S and I first visited Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort during a media preview dinner last year, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience. We were lucky enough to be invited again for a summer menu preview a couple of weeks ago, and of course we happily obliged.
The tables were set beautifully in the private dining area. This was to be a beer-pairing dinner, and the four beer tasters were already prepared.
Sorry for the blurry photo. I guess my camera (and I) decided to focus on the butter in the back instead, haha. The four beers that we tasted were: Alesmith .394 Pale Ale, Refuge Blood Orange Belgian Ale, Stone Delicious IPA, and Maui Coconut Porter. Out of the four, I really enjoyed the Blood Orange Belgian and the Coconut Porter – which was also S’s favorite.
After catching up with some blogger buddies and making some new friends, we were hungry for dinner! There were a few baskets of asiago cheese rolls, which were awesome, and I really had to stop myself from eating, like, 6 of them.
This was our menu for the evening… and also why I reminded myself not to eat too much bread.
Our meal started out with a 48-hour roasted pork belly. It was so incredibly tender and simply melted in your mouth. It was served with plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, and a mole sauce with anise and chocolate. The mole sauce really did it for me – the bitterness and sweetness really complemented the pork belly well.
After the pork belly, we were given a simple roasted pear. But don’t be deceived by its simplicity – this was packed with flavor. I loved the caramel notes in the roasted pear, and the cheese was actually a blue Stilton (the chef wasn’t able to get Roquefort). I enjoyed the floral notes in the dish but couldn’t taste much of the black pepper in the vinaigrette.
I was looking forward to this dish, given that I have a corn obsession. The albacore was fresh and seared lightly. It was served with a savory bacon powder and onion jam – I really enjoyed the sweet and salty interplay. This dish was additionally paired with a serrano-corn custard, which I found to be too sweet and not spicy enough. I liked the fresh corn at the bottom of the custard, though.
This was definitely the most decadent dish of the night, a dry-aged ribeye steak with foie gras butter. Yes, you read that right, foie gras butter. It was rich, savory, and absolutely delicious. The tart bordelaise sauce helped offset some of the richness. In addition, the steak was paired with… blue cheese popcorn! I’ve never even thought about steak + popcorn as a potential pairing, but it worked – a combination of decadence and light-heartedness.
Our last savory dish of the night was a confit Cornish game hen. S isn’t a huge fan of chicken, so he didn’t like this, but I thought it was quite good as the game hen had a crispy skin and tender meat. I wasn’t a huge fan of the anise-scented couscous, though, which was a bit dry.
Finally, for dessert, we were served a beautiful Creme Catalana – similar to creme brulee, but more egg-y. It was served with an almond semolina biscotti – I actually saved it and brought it back for a friend, who told me that it was quite yummy. The dessert was served with a port wine, but since neither S nor I drink wine, we only tried a tiny sip.
Overall, we had yet another wondeful experience at Vessel. S and I agree that we’d definitely introduce our friends to this place – the menu items are creative and so delicious. I look forward to our next meal here!
Disclaimer: As noted above, we were invited here for a media preview dinner and our meal was complimentary. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own.
Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort
1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92106