February 3, 2008

San Diego Restaurant Week 2008: Currant Brasserie and Trattoria Acqua

The first installment of San Diego Restaurant Week in 2008 lasted from January 27th to February 1st. Mr. Tall and I did not visit any restaurants last year, but we did go to Top of the Cove in La Jolla in 2006. Top of the Cove is currently still under construction (as it has been for nearly a year), but I hope to visit it again when the place re-opens. This year, I managed to have 2 occasions to enjoy Restaurant Week. The first occasion was for my law school partner in crime Anika's birthday, and the second was just a Friday night date for Mr. Tall and me.

For Anika's birthday, we went to Currant Brasserie at the Sophia Hotel in Downtown. We parked at Horton Plaza--I must add that the new self-validate system there is much more efficient--and walked over to the restaurant.
After we ordered, a brown bag (a really cute touch) of freshly baked sourdough with rosemary rolls accompanied by butter arrived. They were still warm and a great start to the meal. For our first course, Anika had the Bibb Lettuce Salad with red teardrop tomatoes, rendered pancetta and Point Reyes blue cheese vinaigrette, and I had the Caramelized Five Onion Soup with braised short ribs, black truffles and marrow toasts. The soup was very light yet flavorful, although the essence of the black truffles was merely detectable. I have never had marrow before, but I thought it tasted much like butter so I had no problem with that.

For our second course, Anika had the Roasted Jidori Chicken with warm Tuscan bread salad with currants, pine nuts and braised greens, and a drizzle of natural chicken jus. I ordered the Hibachi Salmon with green tea soba noodles, shaved vegetable slaw, and mandarin orange coconut butter. The portion of the Jidori chicken was very generous (about half a bird), and the birthday girl said that she enjoyed the dish. For me, the salmon was perfectly cooked (not overcooked, for once!), and as interesting as the mandarin orange coconut butter sounded, it actually married all the ingredients together quite nicely. Overall, I liked this dish.

Anika ordered the Pumpkin Cheesecake with orange mousse, cranberry jam, and pecan gremolata, and I had the Apple and Sun-dried Currant Canneloni with apple cider sabayon. The birthday girl enjoyed her dessert especially a lemon-y sauce that accompanied the cheesecake. The waiter informed me that the canneloni was not a regular offering, which compelled me to try it, and I was definitely satisfied. The diced apple and sun-dried currant were sweet yet tart, wrapped in a phyllo dough-like pastry and drizzled with the wonderful sabayon. In other words, it was yummy!

Overall, the food at Currant was delicious, and the ambiance was sophisticated yet unpretentious and casual. The service was very attentive as our courses came out in a timely manner, and our water glasses were never empty. You can also view the activities in the kitchen from the outside of the restaurant. So, if you find yourself in Downtown and want something different than what are typically offered downtown (steakhouses, etc.), then head over to Currant and you might be pleasantly surprised.

For Little Miss and Mr. Tall's date, we went to Trattoria Acqua in downtown La Jolla. Mr. Tall and I have fond memories of La Jolla as it was where we attended our undergrad at UCSD, enjoyed our first few dates, and we like to visit the Cove for nice beach-side walks. Located on Prospect Street, Trattoria Acqua is one of the restaurants on that particular row with an ocean view. Unfortunately, we couldn't see much of the ocean at night, but it still provided a nice backdrop. (Side note: if you want what Mr. Tall and I consider the best view in downtown La Jolla, try having dinner at George's Ocean Terrace, and you will fall in love!) After we ordered our meal, a basket of slices of sour dough baguette arrived along with a white bean hummus, which was delicious--I had to remember not to ruin my appetite.

Let's get to the good stuff (beware, my courses were very protein- heavy): for our first course, Mr. Tall had the Zuppa, a rich broth of four onion soup topped with a Gruyere cheese souffle, and I had the Carpaccio di Manzo, thin sliced Filet Mignon carpaccio garnished with daikon sprouts, Parmegiano Regiano, toasted pistachios and a lemon white truffle vinaigrette. Mr. Tall is generally not a big fan of onion flavor so the Zuppa was light enough to please his palate; he said he liked it but that it was not great. I thought the carpaccio was delicious and well accented by the grated cheese and toasted pistachios for texture; although, I would have preferred more of the vinaigrette (it tasted almost as if they forgot to put it in) because the acidity would have united the whole dish a bit more.

For our main course, Mr. Tall ordered the Fagiano, oven-roasted pheasant served atop a ragu of Italian Coteghino sausage, crispy sage and assorted Tuscan white beans and finished with au jus. I ordered the Cassoulette (Anthony Bourdain would have been proud), Muscovy duck leg confit adorning a lamb stew with Italian sausage, imported butter beans and tomatoes. Mr. Tall enjoyed this course because the pheasant was cooked very well leaving the skin crispy and the meat moist. It was my first time trying something confit, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. But the duck leg was crispy on the outside and very moist on the inside; however, the whole dish was just over salted. That just sort of killed it for me. I did manage to eat most of the dish (my grandma taught me not to waste food!), but it was definitely not as good as I had hoped.

Finally, for desserts, Mr. Tall had the Cannoli Della Nonna, Grandma Agnese's (um, I'm guessing it's the owner's or chef's grandmother?) homemade Sicilian cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips, and I had the Tiramisu, espresso soaked ladyfingers, in between layers of mascarpone cheese, chocolate and cocoa. Call me boring, but the other desserts just sounded a bit too heavy for me, considering how much meat I had eaten! The Tiramisu hit the right spot and ended the meal on a better note for me than the previous course. Mr. Tall had never had cannoli and had no complaints about it.

To accompany our meals, Mr. Tall ordered a red Italian beer (we don't remember the name anymore), which he liked, and I ordered a glass of Estancia Pinot Noir that didn't disappoint. All in all, Mr. Tall and I enjoyed our meal at Trattoria Acqua--the ambiance was warm and romantic (but not too cheesy), and the service was good. There was a couple at a table right behind us that Mr. Tall was facing, and the woman kept complaining the whole time about how much the service sucked and kept coughing with her mouth open--disgusting! We were glad that they finally left during our meal. So, despite the inconsiderate neighbors, Mr. Tall and I had a nice time, but the food will not likely get us to go back. Trattoria Acqua is a lovely place for a date, and I wouldn't doubt that perhaps their regular menu may fare better than the Restaurant Week selections.

If you did not get a chance to check out San Diego Restaurant Week the past week, there is a list of restaurants that is extending their offerings of Restaurant Week menu. The second installment will be from June 22nd to June 27th, so hopefully Mr. Tall and I will get the opportunity to visit yet another restaurant (or two).

Little Miss Contrary

Coming up: LMC's culinary adventures in Los Angeles!


imTSENsational said...

Where are you Miss Contrary? Don't leave your readers hanging like Cpt. Jack!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

San Diego Food said...

I have family that live out in San Diego, haven't seen them in forever. I plan on setting up a nice vacation with a wide range of activities planned. Heard the food out there is great!