Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Naomi's Best of 2006

This week's Reader boasts Naomi Wise's picks for the best new and improved restaurants in town, along with few pet peeves.

At the top of the top she likes Blanca, where Michael Mina protege Wade Hageman is cooking Nouveau French California food. I haven't been yet, but it's definitely on my "hit list", as my friend Lisa says. Market is named best in the "almost- affordable" category - and she includes a nod to my pastry instructor - James Foran - for best desserts rivaled only by Jack Fisher at Addison (late of 910 and Region). Personally I think his stuff is far and away better than Fisher's, but maybe I'm biased.

She also mentions Modus as the best place to gobble French food into the wee hours. Confidential gets the nod for best Tapas, and she mentions that Chris Walsh will be opening a new restaurant early this year. I wonder if he's going back to his old, and still vacant, location on 6th Avenue?

Hawthornes is mentioned as the best improvement or "turnaround," with fresh vegetables and stocks used instead of the dreaded Sysco mix. I've never been to Hawthorne's, but I did dine at the Green Tomato in Kensington a few times when we lived in the neighborhood (owned by the same people as Fifth and Hawthorne) and they definitely had that problem - I wonder if it has improved as well, or if the same people still own it.

My favorite part of her list is the list of "Eight Great Dishes" - She liked the truffled corn at Island Prime, as well as a truffled corn ravioli dish from J Six that sounds fabulous. She also mentions the "Bubalus Bubalis" Ricotta Gnudi - which is on the Restaurant Week menu at 1500 Ocean, the strawberry ribs from Red Pearl Kitchen, Grand Marnier Souffle at Thee Bungalow and smoked roast beef at the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues. Rounding out the list are a dish from Paradise Grill (which isn't winning many rave reviews on Chowhound) and Torchon of Foie Gras at Stingaree. I also had a good version of this at La Bastide Bistro last year.

There are also a few surprises, at least to me - the "Best Kept Secret" is Galileo 101 - which has always seemed a bit forsaken in it's odd location facing the trolley tracks in the One Harbor Drive complex. Apparently a former sous chef at Chive is now cooking there.

In the ethnic category, Lotus Thai, a new place called Kous Kous, D'mood, Ranoosh, Samba Grill, and Gourmet India get nods. Gourmet India has a fabulous lunch buffet for about eight dollars and the people are incredibly nice.

One of the most intriguing listings to me however, is the mention of a new place called "Batter Up." Owned by by a former chef at the Juke Joint, which I remember fondly, serves Cajun style casual food at the corner of Euclid and Market. Sounds like an interesting new option for weeknight dinner!

To read the full article, click here.


  1. I think Chris Walsh's new place is going in next to Mama Testa in Hillcrest - near the corner of University and Richmond - where the Living Room used to be. I saw a little sign there the other day with the picture of a guy holding up a W in front of him and it will be called something like "Tasty Bites".

  2. I agree with your assessment of Gourmet India. I travel frequently to London and always miss the incredible Indian food they serve. I have tried every Indian restaurant in San Diego and Gourmet India is the first that matches the quality of London; However, Gourmet India has is own uniqueness that you will not find in London. The food is geared more toward hot weather climates, so Londoners will find a number of items on the menu that they never see in the UK. They also have a number of incredible beers from all parts of India. I recommend the India Special, which is about two 12 oz beers in volume. This is also a great place for vegetarians or vegans as is provides many dining options. The location is very close to the parking garage in Horton Plaza (to the right of the main parking entrance on 4th and F Streets). You can park in Horton Plaza and validate your ticket in the Mall for three hours of free parking. The ambiance is not a fancy as some of its downtown competition, but the food, prices, and customer service are all better than the competition. You can also enjoy some fun people watching from the outdoor dining area. Gourmet India charges extra for rice (so do most Indian restaurants in San Diego), but the rice high quality and is prepared as a dish. I recommend the vegetable rice of the day. My favorite appetizer is Uttapam, which is a popular griddle cake from Bombay, made from cream of wheat, topped with tomatoes, onions, light green chili, cilantro, served with sambar soup and coconut chutney. I also recommend the Mulgutany Soup with chicken, but is also comes with vegetables. The soup is a lentil of the day cooked with ginger, onion, tomatoes and coconut milk. All of the curries are excellent and homemade. The chef/owner will also make nearly anything upon request. I occasionally ask for chicken yogurt saffron, which is not on the menu. I also like to order Chicken Tikka Masala, a marinated tandoor cooked boneless chicken, served in a tomato saffron sauce. The Murg Korma is also spectacular. It has boneless pieces of chicken cooked in an enticing cream sauce with nuts and raisins. The lunch buffet is basic and very nice, but I prefer ordering from the menu. If you like Indian cuisine, I highly recommend Gourmet India!

    I also recommend reading this review: