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Butternut Squash Soup

Squash Ravioli
Copyright©2008 sandiego.com, Inc.

You can’t start talking about the striking Amaya restaurant without at least mentioning its pristine surroundings – The Grand Del Mar in Carmel Valley (about 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego). Even the adjectives “breath-taking”, “stunning” or “over-the-top” can’t seem to describe it.

Entering the lobby of this magnificent hotel you are immediately overwhelmed by the sumptuous deep wood and spectacular detail. Expansive lawns, striking fountains and immaculate landscaping complete the grounds. Once you’ve taken in all that you can, make your way down the grand curved staircase to find Amaya.

Yet the grandeur continues. As you enter Amaya, you are instantly captivated by the beautiful glasswork that beckons you towards the host desk. The glass has a mesmerizing violet flower pattern, delicately lit, creating almost a living glow. It is striking! An inviting, traditional, bold wood bar invites you to sample a cocktail from their expansive collections of spirits.

We were taken to our table on a window by the back patio, staying warm on the inside while enjoying the grounds just beyond. Now of the two staple restaurants at The Grand Del Mar, The Addison and Amaya, Amaya is considered the casual dining experience of the two. Hmmm, they may think so but we can’t remember too many “casual dining” establishments that have rows of columns, extensive patio, glowing manor-like fireplaces and deep set ceilings with immaculate lighting and antique china hutches. Yeah, this is just like home.

Roast Chicken Supreme

Copyright©2008 sandiego.com, Inc.

Okay, if you can peel your eyes away from your surroundings, have them settle on why you’re here – the menu in front of you and the delights that await you. The choices abound from “First Steps” to “Shared Steps”, Pasta, Risotto”, “Entrees” and “From The Rotisserie and Grill” and finally “Sides” to go with them. No one is going to go unsatisfied here.

After savoring their sun-dried tomato, rosemary bread we eagerly started out with the Butternut Squash & Smoked Bacon Soup (with shaved almond biscotti and fig reduction) and the Lobster Bisque (with tarragon crème fraiche). The butternut squash soup had a wonderful texture that completed its deep, creamy attribute and, as the saying goes, “everything tastes better with bacon”. That proved true here as well. The lobster bisque continued with a sweet, rich flavor that carried a powerful crustacean flavor with every bite (we did miss having a few actual lobster bits in it for texture). We also sampled the Squash Ravioli (with machengo cheese and shaved biscotti) that had such a fall seasonality to it that it was perfect for this November evening. The biscotti topping added a nice texture to the soft, pasta ravioli. Entrees ensued with our selections of Roast Chicken Supreme (with herb gnocchi and wild mushrooms) which had a defining crisp skin that actually crackled as we cut into it. The meat itself was moist and tender. This chicken had been cooked with extreme care and skill to achieve this balance. A whimsical side dish of Sweet Corn Succotash completed the meal with its fun, crispy colorful southern flavors (did I mention bacon too? We told you “anything with bacon”).

Boneless Prime Rib
Copyright©2008 sandiego.com, Inc.

We were informed that the venue has a classic rotisserie in the kitchen that offers delectable meats that have been swirling and marinating for hours on end – an Amaya favorite. That’s a hard act to pass, so we also feasted on the Boneless Prime Rib (with spinach and roasted vegetables). After admiring the generous prime rib portion we enthusiastically cut away. The prime rib was a mixture of pleasure and some disappointment. We had followed the servers suggestion of having it prepared medium rare (which we would have normally) but the meat came out quite on the rare side.

We inquired about this and were informed that with the rotisserie extended cooking, it generally comes on the rare side. That would have been nice information ahead of time. By contrast, the outside layer had a savory, deep rich flavor that enticed the senses. Yet as you moved to the center the flavors seemed to move away as well. The accompanying horseradish sauce saved the day as the prime rib itself was unexpectedly bland. Our side of Truffle Mashed Potatoes were agreeably smooth and creamy but didn’t really have much of a truffle flavor to it.

When you are presented with the grandeur that is The Grand del Mar and Amaya, you set a standard for unequaled excellence. While Amaya brought us some unique and definitive palette pleasures, there was also an unanticipated sense of a few things that were just a tad off. That said, Amaya is a pleasurable dining experience and truly the setting is to die for. Enjoy!

The Good – just soak up the atmosphere, it rarely gets better than this.

The Bad – again, when you set the bar that high, be ready to back it up. The prime rib was a bit disappointing

Details »
  • City: San Diego, CA 92130
  • Phone: 619-314-1980
  • Name: Amaya
  • Address: 5300 Grand Del Mar Court