Saturday, February 17, 2007

Red Pearl Kitchen and Cafe Chloe Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Red Pearl Kitchen with two other couples - Lisa and Luis and Marc and Susan - for our second visit. It's a great place to go with a group because the food is served family style, and you will probably want to try several dishes. It's also astonishingly affordable for the amount of food you get. Our bill - even with a couple of nice bottles of wine, was less than $50 per person.

We had some of the same things we had last time, and tried a few new dishes. Both times we have visited I have been amazed by the quality of the food and the technique used to cook it. Everything has been well seasoned, well cooked and served at the right temperature - not necessarily a given in the finer restaurants of San Diego. There were a couple of dishes I wasn't that crazy about, but most of them were really delicious. We ordered waaay too much food, even for six people, but it was fun to try it all!

Here is a complete list of everything we had:

Crab and Shrimp Spring Rolls (two orders)
Fried Calamari
Pineapple Beef Satay
Strawberry Cinnamon Ribs
Red Curry Kobe Beef Hot Pot
Short Rib, Pumpkin and Banana Curry Hot Pot
Ginger Chicken Potstickers
Shrimp, Garlic and Bacon Fried Rice
Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp
Black Noodle with Beef
Shaking Kobe Beef
Cashew Chicken
Udon with Bacon, Egg and Smoky Miso

My favorite dishes, far and away, were the hot pots. Both were rich and unusual. They were delivered to the table in little cast iron pots with a ladle, and bowls and spoons for self-service. There was easily enough in each one that we were all able to try them. One of my other new favorites was the Pineapple Beef Satay - which sounded a little boring, but was delicious with a really good chargrilled flavor and tender perfectly grilled meat.

We didn't care much for the strawberry cinnamon ribs, the potstickers or the cashew chicken. The chicken was way too sweet, the filling in the potstickers was a bit rubbery, and the ribs were just plain strange.

Big hits at the table were the Black Noodle with Beef, the Crab Spring Rolls and Calamari (which is as addictive as candy). The udon (with large pieces of pork belly) and the kobe beef were also very good. The shrimp were good, but for some reason we liked them much better on the first visit.

I also had a Jade Mistress (or two) - it's an improbable combination of peppery vodka, sweet and sour, apple and basil - sort of sweet, tangy and spicy. I usually don't like "house cocktail"-type concoctions - but this one I love.

We were so full that we didn't have room for dessert, but last time we had the Andagi with coconut ice cream, which was delicious. I saw them serving quite a few desserts last night, and they did look good.

The only real criticism I have of the whole experience is that the restaurant itself was a little too hectic and loud. It's very popular and extremely crowded (it was a Saturday) and it seemed like they were pushing it with the number or reservations they were cramming in. We almost had a problem because we had six people and they tried to seat us at two tables for two they had pushed together. Luckily they found us another table, but we really thought that was ridiculous. It wasn't nearly big enough - and who wants to sit on the seam of two tables? I doubt that would be a problem on any other night though.
Note that they share a valet with Oceanaire - just around the corner - so at least parking isn't a problem.

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I also had a chance to revisit Cafe Chloe recently - with my dear friend (and James' dear friend) Tracy, who is getting ready to leave us for D.C.

She and I dined there alone, while James cavorted on the slopes of Whistler, B.C. as a participant in the annual "Gentlemen's Ski Trip." I will reserve my comments on the appropriateness of that moniker, but I get the house to myself for a week so I don't complain!

I read a comment on Chowhound recently that someone said he didn't really get the hype about Cafe Chloe, he likes it - but isn't prepared to award it a Michelin star, like some on the board. To my mind, that person just doesn't get it. It's not only that the food is good - there's something about the feel of the place that just really works. It's cosmopolitan and stylish, but also welcoming. It's also the kind of place that there are more of in other cities - and that we could use more of here. They are popping up - Jayne's Gastropub, Vagabond, Modus and the Linkery come to mind - and I hope the trend continues.

I had the steak frites - one of my favorite dishes, and Tracy had the moules frites. We also ordered a little boat of their olives to share, and a couple of glasses of wine. The steak frites were very good, as usual - but they served the steak on top of the frites - which unfortunately made them a bit soggy. The frites with the moules were served in a cone, which works much better. For dessert we had the chocolate pot de creme. I know this is nitpicky - but they are now putting the brandied cherries on top, and there are fewer of them. I preferred it when they were on the side, in more of their own syrup. I also had an espresso, which was a bit cooler than it should have been, but that's a common problem. So often it is served in thick cups that are not preheated - so they suck all the heat right out of the coffee.

Anyway, it didn't detract from a lovely meal, with a great friend who I will miss terribly when she goes. We are already missing her fiance, Brian, and can't wait to go and see them when they get settled in their new house back east!

I have a couple of other similar posts coming, on Cantina Mayahuel and Jayne's Gastropub, as well as a little report on cupcakes that I sampled recently at both Bread and Cie and Starbucks (of all places.) We also made a fantastic citrus chiffon layer cake in class this week - I didn't get any pictures because I forgot my camera, but I'm hoping one of my classmates will send them to me. I also really need to put up the post about the Big Cat Cabin - before snow starts to look downright ridiculous - it's in the 80s here today!

Hope you are having a great long weekend!

4 comments:

  1. Next time you go to Red Pearl you have to try the calamari - it is spicy and delicious! Looking forward to hearing about the cupcakes from Starbucks - I saw them there this morning and they looked cute!

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  2. Oh yeah - we had the calamari, somehow it got left off the list! And you are right, it is delicious!

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  3. Krista had the same experience with the espresso last time she was there. It is an all too common experience. Of course, we just got an espresso machine at home and it took us a bit of time to figure out how to make sure they were hot...

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  4. "...but they served the steak on top of the frites - which unfortunately made them a bit soggy"

    That is exactly what I like at Cafe Chloe. The fries alone are great but mixed with a little bit of the juice from the meat makes them perfect.

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