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SAN DIEGO RESTAURANT WEEK: $40 Best Bets

NINE-TEN's Restaurant Week menu is a $40 dining steal.
NINE-TEN's Restaurant Week menu is a $40 dining steal.
Courtesy Photo

 

Earlier this week, I supplied you with my best bets by cuisine for San Diego Restaurant Week bliss. Now, I’m glad to dissect the expansive field of participating eateries by price point to give you what I believe to be the most reliable options out there. Some of these selections are based on my personal experiences as a professional diner, while others have to do with the menus being offered. Then, there are spots that are simply remarkable where you’d be hard pressed to experience them at a more reasonable rate. No matter the reason, I stand by these choices and hope this information can benefit both you and your taste buds.

$40 Options: These are the heavy hitters and, even if they’re offering meals that could run you around $60 to $70 for much less, they should still bring it. And that doesn’t just go for the food, but the impeccable service and unblemished ambience that is every bit as much the lifeblood of such top tier restaurants as the items that grace the fine china.

For my money, you simply can’t go wrong with the Marine Room. I have yet to have a meal there that’s been anything other than excellent, and there’s nothing quite like dining on rich, silken bisque or plump exotically seasoned scallops while the waves of the Pacific crash against the thankfully well-enforced windows at this long-time standout.

Variety is the spice of life at NINE-TEN where, whether it's raw Asian seafood preparations like chef Jason Knibb’s Hamachi sashimi with scallion vinaigrette or slow-cooked gems like his Jamaican jerk-spiced pork belly with black-eyed peas, one can count on a unifying cord of cohesive flavors and spot-on technique.

For decades, George’s at the Cove has proven worthy of the trust instilled in it by San Diegans looking for quality. Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity to see what’s cooking at George’s California Modern, the three-tiered venue’s gourmet enclave. (Spoiler alert: It’s sweet potato soup, local yellowtail and creative desserts like peanut butter rice pudding and Japanese “cheesecake” with coconut lime foam.)

KITCHEN 1540 is all about presenting fresh, straightforward flavors in fun, new formats, and this high end L’Auberge Del Mar dining room’s Restaurant Week bill of fare exemplifies that via offerings like diver scallops with popcorn purée, hiramasa sashimi with compressed persimmon and jalapeño corn nuts and stout gingerbread with pear “leather” and beer ice cream.

Chef Carl Schroeder is regarded by many local chefs as the cream of their crop, and his flagship MARKET Restaurant + Bar delivers farm-fresh flavors laced with innovation. Prime examples that are ripe for the picking include roasted artichoke and prosciutto salad with burrata and achiote-rubbed pork rib eye with chipotle-braised pork cheek, Brussels sprouts and sweet corn polenta.

There are a number of forward-thinking chefs in San Diego. One of the most adventurous of that class is Ryan Grant, the toque manning the stoves at the Rancho Bernardo Inn’s El Bizcocho. He operates on the narrow line separating genius from absurdity and, while that creates for some hit-and-miss, a menu with eight options has likely been refined to lean more to the former than the latter.

You may recall my mention of Tapenade in my article suggesting great spots for French Restaurant Week fare. Chef Jean-Michel Diot, the highly passionate and accomplished toque at the heart of this quaintly elegant eatery, operates at a distinctly high level, putting out inspired dishes steeped in the archetypal technique of his homeland.

From starters, including pheasant terrine and a bleu cheese and Anjou pear tart, to entrées of sole almandine and duck a l’orange to desserts like floating islands, Cavaillon in North County’s Santaluz community is offering a classic French experience; something they are quite adept at providing year-round. Oh, and did I mention executive chef Philippe Verpiand served as Diot’s right-hand man at Tapenade before moving inland?

A trip to JRDN, the innovative resto on the base level of PB’s Tower 23 Hotel, serves as a reminder to locals about the luxurious laidback environs tourists feast on when visiting our fair city. Feast on this spot’s ocean views in tandem with creative dishes like roasted Peruvian and Russian banana potato salad and duck confit Yorkshire pudding.

Riding the top of the most talked-about list of 2010’s new restaurants was FLAVOR Del Mar, the new luxe-lite home of former Arterra chef Jason Maitland. Fans of this talented gastronome have been curious to check out his new spot andRestaurant Week provides a good opportunity to do so. They had me at suckling pig with smoked apple potato purée and ale mustard.

One of the more eclectic menus in town is being offered at Cowboy Star, a throwback-style steakhouse in the heart of the Gaslamp featuring fare that’s a cut above the competition. High quality beef is on the bill in the form of Wagyu tartare and a petite filet, but past experience tells me diners would do just as well to give the rabbit ravioli or oven-roasted quail a whirl.

Sequestered in the heart of downtown’s landmark US Grant Hotel, the Grant Grill is often overshadowed. But make no mistake--the food is as worthy a draw as the history of the building that houses it. Proof is being served up in the form of chanterelle mushroom custard with crispy tarragon, house-made duck prosciutto and grilled albacore with kaffir lime brown butter.

(Check backfor my upcoming recommendations on restaurants offering $30 and $20 menus.)