Solare Ristorante – Restaurant Week

San Diego Restaurant Week is upon us again! From September 21 through 26, you can enjoy a two-course lunch or three-course dinner at over 200 restaurants in San Diego, with lunch priced at $10, $15, or $20, and dinner priced at $25, $35, and $45. S and I have visited several restaurants during SDRW over the past few years, and this year, we were fortunate enough to be invited to try out Solare Ristorante, a cute little Italian restaurant in Liberty Station.

Solare Ristorante 

Solare is offering a $20 lunch and $35 dinner, with some additional items that you can add on for extra. S and I love Italian food, so we were pretty excited to visit.

Blushing Lady martini

Blushing Lady martini [$9]

I chose a martini, per our waiter’s recommendation. This is made with vodka and grapefruit and pomegranate juices, with a grapefruit rind. S said that it tasted like juice, but I enjoyed it, hehe.

Housemade focaccia

House-made focaccia

Shortly after being seated, we got a bowl of house-made focaccia bread, along with olive oil for dipping. S loved this focaccia and said that it was full of umami. He has never, ever made such a “foodie” comment before so I am documenting this historic moment here! The bread was indeed quite good, and we ate way too many pieces of it before realizing that we had a big meal ahead of us.

There were four items in the “Options for Sharing” section of the menu, which were basically little appetizers or sides that you could add on for an extra charge. S and I decided to try a couple of them, since they sounded pretty good!

Kobe Meatballs

Kobe Meatballs: vintage hand-made American Kobe beef meatballs, served with sautéed rainbow chard and pecorino Crotonese [$14] 

The Kobe meatballs were really yummy and flavorful – I loved the melted pecorino on top, and the sauce that accompanied it – especially the sautéed rainbow chard. It was quite an elevated version of the classic meatball with tomato sauce. 


Arancini: classic Sicilian crispy rice balls with beef, pork, and veal ragù, sweet peas, and mozzarella [$9]

Arancini inside

Arancini inside

The best way that I can describe arancini is like a hush puppy, but with rice instead of cornmeal. I’ve never had it before and loved it here! I really enjoyed the flavor of the crispy exterior, which was like toasted rice. I could have eaten all of these without the accompanying ragù – the sauce was good, but the rice balls were truly the star. After eating one, I told S that I like these even more than hush puppies, and he was quite impressed since he knows how much I adore hush puppies, haha.

After those two “snacks,” our appetizers arrived…

Zuppa di Funghi

Zuppa di Funghi – Mushroom bisque: maitake, shiitake, and porcini mushrooms infused with thyme and served with black truffle butter

I was initially worried that S wouldn’t like the soup, since it had shiitake mushrooms in it, but he ended up loving it. I guess the creaminess of the bisque and the truffle butter offset the shiitake taste that he doesn’t like. Also, I’m guessing that the restaurant used fresh instead of dried shiitake, which actually has a pretty different taste. Anyway, we liked this soup a lot – but we’re easy to please, as long as there’s truffles, haha.

Burrata e Prugne

Burrata e Prugne: Gioia cheese burrata served with Regier Family Farms plums, grilled asparagus, house-made balsamic pearls, and fresh basil

Burrata e Prugne

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Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Restaurant Week)

Before this January’s Restaurant Week ends, I wanted to share just one more restaurant for you to consider, especially if you love steak: Ruth’s Chris. S and I have been wanting to try it for a while, especially since some of our friends claim that it’s their favorite steak in San Diego. We’ve tried The Butcher Shop and Donovan’s and enjoyed our experiences there, but we’re always up for trying new steak places, hehe. So, when our friends asked if we wanted to go to Ruth’s Chris for RW, we jumped onboard immediately.


There are two Ruth’s Chris locations in San Diego: Del Mar and downtown, on Harbor Dr. We were in the downtown location. Parking options were a bit scarce… valet was $6, but I think you could also park farther down by the adjacent hotel. Not sure; we forked over $6 for convenience.

The restaurant is quite nice; the dining area is actually all upstairs, so that guests could get a better view of the ocean I suppose. The day we went, it was already pretty dark, and we weren’t seated by the window, so there wasn’t much of a view unfortunately. The dining room was super busy and lively – I actually like the busy atmosphere, even though it was a bit dim for my liking (hence, all the pictures are going to look a bit weird/off).

Complimentary bread & butter

Complimentary bread & butter

We got a couple loaves of warm bread and butter to start. Nothing spectacular about the bread, but I had a slice since I was pretty hungry, haha.

The Restaurant Week menu is quite generous, since they offer both a Petite Filet and a 12 oz. Ribeye (in addition to roasted chicken and Atlantic salmon) for the entrée. The regular menu is also available during RW.

For my appetizer, I chose the Shrimp Cocktail, and S chose the Seared Ahi Tuna. I believe everyone at our table picked either one of these, haha.

(Oh man, sorry about the quality of the photos. As I mentioned, the lighting here isn’t the best…)


Shrimp Cocktail

Seared Ahi Tuna

Seared Ahi Tuna

I really loved the jumbo shrimp, which was perfectly cooked and dressed lightly with a mixture of tartar and cocktail sauce. S wouldn’t have any of the shrimp, but he was nice enough to share a piece of the ahi tuna with me, which was pretty tasty as well. I thought the portions were really generous, too! There were five or six jumbo shrimp, and eight pieces of the tuna.

Onto our steak…

12 oz. Ribeye

12 oz. Ribeye

Petite Filet

Petite Filet

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George’s California Modern [Restaurant Week Preview]

I still can’t believe that it is 2014, and halfway through January already. But you know what that means: San Diego Restaurant Week is almost here! From January 19-24, over 180 restaurants will be offering special menus – $10, $15, or $20 for lunch, and $25, $35, or $45 for dinner. This year, I was invited to a sneak preview of the Restaurant Week experience at George’s California Modern in La Jolla. S has visited George’s once a couple of years ago and really loved it, and I was really looking forward to the meal.


George’s California Modern is the fine-dining restaurant in the George’s at the Cove group, all located in the same building in downtown La Jolla. Upstairs is George’s Ocean Terrace, a rooftop dining spot with a beautiful view, and downstairs is George’s Bar, featuring both indoor and outdoor seating.


We were lucky to get a table by the window. By the time we arrived, the sun had already set, but the dusk sky was still lovely. I can imagine dining here during sunset would be awesome. Sorry for the terrible picture with all the restaurant light reflections, though.

Given the wonderful atmosphere, we couldn’t resist ordering a couple of cocktails (Huh? What do those have to do with each other? Haha. Okay, I think we just wanted to try the cocktails).

Sea Dew Collins (left) and virgin Xolo (right)

Left: Sea Dew Collins [$12]; Right: virgin Xolo [$5]

S tried the Sea Dew Collins: Stolichnaya vodka, rosemary infusion, Punt E Mes vermouth, and lemon. It was this restaurant’s version of the Tom Collins, I believe – he really enjoyed it. I’m too lightweight when it comes to drinks, so I ordered a virgin Xolo: grapefruit, agave syrup, Gran Centenario Anejo (omitted for the virgin version), and black salt rim. Basically, grapefruit juice, hehe. I liked it, though – especially drinking from the rim so that you get the salty-sweet mix, and I imagine that the alcoholic version would be sweeter with the tequila. It was a bit too tart for S.

Complimentary bread & butter

Complimentary bread & butter

After taking our orders, we were presented with some warm, pre-sliced baguette bread. I loved the rustic crust on the bread and wanted to eat the whole loaf, but had to restrain myself…

12-flavors seasoned salt; sea salt; fresh black pepper

12-flavors seasoned salt; sea salt; fresh black pepper

We were also given a tray of seasonings, which confused us at first because I thought it was given to us to eat with the bread. Haha.

Anyway, we decided to try three appetizers from the Restaurant Week menu offerings:

Japanese Hamachi; frozen cucumber meringue, finger lime, smoked ginger-soy gel

Japanese Hamachi; frozen cucumber meringue, finger lime, smoked ginger-soy gel [add’l $4]

If I had to pick one word to describe this dish, I would say “refreshing.” The hamachi was fresh, and the cucumber meringue was a perfect, light accompaniment. The finger limes were my favorite part, though – they were crunchy and had really brightened up the entire dish. Tying it all together was the smoked ginger-soy sauce, which added some salt and depth of flavor to the light ingredients.

Beets; dilled cured golden trout, crème fraîche, juniper

Beets; dilled cured golden trout, crème fraîche, juniper

Beets are one of my favorite veggies – I love the bright colors and earthy taste. Here, beets and beet purée were paired with cured trout and trout roe – a combo that I never would have thought would work, but it turned out quite nicely because the trout’s saltiness brought out the sweetness of the beets.

Soft Egg; onion compote, chanterelles, parsnip foam, brassicas

Soft Egg; onion compote, chanterelles, parsnip foam, brassicas [add’l $2]

When I saw the soft egg and chanterelles on the menu I knew I had to try it – two of my favorite things in one dish. This was my absolute favorite. The egg was cooked perfectly – runny yolk with the whites just barely solidified and holding it together.


The chanterelles were really nice, as were the roasted leafy greens (I believe there was kale, Brussels sprouts, and maybe some purple kohlrabi), which provided a nice crunch to contrast with the soft egg and parsnip foam. I actually couldn’t taste much the parsnip, but the foam was more of a creamy purée.

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MARKET Restaurant & Bar (Restaurant Week)

This post is loooong overdue – in fact, it’s from San Diego Restaurant Week, all the way back in September. Haha. I guess I forgot about it and was looking through my folders recently, and realized that I never did this post… Well, you could say that this is in preparation for the next RW, in January!

I had originally only planned to visit one restaurant for RW, Nine-Ten, but some of my friends persuaded me into checking out another one. Particularly, one friend who was leaving San Diego soon and was telling me about how this could be his “last Restaurant Week in SD,” etc. etc. So of course I had to go. In the end, we got a group of six people for dinner on the last night of the September RW.

By the way, all the photos in this post are courtesy of my friend J! He has a much nicer camera than mine, that does much better in low light. I actually got another friend, “Uncle E,” to take photos as well, but his camera was too nice, and the files are too big for my little blog… hahaha.

We were seated promptly by the hostess, and soon after we were presented with some baguette slices:


Bread & Butter

It was pretty good bread, but I wasn’t particularly dazzled by it. But then, this came next…

House Corn Muffins

House Corn Muffins

I have a spot soft in my heart for cornbread/muffins. Anything corny, I guess, ha! But these were so delicious. They arrived at our table warm, freshly baked, and they tasted delicious. Soft and fluffy and buttery and corny. Mmm… we asked for seconds of these, and the next batch arrived warm, too. This restaurant knows the way to my heart. (Ah, if only S knew that all he had to do was present me with warm, freshly-baked, delicious bread, I would have started dating him long before I actually did. Heehee.)

Amuse Bouche: Spot Prawns with Mango Puree

Amuse Bouche: Spot Prawns with Mango Chutney

We were pleasantly surprised with an amuse bouche (“taster bite” that’s supposed to whet your appetite before the meal starts), poached spot prawns with a sweet-and-sour mango chutney. I really enjoyed the prawn, which was fresh and cooked perfectly. I was also a bit sad that S wasn’t at the dinner, since he would have given me his prawn, haha… 

Anyway, for Restaurant Week, Market offers a three-course dinner for $40. Between the six of us, we tried four different appetizers: 

Fuji Apple Salad & Roasted Apple-Brie Tart

Fuji Apple Salad & Roasted Apple-Brie Tart

This was J’s appetizer. I noticed that most of the appetizers had two components. I tried a bit of the apple-brie tart – the crust wasn’t so flaky, but I did love the pairing of apples and brie. I like apples and brie better than the traditional apple with cheddar, actually – the creaminess of brie contrasts well with the crunchy apples. The salad was made with butter leaf lettuce, and a caramelized honey-cider vinaigrette, drizzled with vanilla balsamic. I didn’t try the salad itself, but J seemed to enjoy it.

Alder Wood Smoked King Salmon & Crispy Potato Cake
Alder Wood Smoked King Salmon & Crispy Potato Cake

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NINE-TEN Restaurant (Restaurant Week)

For Restaurant Week this year, I had a difficult time choosing between trying something new or visit one of my previous favorites (such as Whisknladle or Oceanaire). But when one of my fine-dining-loving friends, J, invited S and me to join him for dinner at NINE-TEN, I accepted immediately – decision made! He told me that it was one of his favorite restaurants in San Diego, AND I knew that the sous chef of this restaurant would be competing on this season of Top Chef (no spoilers please – haven’t watched it yet!), so I was looking forward to checking it out.


NINE-TEN is located right next to the Grand Colonial Hotel in downtown La Jolla – in fact, I believe that the restaurant shares its restrooms with the hotel lobby (just an FYI, haha). Both the hotel and restaurant look pretty fancy.

On the SD Restaurant Week website, there were only two or three offerings to choose from for NINE-TEN’s RW menu. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw that there were quite a few more options for the three-course meal. All the of the appetizers and most of the entrées were available!


Complimentary bread

We were given some baskets of bread to start. Nothing too special, so I didn’t have any trouble restraining myself before the meal.

First up, appetizers:

Hamachi Sashimi

Hamachi Sashimi; marinated baby shiitake mushrooms, scallion vinaigrette

Hamachi Sashimi

Hamachi Sashimi

I chose the Hamachi Sashimi, which was recommended by J. I really liked the quality of the hamachi – quite fresh (although it had just a tad of fishiness in the aftertaste). The vinaigrette really helped to brighten up the fish as well. The baby shiitakes were good, but I did miss a bit of a crunch in the dish – everything was of similar texture, and I wish that there was something to bite on.

Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly; baby carrots, swiss chard, plantains, black-eyed peas, spicy jellies & sweet potato purée

Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly; baby carrots, swiss chard, plantains, black-eyed peas, spicy jellies & sweet potato purée

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[Las Vegas] Lawry’s The Prime Rib

During my last trip to Las Vegas, it happened to be during their Restaurant Week – so of course I had to plan a visit to one of the many famous restaurants in Vegas. After looking through all the options and their menus, I finally settled on Lawry’s Prime Rib. At first, S wasn’t too excited since there’s a Lawry’s in Taipei (which means it’s not too exotic for him, I guess?), but I convinced him that we probably wouldn’t be going to Lawry’s when we were in Taiwan, anyway. Haha.


The Restaurant Week menu consisted of their famous “Spinning Bowl Salad,” a 10 oz cut of prime rib served with sides, and choice of dessert, for $50.13. I thought it was a good deal, considering the regular menu pricing for the 10 oz cut was already in the forties.

Complimentary bread

Complimentary bread

Started the meal with some warm sourdough. We were all really hungry and polished this off rather quickly, which we’d later regret. Haha. Keep reading.


Our waitress with the spinning bowl salad. I believe the bottom bowl is filled with ice to keep the salad cool, and to allow the top bowl to spin. It was pretty nifty, haha. She also poured the dressing into the salad as it was spinning to make it even throughout. I always have trouble when making salads at home to mix the ingredients properly… maybe I should try this spin method. (Uh-oh, I can see S freaking out already about cleaning up salad pieces from all over the kitchen.)


The Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad

Okay, normally I won’t go into details about salads, but this one was really good so I’ll actually talk about it. The salad was a mix of lettuce, baby spinach, shredded beets, chopped eggs, and croutons, and tossed with a French dressing. It sounds simple, but the flavors were actually really nicely balanced – I think the sweetness of the beets really complemented the tangy French dressing. It’s definitely a salad that I’ll try to re-create at home.


On every table, there were two seasonings: the famous Lawry’s seasoning salt (red cap), and this seasoned pepper. Our waitress recommended us to try it on our salads, and I really liked it. It was mostly black pepper, but also mixed with some dried bell peppers, which added a nice flavor. I hope this is available in grocery stores!

Okay, that’s enough about vegetables. We were here for the meat!


Everything is done tableside at Lawry’s, including carving the steak! The silver carts roll out to your table, where you would normally get to pick your cut of steak and doneness.


Lawry Cut Prime Rib with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn

Lawry Cut Prime Rib with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn

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Del Mar Rendezvous (Restaurant Week and Giveaway!)

I’ve heard of Del Mar Rendezvous, a Chinese fusion restaurant, for quite some time now. I had the chance to sample some of their food at last September’s SDRW Taste 2012, and recently I was contacted by the manager, Dan Schreiber, to preview their menu for the upcoming Restaurant Week. S and I happily accepted the invitation.


Instead of the usual $20/30/40 dinners for Restaurant Week, Del Mar Rendezvous is offering their own version with $25, $30, or $38 menus, depending on your entree choice. There is also a 2-course lunch menu: pick any appetizer, cup of soup, or dessert and match with any lunch special for $20, Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm. I’ve posted some photos of the RW menu at the bottom of the post, or you could visit their website. They will be participating in RW from January 12-31, so you have quite a bit of time to head over.

We tried quite a few of the appetizers…

Chicken lettuce wraps: sauteed minced chicken, black mushrooms, and water chestnuts, served with 6 lettuce cups and side of hoisin sauce

Chicken lettuce wraps: sauteed minced chicken, black mushrooms, and water chestnuts, served with 6 lettuce cups and side of hoisin sauce

S has never heard of chicken lettuce wraps so we had to try it. I see this quite often at Chinese fusion restaurants and usually like it since it’s a refreshing and light appetizer. DMR’s version is pretty good; the chicken and mushrooms were flavorful, except we couldn’t taste much of the chestnuts.


Ready to wrap!

All in all, S enjoyed his first chicken lettuce wrap experience (although I had to help him with the wrapping, haha).

Steamed dumpling sampler: 2 each of Ha Gau (shrimp), Su Jiao (vegetable), and Xiao Long Bao (pork), served with vinegar and fresh ginger

Steamed dumpling sampler: 2 each of Ha Gau (shrimp), Su Jiao (vegetable), and Xiao Long Bao (pork), served with vinegar and fresh ginger

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Kensington Grill, Restaurant Week

Okay, after whining in the previous post, I feel much better and now with solid food in my tummy, I am happily back to writing about food.

S and I decided to take advantage of Restaurant Week and try out some new places. It would be difficult to top Whisknladle, but there were quite a few restaurants still on my list. I had originally wanted to try Cafe Chloe or Cucina Urbana, but both places were booked already by the time that I got around to make reservations… boo. Next time I’ll be more on top of things.

In the end I chose Kensington Grill, a New American-ish restaurant that has been on my list for a while. For Restaurant Week, they offer $25 and $30 meals, and they are extending the prix fixe menus through this week.

I chose to order from the $30 menu, since the appetizers sounded way more interesting (there was only soup and salad from the $25 menu). It was difficult to decide between fried sweetbread and mussels.. but I figured since I’ve never had sweetbread before, and I love polenta, I’d give them a try.

“Southern fried” Brandt sweetbreads: creamy white polenta, house made chorizo ($30 menu)

One of my friends was not aware that sweetbread is offal – he thought the dish was supposed to be fried sweet bread. Hehe. Well, good thing he eats offal. I really liked it – the batter was light, and not to sound cliché, but it sort of tasted like chicken. The chorizo/polenta wasdelicious. S said it reminded him of grits – and I loooove grits.

Sea of Cortez mussels: coconut lime, kaffir, coriander ($30 menu)

My friend ordered the mussels and I got to try one. The mussels were huge! And very flavorful. I loved the broth – I only wish we got more bread so that I could sop it all up.

Onto the entrées! I’ve been craving duck so I definitely had to order this:

Roasted duck confit: duck cherry jus, mushrooms, baby carrots, artichoke puree ($30 menu)

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Whisknladle (Restaurant Week)

S and I have visited Whisknladle for lunch once and loved it, and I have been wanting to go back and try their dinner sometime. Several people have told me that it’s a great option for Restaurant Week, since they offer the entire menu for you to choose from, for a $40 prix fixe meal.

Started out with delicious housemade bread and butter.

Bread and butter

It was so difficult to pick the appetizers because so many things sounded so delicious. I had a hard time deciding between bone marrow and the cutting board – finally, I chose the cutting board since it’s so highly praised on Yelp.

Cutting board: house breadsticks, bruschetta, squash sott’olio, soppressata, pesto and spicy salsa spreads, chicken liver mousse(?), olives, tamarind agrodulce, fig and sausage pâté(?), aged Gouda(?)

The cutting board spread was amazing. I could not believe that there is this much food for my appetizer! One of the waiters explained everything on the board to me, but I couldn’t catch everything. My favorites were the fig & sausage pâté (I love figs, and this is probably like the one week of the year that they are in season), squash sott’olio, and spicy salsa spread, but really, everything was delicious.

Potato and Gruyere ravioli: short ribs alla Verona, glazed onions, gremolata

It was hard to take a pretty picture of this dish, but it tasted great. The short ribs were very flavorful and tender, and the ravioli was so good. I only wish it weren’t such a small appetizer portion! I would definitely order the entreé-sized version of this dish.

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SDRW Taste 2012

This year’s September Restaurant Week is the first one that I would be participating in as a San Diego resident! I was also in San Diego last September and had the chance to try Cavaillon (read my post on it here), which is actually now closed, sadly.

This year’s RW is kicking off with the first-ever tasting event, SDRW Taste 2012. It features samples from over 30 RW-participating restaurants, and a beer/wine/cocktail drink to pair with each sample. Tickets are $75 per person, but I was lucky enough to win a pair of tickets from Kirbie of Kirbie’s Cravings! So, last Friday, S and I headed out to Port Pavilion to attend the event. I have actually never been to one of these “tasting” events, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

Broadway Pier at Port Pavilion

Port Pavilion is a new-ish addition to San Diego’s harbor, and I must say that it was a really beautiful venue – very modern, plenty of open space for all the booths, and a gorgeous view.


We had so much to eat and drink that I could not upload individual photos of everything, so I made some collages of all the different things I tried. (Click to see larger size image.)

Collage 1: Individual plates

Top row:
The Palm Restaurant – NY steak with caramelized onion mashed potatoes
Slater’s 50/50 – The 50/50 burger
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – Seared ahi tuna

Middle row:
Luna Grill – Chicken & gyro sampler
Peohe’s – Salmon watermelon taco
Bertrand at Mister A’s – Kurobuta pork belly
The Marble Room – Ahi lettuce wraps

Bottom row:
Devine Pastabilities – Creamy pesto chicken and spaghetti and meatball torpastas
The French Gourmet – Tagine chicken with couscous
Chedi Thai Bistro – Papaya salad


Collage 2: Drinks and desserts

Top row:
Cafe Virtuoso – Iced coffees & teas
Cucina Urbana – Caramel panna cotta
Firestone Brewery – Union Jack IPA and… a seasonal (oops, too much to drink)

Bottom row:
GI Group – Whipsy (whipped cream with wine)
Roppongi – Salted caramel pudding
The Melting Pot – Dark and white chocolate fondue
Stone Brewery – Self-Righteous Ale
Analog Bar – Analog Organic Chai Mule


Collage 3: Chefs and booths. Everyone was happy to strike a pose for me!

Top row:
Luna Grill – Chicken & gyro sampler
Firestone Brewery – Union Jack IPA and seasonal
Del Mar Rendezvous – Five-spice beef
Blue Point – Fresh oysters

Bottom row:
The Marble Room
– Ahi lettuce wrap
Devine Pastabilities – Torpastas
Crab Hut – Cajun-style shrimp


Collage 4: More food!

Top row:
Firefly – Hamachi crudo
Chris’ Ono Grinds and Grill – Kahlua pork
Donovan’s Steakhouse – Philly cheesesteak

Middle row:
Donovan’s Steakhouse – Shrimp & sausage skewer
Challenge Dairy – Cheese samples
Cowboy Star – Pastrami beef tongue rueben

Bottom row:
Analog Bar – Bahn mi kettle chip
French Gourmet – Alligator-shaped bread (ok, I didn’t eat this. But it was too cool not to show.)
Chris’ Ono Grinds and Grill – Grilled chicken


So as you can probably figure out, we ate a lot. And drank a lot. And had a great time! I’ve highlighted my favorites in the photo descriptions. Now I have an even harder time deciding where I want to eat for Restaurant Week! So far, we have a reservation for Whisknladle (per many people’s recommendations), but I absolutely cannot make up my mind on anything else. Haha. So please share your Restaurant Week experience with me! I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

Gorgeous sunset from the pier

Live jazz band

Thanks again to Kirbie’s Cravings for hosting the SDRW Taste 2012 giveaway! (And thanks to Lady Luck for letting me win the giveaway, haha.)