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The University Heights area of San Diego continues to reinvent itself with interesting, must-go-to restaurants. While it’s not quite the Gaslamp District, it certainly has become a destination spot not to be missed.
Saunter on down Park Blvd. and enter the fabulous Lei (here is where you can trade those cheesy “getting-off-the-Hawaiian-jet” jokes……..okay, done, let’s move on). How do you describe in one word the following - trendy, upscale, laidback, off-the-cuff, cool, clubby, vibrant, pretentious, comfortable, hip, friendly and outdoor fun. In three letters it’s “Lei”.
Still new to the restaurant scene in San Diego, Lei Lounge is quickly establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with. You cross the threshold of the “red-carpet” appearance entryway and are immediately drawn into its atmosphere. The lights, the music and the comfortable seating areas compete for your attention with the bar and its glimmering glassware and signature drinks. The drinks (which are half-price during happy hour Tuesday through Friday) include such festivities as Watermelon, Pomegranate, and Chinese Martinis, Guava Berry Colada, Vanilla Berry Mojito or the Gorgeous Geisha. It’s like being a kid in a candy store – Willy Wonka couldn’t have come up with more unusual concoctions and, if he did, he’d be pretty tipsy. They also have a wide array of beer and wine.
Make your way to the dining area by walking through a roll-up garage door (yeah, I know, just go with it). You are instantly transported into another realm, which has a luxurious Arabian Nights feel to it. On the right are tables with fire pits in the center and along the left, private booths adorned with flowing white silk-like draperies - very cool. These usually require a reservation, who wouldn’t want to be seated there?
The dinner menu is a rapture of earthly delights and all are served “tapas” style. The theme for the night is to share and share alike, which is fantastic because there are so many dishes to try. There is a “samplings” part of the menu that allows you to try several items served on one dish. We opted for the “sampling” dumplings (lobster, shrimp, and crab with assorted sauces). They were flavorful, crunchy and extremely appetizing, especially with the dipping sauces, which range from sweet to spicy.
We continued with Indian curry chicken skewers (basmati rice, sweet pepper chutney) which were adequately spicy and the chicken moist and tender. We then tried the Southwestern quesadilla (slow cooked chicken, chili-spiced peppers & onions) that were surprisingly thick and swimming in cheese, chicken and zesty flavors. To top it all off we devoured the Kobe steak frites (grilled Kobe steak, shoestring fries, roasted shallot sauce) which found the meat succulently tender and the thin crunchy fries were a killer compliment.
The menu went on endlessly with so many unique features, such as, duck confit and spinach salad (pear, croutons, boisin dressing), coconut crusted calamari strips (sweet chili dipping sauce), curry chicken empanadas (pepper chutney with pistachio) or hummus trio (roasted pepper, basil & grilled pita). There are also fabulous side dishes available to accompany your meal choices, like Cuban black beans & rice, Szechwan fries or wasabi mashed potatoes.
The service is friendly, joyfully flirty, and impeccable with numerous staff always around to fulfill your every whim. The scene is energetic with a great melting pot of clientele, from the twenty-something’s to seasoned guests, the gay crowd, yuppies and everything in-between. Make it a point to treat yourself to all Lei Lounge has to offer; you will be enchanted and feel terminally hip to boot. Enjoy!
- City: San Diego, CA 92116
- Phone: 619-813-2272
- Name: Lei Lounge
- Address: 4622 Park Avenue