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San Diego Restaurant Week Recap

As many of you may have known, San Diego hosted  it’s 7th Restaurant Week and this year, more than half of the participating restaurants extended their RW into the following week.  This gave restaurants more opportunities to introduce themselves to new audiences and thus, creating a bigger fan base.  Some may like RW, while others do not and I think (which I have felt myself as well) it is due to the fact that for regulars, their restaurants are suddenly overtaken by new customers who ware clamoring for the pre-fix menu.  What you have to realize is this kind of exposure for restaurants is a great way to build up their client base.  We must not be selfish because we all want our favorite restaurants to survive one of the toughest and cut throat  industries.

I participated in 2 RW menus for restaurants I had been wanting to visit for the longest time: Nobu San Diego and Cucina Urbana.

Both restaurants are very different in nature, but both were exquisite in food and service.  There is a reason why Nobu is so highly regarded and why locals cannot get enough of Cucina Urbana.  Nobu is sleek, chic, and hip.  Cucina Urbana is rustic, homey, and modern.  Either one can do no wrong and lived up to what I had expected when I stepped foot in each.

Nobu – San Diego (Hard Rock Hotel)

The appetizer to start the night off was the Salmon Tataki Salad.  Lightly seared salmon sashimi was accompanied by shaved root vegetables, with cilantro dressing. Usually I am not a big fan of seared sashimi because I think it takes away from the beauty of the fish, but in this case, I found the sear to be perfect.  The center was still beautifully fresh and melted on my tongue.

For our entrees, CP and I each ordered something different and split it:

The Artic Char with with Jalapeno Cauliflower was pan-seared so the outer skin was crisped up and then roasted.  The skin did get charred a little too much but it did not effect the fish itself thankfully.  The char was tender and delicious.  The jalapeno cauliflower was so good that I could eat a bowl of it on its own!

Nobu’s take on Fish n’ Chips made me want to eat more fish…mostly because they used Chilean sea bass.  I want to talk to whoever came up with this idea of battering and deep frying sea bass!  Granted, it was delicious with a slightly thicker tempura batter, but why would you deep fry a beautiful fish like sea bass?!  I love sea bass…like it is my TOP fish choice and I would never, EVER think of deep frying it.  It feels just wrong…but yet…it did taste oh so heavenly…I was torn!  The chips were a little limpy and sad, but that honey anti-cucho sauce was so good that I just wanted to dip everything in it!

Each entree came with a Spicy Tuna roll.  My only grip about this was that the menu promised me spicy yellowtail (which is my favorite fish for sushi), but instead tuna came.  I love tuna and everything, but my hopes were up and then shot back down.

However, nothing shot me down as quickly as the dessert…

Nobu’s best-seller and customer favorite dessert: the Bento Box.  This is a Araguani 72% chocolate fondant cake, with a sesame crisp and green tea matcha gelato.  First off…I know that the Valrhona Araguani dark chocolate is one of the best to use for a deep, dark, bittersweet chocolate and my chocolate preference leans on the dark side.  However, this cake was just….terrible.  First off, I think the chef forgot the sugar all together.  It was bland and bitter, which I could not even tell if it was from the dark chocolate or it was burnt because it actually tasted burnt to me.  This made me really sad because I always look forward to desserts!  Sigh…thank goodness the green tea gelato saved the night! It was smooth, light, and packed with matcha awesomeness!  (By the way…do YOU see any sesame crisp?…no? neither did I..until I finished my gelato and found this semi-clear sugar-like crisp.  I’m guessing that’s the sesame crisp?)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Nobu.  The restaurant is definitely one of those “hip”, “mod”, “the cool place to be”.  The music was loud, the customers were more or less inebriated, but the service was friendly and attentive.  Will I be back for more? Heck Yes!  (Will I be having the Bento Box again?…not in this lifetime or next!)

Cucina Urbana

Another night, another meal!  CP’s chopped house salad really was chopped and tossed! It was medley of soppresata (salami), pepperoni, olive, red onion, tomato, asiago, pepperoncini, and some lettuce.  Not sure if I’d really would call this a “salad” in my terms, but it was delicious bowl of chopped meats and vegetables (mostly the former).  It was all tossed in a vinaigrette that was sweet but had a little bit to it too.

My first course choice was the roasted baby beet and orange salad was divine! Light, summery salad with lots of color and it was simply fun and smart.  The baby beets were tender and delicious with the cashews.  I think my favorite part were the scoops of ‘yo-goat’…or basically, goat’s milk yogurt.  Goat cheese is my absolute favorite cheese in the whole, wide world!  However, I’ve never had goat’s milk yogurt!  Just imagine goat cheese…but SOFTER!  HEAVEN!!!

We went with the pizza pre-fix menu so CP went to where his Italian heart will always be: a red pie with pepperoni and fennel sausage.  The nice charred underskirt of the baked dough held the sweet red sauce, with house-made mozzarella and the meat. CP gave 2 thumbs up to the wood fire oven pizza and proceeded to consume the whole thing.

I HAD to try their signature pizza with guanciale (pork belly!!! Get in MY belly!!), fingerling potato, brie, bésciamela, and 2 fresh cracked eggs!  O.M.G…Ok…how should I start?  This was like…a ridiculously indulgent breakfast-like pizza. The pork belly melted and flavored the pizza.  The saltiness of the pork melded well with the salty brie and then when you broke the yolk of the egg and let it spread through the pizza.  It’s just an indescribable experience!  Then to top off this amazing pie was a spicy chili sauce the waiter brought over and let me in on the fact that it is the perfect pairing.  My gosh…was he right!  The chili sauce elevated the pizza to 10 times higher and for once, I truly could taste the spice.  Oh lordy….*drooling at the thought*

The pear crisp with mascarpone gelato was not all that impressive but still good none-the-less.  In comparison though…

The chocolate budino with chocolate chantilly and salted chocolate biscuit….CHOCOLATE ORGASMIC PSYCHEDELIC EXTRAVAGANZA!  “Wow” would be an understatement.  Let me help put this in context….I had already had 2 full courses which did include a sizable pizza…and the fact that I could still taste and have my mind be blown away by this budino….yes, it was just that good!  Budino is Italian for pudding and that’s just what it was: a dark chocolate pudding. Thick and unadulterated chocolate pudding that was intense in flavor.  Perfectly balanced, just sweet enough, but still a dark chocolate pudding.  The chantilly helped lightened up a bite if you were (like me) already feeling like you’re at your breaking point in your stomach.  The salted chocolate cookie was good, but I found myself not wanting it because it got in my way of the budino.

I love Cucina Urbana for it’s rustic, no frills, yet still very much stylish atmosphere.  They present food as it is and let’s the food’s own brilliance shine through.  All the chef does is perhaps polish it up and gives its a nice pep talk before it makes its debut on your table.  Wonderful experience.

I must say that this year’s RW did not fail to impress me.  The number of restaurants now participating in this event has seem to grow with each passing year.  This shows that restaurants now understand the power of this well sponsored and advertised event is to their advantage.  I have also noticed that a lot of restaurants continue to promote the pre-fixed menus (yay!) for both the cost-conscious consumers and encourages regulars to try something new at their old haunt. A good addition to a restaurant’s recipe for a long life in a world where only the best of best can shine through the decades.

Nobu (in Hard Rock Hotel)
207 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 814-4124

Cucina Urbana
505 Laurel Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-2222

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4 responses

  1. leena

    the chocolate budino with chocolate chantilly and salted chocolate biscuit sounds absolutely AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  2. *Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

    February 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  3. Great piece. I was checking continuously this blog and I am quite impressed! Extremely helpful info particularly the first part. I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

  4. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful info specially the first part. I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

    March 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

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