Saturday, January 20, 2007

Restaurant Week at 1500 Ocean, Part II

My goodness I am behind! I had intended to write this post earlier in the week, but I wanted to get the chocolate cake post in for Sugar High Friday, so I wound up pushing everything else back. It's a little late for Restaurant Week, but I thought I'd say a few words and post some photos, just in case you are still curious.

I've wanted to try this place since I read Naomi Wise's review back in July. I was really intrigued by the menu and by the fact that the chef worked under Thomas Keller at Per Se, and I was curious about their remodel (and those cool blue chairs!)
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Our first visit was during the holidays, when we went for drinks with our friends Marc and Susan. On that trip, we enjoyed cheese fondue, lollipop chicken wings, tuna tartare and cheese biscuits while huddling in front of the outdoor fireplace watching the skaters on the beach-side rink. (All but the tuna tartare are on their bar menu only.) The cheese fondue was the best of the lot. It came in a cute little ramekin propped over a flame, and was served with apple wedges and french bread. The tuna tartare was good, but nothing out of the ordinary, and the chicken wings were just like buffalo wings. The cheese biscuits are also served in the bread basket of the restaurant (below).
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On that first visit we couldn't help but notice that the restaurant wasn't very busy. It was pleasant to have the outdoor area to ourselves, and we had excellent service as a result, but it concerned me a bit for the restaurant.
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I needn't have worried. When we showed up for our 7:15 reservation on Thursday during Restaurant Week , the place was packed. Even so, the dining room felt relatively spacious and it looked like they had some overflow seating on their heated covered patio. We sat in a booth on the side of the room, and aside from the fact that the spacing was a bit tight (we didn't have room for the bolster pillows they had put on the seats!) we were happy with the arrangement.

We were dining with Lisa and Luis, who as usual brought a wonderful bottle of wine for us to share. This time it was a 2003 Meyer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
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We ordered from the RW menu but added a couple of items, the foie gras, pictured above, and the shrimp, also above. The foie gras was perfectly sauteed, garnished with ground pistachios, a port wine reduction, grilled fig and frisee. The shrimp were sweet and tender - accented with a black bean puree, a griddled piece of corn bread and a sweet and spicy relish that provided an interesting contrast.
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A piccalilli-like jalapeno relish also came with the Lime and Honey Cured Hamachi, along with an avocado mousse. This was also very good - though a small serving. It would make an excellent choice if you like to save room for your main course.

The duck confit, pictured above, was served with a pomegranate reduction sauce. The duck itself was perfectly cooked, but the sauce and accompaniments - pureed celery root and braised endive - were a bit too sweet. I much preferred the green peppercorn sauce and mashed potatoes served with the duck confit at Modus.
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The dessert was a universal winner. We loved the chipotle chocolate cake with caramel ice cream and espresso crunch. It had just a bit of heat, moist texture and a good, deep chocolate flavor. In fact, we loved it so much that the waiter insisted on bringing us an extra one for the table, which then appeared on the bill! We thought he might leave it off since they were late with the coffee (it didn't get there until after we had finished dessert) but no such luck. We didn't quibble because he had been very good to us (he did comp our corkage fee), and we enjoyed ourselves so much - but we did think it was odd.

A note about the coffee - they bring it out in little silver french press pots, which are very cute, but don't let them plunge it when they bring it to the table. It a few minutes to steep a pot of french press, and mine was very weak.

Other items we ordered included the salad, which was excellent, the Santa Maria barbequed steak, which appropriately came with pinquito beans, and the cheese plate - which didn't look very good to me, but my husband seemed to enjoy it. We didn't try the gnudi, which several people raved about, including Captain Jack, but it is on the regular menu, so we have another excuse to go back.

The regular menu at 1500 Ocean is far from inexpensive, but they do have a four-course prix fixe for $75. - $110. with wine pairings. Three glasses of wine for $35.00 sounds a bit steep to me - unless they bust out a dessert wine not listed on the menu. Their wine list is excellent and fairly well priced. We didn't indulge in a second bottle since it was a "school night," but it looked like they had lots of good choices.

Overall what we ate at 1500 Ocean was very comparable to what we had at Market. Both restaurants serve modern California cuisine using fresh, local ingredients, and both chefs seem to have a soft spot for upscale comfort foods. Market's menu is a little more adventurous (and affordable), but everything at 1500 Ocean was flawlessly prepared, the atmosphere in the dining room was more pleasant, and the service was far better. I think my dining companions (who also dined at Market) would probably give the edge to Market, but I would be really hard pressed to choose between them. I recommend you save yourself the trouble, and try both!

1500 Ocean
Hotel Del Coronado
(619) 522-8490

reservations also available at

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