My wife and I are extremely selective where we dine out . . whether it be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. And trust me we have made some wrong choices on occasions. More than a few upscale restaurants think you just turn up for their expensive dishes and forget about making you feel special. NOT SO HERE ! We had the good fortune a few weeks ago to enjoy a sensational lunch here . . on spec after a tip from our dentist around the corner. IT WAS THAT GOOD !
We were so impressed with the food, service and vibe that we made it a priority to have dinner here asap. AND WE DID ! I made a reservation for 6pm on Saturday ( live music ) and I asked for a table inside. I found out they have a small private parking lot at the side . . maybe for 10 cars and the street parking meters are turned off at 6pm. HANDY TO KNOW ! We arrived in the area around 5.40pm and a drive by confirmed their parking lot was full. We headed around the corner and found a vacant metered street parking spot. Not worth the risk for just 16 minutes til 6 pm so we fed the parking meter. After a short walk we arrived at the front entrance to be greeted by Tara the smiling hostess.
And indeed they did a have a lovely table reserved for us towards the rear of the restaurant where the light was very subdued. Not ideal for this mega photo snapper of food etc. I suggested we would be happy where we sat on our previous visit . . a counter top table near the entrance with a street view . . and good light for my pics. DONE DEAL ! Varo the owner gave us a big smile and a warm welcome. Trust me this guy is the real deal . . he loves his staff and his customers !
Within seconds a courteous young server / bartender named Christian popped over to help us. Some iced waters . . some of that sensational complimentary fresh baked artisan bread & tapenade ( it’s the ants pants ) would be nice thank you. In my previous review I made a slightly negative comment about the craft beer list. IT HAS IMPROVED GREATLY ! I am very partial to high quality Belgian beers and it so happens they now serve Duvel “Single” Golden Ale abv 6.8% on tap. YES PLEASE !
And before I could whistle dixie Christian came back with my ice cold beer in a colorful Duvel glass. And then out came some fabulous warm artisan bread and tapenade ( killer good ). Being our first dinner visit we had no idea what to expect . . for a start it was very busy. The sidewalk patio was completely chockers and the rest of the restaurant inside was pretty packed out. GREAT SIGN ! Oh and my Belgian Golden Ale tasted fabulous . . all the better in the pretty glass. We eyed the dinner menu which was similar to the lunch menu . . my wife knew what she wanted and I had decided what I wanted. And a very personable server / bartender named Amanda hit us with her lights out smile and offered to take our dinner order.
HOW LOVELY ! You know we had only been here 5 minutes and already we felt special. It was so hard not to keep eating the delicious warm artisan bread & tapenade. We ordered 1 x DUNGENESS LUMP CRAB CAKE ( served with home-made remoulade ) for our starter, 1 x BOEUF BOURGUIGNON ( 18 hour braised beef short ribs, cremini mushrooms, carrots, cippolini onions, buttered noodles ) . . Amanda suggested to my wife to switch out the noodles for pancetta mashed potatoes.
And I ordered the PETITE FILET MEDALLIONS ( Filet medallions, pancetta mashed potatoes, green beans, mushroom ragu sauce ). I requested medium rare. Our Dungeness Lump Crab Cake came out and tasted extraordinary . . no cheap fish filler here. THE BAND ! Wow what a good spot we chose to enjoy our evening . . a 3 piece band was setting up within 20 feet. LOVE IT ! We couldn’t remember the last time we have dined out with live music.
Our entrees arrived together courtesy of a food runner . . beautifully plated ! My wife ( who loves braised short ribs, mushrooms and my great home made mashed potatoes ) was in raptures enjoying her meal . . THE BEST BRAISED SHORT RIB EVER. I tasted it and it was kick ass ! Of course my Petite Filet Medallions was no slouch in the taste department . . perfectly cooked medium rare and as we both agreed . . delicious pancetta mashed potatoes. WHOO HOO !
The band had been playing for a few minutes . . Carlos the singer / guitarist was very entertaining . . even did requests. While we were eating we couldn’t help but notice Varo the owner engaging with virtually every diner in the restaurant incl us. ON THE BALL ! Meanwhile Carlos the singer / guitarist came over to have a chat with us . . must have been our crazy cheering. In fact it was time for another Duvel Golden Ale in a pretty glass. DESSERT . . . well I’m not stupid and I know what my wife wanted so we ordered it . . DARK CHOCOLATE MARQUIS ( Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Glaze, Chocolate Crumble ). OMG was it delicious ! WITHOUT A DOUBT ONE OF THE TOP RESTAURANTS IN SAN DIEGO !