To feed your body and soul in San Diego and all over the world

American

Devilicious

Oh food trucks…how I love thee.  Let me count the ways that I love you:

Your food is cooked fresh to order.

You provide me good food without any unnecessary frills.

Most of the time you have me eating with my hands.

You satisfy my hunger and my soul.

Oh food trucks…thank you for completing my eating life in San Diego.

The food truck mania is not just some passing phase people.  It is a staple that San Diego has been long behind on and over the last 5 years, that side of the business has significantly grown.  One of the oldest food trucks in San Diego who also participated in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race – Devlicious, has been serving our great town for awhile now.  Their signature item is the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich.  So when a coworker and I found them parked just outside our office, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it for myself:

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The lobster grilled cheese comes with a side salad with balsamic vinegar.  The sandwich itself: butter poached lobster with melted jack and cheddar cheese and caramelized onions on sourdough.

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It is a rich and delicious sandwich. The cheese melted perfectly, nestling in the sweet onions and lobster itself all on two pieces of crispy, fresh bread.  I think if it was any other side, it would have been just too much for me to handle, but because it was a salad, it helped bring down the richness.  As for the lobster you may be wondering – fresh, soft, sweet, and was not overshadowed in the least.  And they gave you a good amount of lobster for the price of $12.

People may think this is “outrageously” expensive, yet a restaurant would have charged you $16-$18, and some places could get away with even charging up to $20 for this exact sandwich portion. Think about it people, how much would it cost you at a restaurant? These trucks have to not only pay for the food supply itself, but even with their bare minimum operations, there are still costs to run a food truck.  Have you not seen the show itself?  You need to charge every dish to cover your cost of food, overhead (eg. wages, truck maintenance), and still make a profit from every sale.

So come on San Diego!  Go out there and support your local food trucks!!!  There’s a great website that shows you all the food truck gatherings throughout San Diego called Curbside Bites and their calendar lists out everything.  Granted, always check with the truck’s twitter or webpage for any updates on their locations.

Devilicious

Throughout San Diego County (and sometimes beyond)


D Bar

My first time at D Bar was with two lovely ladies from my old job – KF and LT, when LT who had left SD several years back, was coming back to visit.  I had to catch up with two wonderful and extremely driven ladies.  We had a great afternoon catching up and just seeing what everyone was up to since we were all tied up in life itself.  That day, we had sampled several dishes to just get an idea of what D Bar could do – just desserts or food as well?

d Bar collage

On the left hand side, from top to bottom:

Crue Fries – their signature starter of garlic parmesan fries (perfectly fried), mac sauce, melted cheddar jack, bacon, ranch, and chives.  This appetizer is salty but so addictive!

Naan-Burguesa – kobe burger, grilled naan, black bean hummus, chipotle mayo, havarti, avocado, and a side of chips.  Since I don’t eat beef, KF and LT both were a little underwhelm by this  burger.  In part, the use of a grilled naan didn’t hold everything together so when you bit down, everything tends to slide out.

Tahini Grilled Salmon – on a bed of mixed greens, grilled baby bok choy, tossed in a ginger soy vinaigrette, and topped with toasted almond and edamame.  This salad was again only ok and slightly underwhelming.

Now the real reason why we were here: desserts!

Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has – just the name itself made us want to order it.  Plus the three of us have had really good molten cake thingies before, so we had to try it and see where D Bar’s stacked up.  Their version is comes with raspberry compote and Sicilian pistachio ice cream, but we wanted to try their salted caramel ice cream and so we requested the swap.  Well we can say that their cake thingy was quite good.  Was it the best?  We were all hard press to jump up and exclaim this was the best version we’ve had to-date, but it is a darn good contender!

Ch Ch Ch Churros! – Made. To. Order.  Those are the three words that almost always ensures that you are going to have a great churro.  And boy, D Bar knows their churros alright! It was the best freaking plate of churros ever!!! And it comes with a little dish of melted dark chocolate for dipping which was more for scooping out and eating straight.

On my second visit with two other wonder ladies – LA and JW, I knew there were two items I couldn’t go without: crue fries and churros.  Except this time, it was for dinner so ordered more items to try in hopes that it would turn out better, but first…some drinks!

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Normally, I don’t drink so I wouldn’t be posting about drinks, but my gals do and one drink intrigued us all – the Fresca Picante (martini glass one).  This was a strawberry jalapeno infused tequila with agave and lime.  I had taken a sip and the jalapeno is this after kick that happens a few seconds after drinking.  It was such an interesting taste and experience that it had all three of us just inspecting it as we waited for food.

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Oh these wonderful babies again…come to mama! NOM NOM NOM!!!

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Bacon Mac & Cheese – because we were all feeling like mac n’ cheese.  Don’t question us! We wanted this ooey, gooey bowl of melted goodness.  It’s a four cheese mac, with bacon and cheese nips and panko crumb top.  It was as decadent as it sounded, but good for sharing!

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Lobster Risotto – grilled lobster tail with rosemary butter, served with roasted poblano risotto and broccolini and pea tendrils.  The lobster was sweet and tender and I could have eaten several more of that tail!  So good…

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And since we were ordering so many rich dishes, I felt we needed at least one salad to help balance it out a little.  The Grilled Caesar salad, drizzled with balsamic glaze  and topped with shaved parm, it help give us that fresh crunch we needed.

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Oh the desserts…delicious, delicious desserts…I pretty much dictated this order:

Chocolate Souffle – 65% chocolate souffle, nutella filled beignets with chocolate sauce, and praline ice cream.  The souffle was not as airy as I’ve had in some places, but still delicious and fluffy.  The beignets were too thick and not fluffy enough.  Beignets are suppose to be little pockets of fried heaven (as I have experienced before in NOLA), so I was a little sadden to eat these little guys here.  As for the chocolate, we learned from our waiter that they “pay more for the chocolate per pound than we do for the steak”.  Now that’s something to be proud of! If I do say so myself!

And those churros, I ordered it knowing what I would get, but my friends were both skeptical.  I told them that I swear by them and upon their first bites, I just ruined their ideas of churros forever.  LA was just peeved at me for making her taste a damn good churro and now other churros will never be the same.  Job. Well. Done.

D Bar as a whole, I love – from the food, atmosphere, venue and the people working there.  It’s a great place to gather, enjoy a few dishes and drinks.  Although I did not have pictures of my take out desserts from D Bar, I did try their macarons and chocolates.  The macarons were much too dry!  I was quite disappointed, but at least their chocolates were superb!  I really hope the restaurant will continue to do well, so that I may keep coming back and try everything on the menu (but always with the churros).

D Bar
3930 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103


Philly Frank’s in San Marcos

Ok, so I don’t normally track up to the San Marcos area for food.  Or at all since it is never “on my way” to anything!  However, my coworker introduced me to a place up in San Marcos about three weeks ago and my world has been forever changed.  (And the realization dawned on me that San Marcos is actually NOT that far away from our office in Rancho Bernardo!)

CB started talking about getting Philly cheesesteaks one day and that got me really hungry.  Then he proceeded to tell me the name of the restaurant – Philly Frank’s.  Of course, the moment he gave me the name of the restaurant, I went hunting for the place online to see if it was worth my saliva (because I was drooling already at the thought of it).  Upon browsing through Yelp’s comments, reviews, and the pictures, I was completely sold!

Since I don’t eat beef, the only “Philly cheesesteak” that I’m familiar with is of the chicken variety.  There were good reviews for Philly Frank’s chicken variety and hence, there was an immediate need to make a lunch trip up.  Fortunately, for us, the managers were all gone for training during the week and so, it was time to schedule a “long” lunch!

There were four of us who made the trip that one fateful afternoon – CB (the culprit), PY, XP, and myself.  Between the four of us, we ordered the following: Cheese Steak, The Works (with peppers, mushrooms, and onions) – Beef  (3), and The Work (with everything) – Chicken, two orders of seasoned fries and an order of the onion rings.

Up close shot of my chicken philly

Needless to say, we had a LOT of food for the four of us that afternoon.  We thought that we could tackle it without any problems-no that is actually a lie.  Once we saw everything in front of us, we knew it would be a challenge that we had willingly accepted!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take an aerial shot of the table, but trust me, put all those sandwiches together and our sides and you’ll get the idea.  And by the end, I ended up eating more than 80% of the fries, some of the onion rings, and half of my sandwich.  There were definitely some food coma issues for the four of us upon our return to the office.  Was it all worth it?  HECK YES!!!!

It was so worthwhile, that CB and I made another trip last week with three other coworkers – MW, MB and RC.  They too understood why we would risk falling asleep during work hours for this sandwich!  Results were just the same as the first time – lots of food, happy eaters, and very tired workers.

Though the sad ending for our second trip, my leftover half of the sandwich was accidently left at the office fridge.  It was over the weekend, but there were no notices that the fridge was going to be cleaned out, which is done every now and then.  I come back to work on Monday morning, and was going to put my side salad I brought from home to eat with the sandwich, only to find my sandwich was GONE.  Seriously, I don’t get people who take other people’s food!  Sadly, that meant that I didn’t have the protein I needed for lunch that day and was starving soon after lunch.

This just means that I need to make another trip up to Philly Frank’s so I can have my other half of the sandwich!

Philly Frank’s
151 South Rancho Santa Fe Road
San Marcos, CA 92069


Stacked

There days (or nights) when I want something simple to eat, but if the restaurant can make it entertaining for me too…I can love it even more.  It makes me wonder why don’t more restaurants get this??? A distinguishing factor can help a restaurant stick out from the sea of options for patrons.

Stacked in Fashion Valley Mall occupies where the UNO Pizzeria used to be many ages ago.  This restaurant is a burger, salad, pizza, sandwich joint.  What makes this place different than say, a Burger King or Chili’s?…….It’s self-service, to an extent.  There are still servers and cooks, however the servers do not take your orders.  You put in your own order on your table’s personal tablet:

I know it seems so trivial and some may even find this annoying that they have to put in their own orders.  However, for today’s generation and the current technological culture, this is a welcomed addition for restaurant goers.  You can check out their website and see what their menu looks like.  And since you place your own orders, you can customize it as much or as little as you want.  The control is ALL yours!

With that control, I created this sandwich for myself:

What you see before you is CP’s burger: Brioche bun + Angus Burger + Romain Lettuce + Bacon + Onion Straws + BBQ Sauce + Side of Jalapenos (for me).

My sandwich: Whole Wheat Bun + Blackened Grilled Chicken + Romaine Lettuce + Caramelized Onions + Roasted Red Peppers + Sides of Garlic Aioli and Chipotle Mayo.

And to accompany our sandwiches – a combo of half fresh cut fries and housemade chips.  Ketchup for CP and ranch for me!

All of this did not come cheap, so don’t expect this restaurant to be your run of the mill place.  With each customization, it’ll cost you – yes, even the sauces which does include the ketchup.  However, I will say the idea of having a perfectly created sandwich, cooked to our liking to our exact order is empowering.  Also, the housemade chips are just ridiculously addicting, but I would recommend that you request for “less salt”.

To wrap up the evening, I ordered a dessert (another “stacked” item): Scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies.  The chocolate chip cookie was a little over baked, but the whole dessert was still delicious because you can’t go wrong with ice cream and cookies!

The second time CP and I went, he ordered a customized pizza and it was good too.  Not outstanding, nor best pizza ever.  At the end of the day, Stacked is fun and good for a simple (or not so simple if you’re technologically illiterate) meal.  I think the novelty factor makes it worthwhile to warrant a visit.  Go ahead, stack your own meal!

Stacked (Multiple Locations)
Fashion Valley
7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Suite #356


Market Restaurant + Bar

Last month, I finally crossed off a restaurant that I had wanted to go to for ages.  This place got on my list of restaurants to try back in 2006, not long after it had opened.  The rave reviews from fellow local bloggers, to Yelpers, to magazine reviews, the restaurant had a laundry list of positive feedback.  Yet, the reason it took me almost six years to get there are due to various reasons:

  1. It’s slightly off the beaten path in Del Mar, and not in the main strip of Del Mar restaurants off the coast.
  2. The end bill is not exactly cheap, so that would limit this place to special occasions.
  3. Once, when I got close to going, there were no reservations open for that evening that was before a 9pm seating.

Then comes along my old colleague and friend from my previous job, who was coming to San Diego (technically, it was Valley View Center) for a job.  We scheduled for a dinner meet up and she told me to pick.  Considering she was all the way up in the mountains, though an area I’m familiar with, it is not my first choice for dinner spots.  Hence, I knew I would be choosing something in the northern area of San Diego.  That is when it came to me: we could go to Market Restaurant + Bar!  I knew this would work out since my friend was traveling on the company and would have a food allowance.  Since I didn’t mind picking up my own tab, I quickly jumped on it.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, it was as if time had stood still for the place ever since I saw it all those years ago.  I thought to myself, “I’ve passed by this place enough times during the summer (for the Del Mar County Fair), now I will finally get to see if it was worth the wait!”  (Side note to future patrons – there is no parking at the restaurant and is valet only, but it is free!  Just remember to tip the man.)

The interior is intimate with dark lighting, but it is very simplistic modern feel.  The bar at the entrance is definitely darker with darker colors of deep red, but the main dining room is lighter with persimmon colored walls, accented by lines of “sage” and “avocado green” (according to their website, those are the color names).  The minute I walked into the restaurant, I loved it.  And this is not always the feeling I get when I go to restaurants.  (I can only think of maybe a handful of instances where a restaurant’s décor was an instant love for me.)

On to the food!!!

To start off the evening, our server put in front of us the modified Amuse Bouche of a Ricotta, Pesto, and Tomato Crostini.  My friend AS is allergic to shellfish and apparently the amuse bouche of the night featured shrimp, so hence, we received this one instead.  It was good regardless – simple, fresh ricotta, and not too overpowering.

For our shared appetizers (there were three of us):

The Blue Cheese Soufflé & Shaved Persimmon-Fuji Apple Salad was in our server’s opinion, “Not that rich!  The salad helps cut the cheese down.”  Um….I’ll tell you right now that the soufflé itself, even with the salad, was downright rich.  I could see someone trying to finish this, then take two bites from their entrée and call it a night.  With that said, this was delicious and packed with blue cheese.  For those who do not enjoy blue cheese, do NOT get it!  It’s not just a hint of blue cheese, it’s in your FACE cheese.  The persimmon and Fuji apple salad was light and sweet to accompany the soufflé in perfect harmony.  *cue the harp music*

Our other appetizer was a recommendation from the server (I was hesitant in taking her suggestion considering her advice about the soufflé) when we asked which of the salads was better.  The one we ordered was the Grapefruit and Avocado Salad.  Grapefruit is not a fruit I eat at all because I find the bitterness too overpowering.  I decided to go in with an open mind and took a bite of the salad with a bit of every component.  That is the whole point of a composed dish right?

The bite consisted of the only slightly bittersweet grapefruit, with the creamy avocado, the tangy goat cheese, and mixed greens dressed in Arbequina Olive Oil (which was smooth and fruity like), I was surprised how much I liked it.  I never thought I would, but I did!  The salad is beautiful to look at, as well as to eat.  The flavors all worked with each other and I could not think of anything wrong with the combination.

Entrée time! 🙂

This was the special duo of the evening and AS’ choice!  The duo included Cabernet Braised Shortribs (Buttermilk Fried Onions, Vegetable Roast, Horseradish, Sweet Onion-Potato Purée) and Wagyu Skirt Steak (Aged White Cheddar Braised Potatoes, Broccolini, Roasted Tomato, Crispy Bacon).  Since I don’t eat beef, this was AS and JD’s reactions to the dish: “ZOMG the beef falls apart!  It is so good!  I can’t believe how tender it is!!!”

That was the general thought of the dish as a whole.  And according to the two ladies, they both liked the shortribs more than the skirt steak.  I did try the accompaniments and enjoyed the flavors of them too.

JD’s (a new coworkers of AS and a fellow foodie!) entrée was the Crab & Shrimp Stuffed Salmon with house made gnocchi, mushrooms and broccolini.  I had a bite of the fish with some of the stuffing and was surprised that I enjoyed it.  I am not a fan of cooked salmon; I like mine raw…in a sashimi form!  However, Market seasoned it well and the fish did not have that yucky, “fishy” smell or taste to it.

My selection should not come as a surprise since I never pass up this option.  The Spice roasted Maine dayboat scallops were superb.  The dish was accompanied by black rice, roasted Brussels sprout, fennel, and (if I recall correctly) a red pepper sauce.  My giant scallops were tender, flavorful, and oh so *gurgles in own saliva*.

………………Sorry, I had a moment there but I’m back.  Anyway, I don’t believe the dish is always on the menu since the restaurant does change every so often to reflect the season.

Honestly, the restaurant has yet to show me that they cannot execute a well-composed and cooked dish.  Kudos Market!  Ok, onto our last course!

Dessert!!! (Best part of any meal right?)

For AS, the S’mores – a warm chocolate and graham tart, with toasted brown sugar marshmallow swirl top, and topped with some sea salt.  The dessert comes with a scoop of the malted chocolate ice cream.  It is definitely s’mores for adults and packed with chocolate.  I liked it, but was not in love with it.

For JD, her Crème Fraische Panna Cotta was the disappointment of the evening.  The Panna Cotta with the tangerine sorbet was just too…plain and underwhelming.  I think those were the words we came up with to describe the dessert.  All of us love fruit-based desserts and a clean dish.  This one just did not cut it for any of us.

For moi, give me the Butterscotch custard and chocolate soufflé with espresso-bailey’s ice cream baby!  The dessert comes out as three mini desserts on a plate.  From left to right:  The ball of espresso-bailey’s ice cream is covered with what reminds of coco pebbles at first glance, but I think they are just pieces of chocolate wafer cookies, and it sits on a dollop of caramel – loved.

Then comes the little cup of butterscotch custard, with fresh vanilla whipped cream (and you can see the vanilla beans still!) topped with toffee pieces.  This was butterscotch all right!  Not my usual preference for custards or puddings, but this was small enough so it was still good with its other dessert members.

Lastly, the chocolate soufflé was a miniature “lava cake”.  The cake was good, but when it comes to “lava”-like cakes, my favorite still goes to Roy’s and Café Japengo’s.  Those are the bomb diggity!  Still, Market’s version was a fair in comparison to some I have had at other restaurants.

The desserts seem to be underwhelming overall for the three of us.  After having a stellar start and continued amazement for our entrées, the end was only “ok”.  Despite that, all three of us had an amazing dinner that evening.  I knew there was a reason this place has remained on my list of restaurants to try for years.  And the reason why I could still visit it after all this time, is that they make and serve outstanding food.  That is the why they are still thriving notwithstanding their isolated location.  Market Restaurant and Bar will have to be on my list of best places to go for special occasions.

Market Restaurant + Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014


Best of Park Ridge, NJ

While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst.  There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!

Best List / Must Eats

Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters.  However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees.  The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal.  So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie.  It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was.  I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.

Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks.  Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant.  The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:

  1. All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99!  It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
  2. The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness.  So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area.  I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too.  However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)

Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments.  The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani.  And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too.  I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more!  AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA!  (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)

Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew.  Who would??  However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough.  It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood.  Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew!  Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!

Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey

Sushi Village
700-90 Broadway
Westwood, NJ 07642

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY

Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Restaurant Week – The Red Door

Restaurant Week has all of San Diego out and dining about the city.  CP and I was part of the Sunday evening crowd, for the first day of Restaurant Week.  Although we both have been to this establishment, I wanted to return because I thought that our first visit was not the best representation of what the restaurant could offer.  Therefore, our first restaurant was a return trip to The Red Door in Mission Hills.

Appetizers

So CP did not go with the pre-fixe menu, but still had a starter.  His choice – the Crab Cake, with fresh lump crab and no fillers.  It is paired with roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives and sun dried tomato with sweet basil dressing.  Now the order actually comes with TWO crab cakes, and as you can see that was not the case.  However, they quickly realized their mistake and added the additional cake (with all the fixings) immediately.  They also took off this order on the receipt because of the mistake, which I found to be a nice touch of customer service.  Kudos!

My first choice in my three course meal was the Shrimp Creole, which I had the first time I came here and fell head over heals for it.  The dish was presented in a skillet rather than a composed plate, but still as delicious as I recalled.  I couldn’t get enough of the sauce again!!

Entrée

CP’s entree of choice: the Red Door Burger – char grilled ½ lb meyer natural ground beef, buttermilk bun, American cheese (but CP didn’t want it), caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and house burger sauce (aka thousand island).  The shoestring fries were crispy, just the way I like it.

My entree, my second choice, was the Lamb Meatballs – ground Colorado lamb with roasted garlic, feta, pine nuts, home made gnocchi, tomato, spring raab, and chimichurri sauce.  Um…how could I describe my thoughts?  Let’s see…THIS is one of the MANY reasons why I am finding my personal desire to give up lamb to be SO hard!  It was great dish as a whole, but one area of improvement – the meatballs could be a little more tender.  After that, you have achieved perfection my SD friend.

Dessert

Last time, I tried their fruit cobbler (which is one of two choices on the RW menu) and it was not that good.  So I tried something different this time!

For my finale, I chose their signature dessert: the Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker-walnut crust, and chocolate & caramel sauces.  I think this could be a good dessert if: 1. tone down the whip cream a little, and 2. increase the pastry cream filling.

I still love the restaurant and this time around, the service was much better.  It’s a perfect time for you to try The Red Door during Restaurant Week to sample some of their signature items.  The menu will be available through the end of the week on Friday (1/20).  Bon Appetit!

The Red Door
741 W. Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103