In San Diego we've seen a growth of restaurants in the North Park area. The majority of them offer a variety of comfort food and advertise themselves as down home cooking with a twist. One of the major hyped up players in the market is Urban Solace. So to see if all the hype was up to par a couple of friends and I brought a couple bottles of wine and stopped in at Urban Solace.
First up is their "world famous" cheese biscuits with orange honey butter.
Light and fluffy with just a hint of cheese. They were good, but I also like Red Lobster's cheese biscuits alot and I find them pretty comparable. These are thicker and more doughy but RL's has more seasoning and flavor. The butter was pretty insignificant, I really didn't find anything special in it. The apple and honey flavors didn't pop out like I thought they would.
Next appetizer was my favorite dish of all night, Pan Roasted Mussels with Smoked Tomato Butter
Wow! that's all I can say. The smokey flavor from the butter permeates from every bite with a rich tomato flavor. The mussels were cooked nicely, big pieces that were the right balance between meat and fat.
On to the entrees!
My friend Chris ordered Braised beef cheek.
Held by all 6 members of the party as a disappointment. Braised meat is usually soft, easily pulled apart by a fork, but this case was tough and stringy. Not much flavor involved either, almost as if the sauce and the beef were braised separately. This is a weird dish because beef cheek is so tender and flavorful. I guess it's better suited in thin slices and grilled =).
next Sharon ordered the Cornmeal crusted Artic Char with lemon butter
I just had a small sliver and it was okay. Nothing special. Artic char is just another fish that tastes like Salmon. Sharon said "I should have ordered something else".
Next up , Pulled Chicken and dumplings
Ah another good dish. Mushy biscuits mixed with pieces of chicken and dumplings covered in the gold ol' pot pie mixture. I guess this is a classic example of comfort food, incredibly rich and filling.
Finally my entree, the Monte Diego.
Baked egg bread stuffed with ham, fontina cheese , and grilled pears. I'm not sure what happened to this dish, but it was VERY poorly prepared. It's as if they finished mine 20 minutes early and just let it sit there.
The sweet potato fries were flaccid and mushy, the bread was almost soggy. Any good Monte Cristo has the crispy outside breading when they fry the whole bread. Either they didn't fry it enough or it was sitting out there forever.
The next knock on it has nothing to do with the service but the pear inside the sandwich. A classic MC is served with a berry jam on the side, the sweetness matches well with the salty fried sandwich. But the pear was just weird. They gave jam which I used, but the pear added a mushiness texture that paired HORRIBLY with the sandwich. Yuck.
I also got a side order of their Mac n Cheese.
Cherry tomatoes and the chunks of bacon were the highlights of this dish. Nice fatty pieces of bacon that seemed to be baked along with the tomatoes into the mac n cheese. Tomatoes when baked are significantly sweeter than normal, and you have that with cherry tomatoes and it really improves the dish. My problem with the dish was the cheese. It was pretty flavorless. If it wasn't for the strong flavor from the bacon it would have been a pretty simple and lame dish.
All in all I wasn't horribly impressed by Urban Solace. The dishes were inexpensive at about 10-16 dollars a dish so I wasn't sad about what I ate. I just didn't feel like it deserved the hype that it got. It certainly wasn't busy when we were there, but the service was incredibly slow (15 minutes between ordering the appetizer and the entree???) and the food just wasn't that great.
Another North Park let down. Oh well.
3823 30th Street
San Diego, CA