote? Can’t recall how it was worded on the menu) and bacon. Hubby had banana-blueberry pancakes with bacon, which I promptly stole because it was PERFECT! (Thick and crunchy!). He then ordered some of their sage sausage which was out of this world! His pancakes were delicious, my French toast was PERFECT. The blueberry “syrup” was swirled along the sides of the plate – presentation I didn’t expect from a little diner! Very pretty, very tasty, and just the right amount of sweetness (no drowning my food like the Hyatt room service!). They also had excellent coffee – best we had the whole trip. We had to wait about 10, 15 minutes to be seated, it was about 8:30 am when we arrived. Service was as good as the food – best we had of both on this trip!

Saturday snack: Sea World bakery – A+

This may be silly but I thought I’d mention it anyway. We weren’t all that hungry though we’d planned to have lunch at Sea World… we finished viewing the park more quickly than we’d expected so we just wanted a little snack for the moment. Heading out of the park there is a bakery right inside of the exit. We popped in and they have my favorite bakery item of all time – the chocolate croissant. Got that and a cup of coffee, and had great service as well. We’d entered before another customer (by 20 seconds or so) but she helped him first – wasn’t a big deal as he knew what he wanted and hubby was still deciding… But she gave us a 10% discount for waiting! And it was a fantastic croissant – flakey and soft with some yummy semi-sweet chocolate inside.

Saturday snack: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – A
Again how can you go wrong with chocolate? LOL I had a dark chocolate “bear” their version of the traditional turtle (pecans, caramel, chocolate) and hubby had a dark chocolate caramel. Yummy, sweet, chocolaty treats, friendly service.

Saturday dinner: Japengo – A ($90)
I’d talked so much about my meal that hubby wanted to go. So we headed back to the hotel after Sea World & shopping and went to Japengo for dinner. We didn’t have reservations which meant the bar or sushi bar for us – that was ok because hubby wanted to eat sushi so we sat at the sushi bar. We had no waiting, but it was early (about 5:30).

We again had the crispy chicken spring rolls… Hubby loved them as much as I did; they were just as wonderful the second time around for me :) The sushi chef was very nice and understanding of my dislike of raw foods… He suggested I try the shrimp tempura roll… I did, and didn’t like it. But hubby did! It was shrimp tempura with crab, cucumber, and avocado wrapped in rice. It was the crab I didn’t like… I’m pretty limited as to what seafood I will eat and like… Anyway, hubby had the sushi “bucket” which included seared ahi, tuna sashimi, salmon, salmon roux… and one other item. He also later ordered some unagi and onago (Not sure if I’m remembering that correctly… fresh and salt water eels). He loved everything he ate and wished he had room for more! I had a mixed green salad which was interesting… it had an odd dressing that was a little sour, but still pleasant and enjoyable.
For dessert I couldn’t resist the bread pudding again, and hubby ordered the chocolate bilini with mango cream sauce and mango sorbet. All was quite yummy! The bilini were slightly crisp but also soft… a little too sweet but they went nicely with the mango cream.

Service was fantastic, our sushi chef was Odie and our waitress was Dalika? Or something like that… She had a bit of an accent and it wasn’t quiet in there, so I didn’t quite catch her name. They were great and we are looking forward to visiting Japengo then next time we are in SD.

Sunday: Well we had our massages Sunday morning so for our first “meal” we just had protein bars after our workouts. 80-minute massages at The Sporting Club by Ruth and Patrick were wonderful, then we packed up and headed off to a much-anticipated brunch at Loew’s Coronado Bay Resort.

The Market Café at Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa – D
4000 Coronado Bay Road,
Coronado, CA 92118
phone: 619.424.4000 for reservations
fax: 619.424.4400

This was the disappointment of the weekend. The first problem was my own fault – it didn’t occur to me that I should have made a reservation. So we had to wait an hour. That wasn’t too much of a problem – we bought a coffee and muffins and sat on the patio for a while, walked around, then sat and lounged in a sun room while reading the comics. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful location.

We checked back in at 1 pm and were seated right away. The lady at the hostess podium was quite nice and the young man who took us to our table was friendly and said our server would be right with us to take our drink order. But then suddenly we were pariahs… Servers walked by, got more champagne and water and coffee for the tables next to us, in front of us, behind us. They walked by again, and again. After over 5 minutes, hubby and I wondered what was going on. I shrugged and he sent me on my way to the buffet while he waited to give our drink request. I took my time and wandered about looking at the options, then decided on a pancake, bacon, and fruit for starters. When I returned to my seat I was shocked to find that STILL no one had asked what we wanted to drink. Empty champagne and water glasses stood on our table, while the neighboring tables were full of beverages and food. I was ticked, to put it very nicely. I sent him to the buffet and determined to catch the next waiter walking by… And the man look SHOCKED to notice me, and as if I had a lot of nerve to ask for something to drink! I said we’d like water and champagne and he said he was empty so he’d be back shortly. Before he returned the person who was apparently our waitress finally showed up (literally over 10 minutes after we’d been seated). She was nice and bubbly and did not understand at all what my problem was even AFTER I explained we’d been sitting there for over 10 minutes in the sun without anything to drink. (The patio and sun would have not been a problem at all if we’d had some water!)

Anyway, it went downhill from there… the eggs benedict looked about a week old and was rubbery, the pineapple was sour, the crepe guy literally DROWNED my beautiful light crepe with strawberries in some horrible apricot syrup, the bacon was too soft (for me… hubby liked it), the champagne was too tart… Ugh. It was a terrible experience and very much not worth the $80 or $90 we spent. The view was lovely, and hubby did have a nice omelet. That’s all the good we can say about this place, and would have given it an “F” if not for those two saving graces.

After the brunch fiasco we headed to Balboa Park to visit the Fleet Science Museum and watch the new Greece IMAX film. That turned the day around – the movie was great. Hubby was simply STARVING after that so we headed back to the car and thankfully I had a map to show that Brian’s American Eatery was close by!

Sunday dinner: Brian’s American Eatery – A- ($30)
Great service here, good food (my burger was a bit more charred than I would have liked), good value. We had western burgers, fries, and a strawberry shake. That was the best strawberry shake we’d ever had, the burgers and fries were standard fare – good and reliable – we should have just split one as it was too much food! The waiter was fantastic and we had a full pitcher of water and a carafe of coffee.

Overall we had so many good dining experiences this weekend, hubby was pleased! Thanks again to you all for the input and please call on me if you are ever in my neck of the woods (i.e., middle of no where Antelope Valley/Lancaster/Palmdale).

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