I've been relatively disappointed with the fine dining in Los Angeles. For the cost I don't feel I'm getting the best possible meal on each dish when I go (i.e. Providence). But after spending a summer in Los Angeles I came to a realization... the fine dining scene in San Diego is FAR better than I had previously thought. Now I have yet to have a mind blowing dish like those I've had in LA/SF but it's a good consistent product, just lacking in service.
A great example in San Diego of good food and classically average San Diego service is Market Restaurant and Bar in Del Mar. The restaurant prides itself in California Modern cuisine (my favorite!) with the use of seasonal ingredients, so you see a revolving menu. My one big problem with this restaurant is the tacky decorating, a really atrocious sage color wall , yuck.
The girlfriend and I partaked in their daily tasting menu, 4 courses with certain supplementals. Sorry about the lighting, they suddenly drew the shades after our 2nd course.
First up, Amuse Bouche. Stewed plum with a crisp duck skin, baby cilantro and feta cheese.
Light and refreshing, the plum was perfectly sweet and the small bit of cheese offered a nice contrast. I had both of them, =P.
Next up, the bread basket!
French bread accompanied by the BEST BREAD EVER MADE. Warm and filling corn muffins. Chunks of corn with green onion mixed in with a mouthful of corn meal. A fluffy and sweet delight! I had at least 4.
We ordered an appetizer to share before we started on the tasting menu, if the words "crab" and "stack" on on a dish, I'll order it faster than a fly on meat!
Stuffed cucumbers with shredded crab and roe on top of marinated kelp.
Three large stuffed cucumbers oozing crab from the top.
The dish is dressed with sesame oil and ponzu sauce to give it a nuttier and richer taste. The cucumber does a great job of preparing your palate for the richness of the sauce and crab. The crab composed of large chunks inside the cucumber and thin shavings on the top.
First course on the tasting meu, Chilled Avocado Soup & Tomato-Dill Sorbet
The soup is mixed with a cucumber shaved radish salad, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, and Lemon Essence. I'm personally not a huge fan of any time of chilled soup. I found the dill sorbet to be a bit off putting due to it's intense flavor. On the other hand my partner in crime really like it and enjoyed all the fresh combination of flavors as a started to the meal.
My appetizer was the Blue Cheese Souffle and Organic Stone Fruits (aka peach).
Apricot Preserve is topped over the Souffle and a mixed salad of Butter Lettuce, Candied Almonds, and Blue Cheese. I LOVED the play of the rich concentrated flavor of the preserve mixed with the intensity of the blue cheese. The Souffle itself was perfectly cooked , it just burst open at the slightest touch.
Our first second course is Sherry Glazed Escolar "White Tuna"
The soft and well cooked tuna is placed on a bed of somen noodles with garlic soy base. The base itself was a bit salty, but tuna tends to be a bit meatier so the noodles + the fish did a decent enough job of toning down the saltiness of the sauce.
2nd 2nd course was the Bacon Wrapped Maine Dayboat scallops
They are served on a bed of Cous Cous and topped with a sweet pepper relish. I want you to take a close look at the size of the scallops.
THESE THINGS WERE IMMENSE. It was like eating a piece of steak. The scallops were thick and juicy but a "tad" bit overcooked. I'm a fan of slightly undercooked scallops so it's just my preference. But this was another "meaty" seafood dish. I personally would have prefered the two seafood courses to be lighter, but you really get your bang for your buck at Market.
Our 3rd course was pretty similar. My partner had the Cabernet Braised Prime Beef Shortribs and my dish had the shortribs plus Brandt Farms Prime Filet.
For the sake of space I shall show you mine.
First is the Cabernet Braised Prime Beef Shortrib.
It sits on a Onion Potato Puree with sweet corn and glazed Cipollini Onions. This meat just rips apart when you stab into it. It's richly marinated with the infusion of cabernet. The meat is of upmost quality and mixed with the corn and the puree it's heavenly. You would lick this plate clean.
Next is the Brandt Farms Prime Filet
Mushrooms, green beans with a 5oz filet placed on top. A creamy Bearnaise sauce tops the steak itself. I wasn't too sure about the sauce before I tried it because I felt the steak itself would be "fatty" and rich enough, but it actually was a very nice compliment. It helped with the earthiness of the mushrooms and came out as a balanced dish. Of course the Prime Filet as was tender as a baby's bottom.
Since it was our anniversary they gave us a free shortcake dessert as well as our standard desserts
We then had a Roasted Plum Sour Cream cake.
Served with a side of Ginger Ice cream and Cinnamon Almond Streusel. The cake itself was magnificant. So moist and full of flavor with a light crunch along the edges to have that texture combination that makes your mouth giddy.
And their famous "Market Bar"
Market's take on a candy bar. It's lined on the bottom with Peanut crunch then topped with chocolate mouse cake and served with peanut ice cream on top. Along the bar there are caramelized banana bits. If you are looking for a decadent dessert this tops the list. Really as chocolatey as chocolate gets.
I feel it was a pretty good deal at for this meal, we ate roughly under $100 a person including a glass of wine. If you like California Cuisine this casual restaurant should definitely be a stop.
Market Restaurant and Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA