Dining

San Diego Showcases its Culinary Chops at Restaurant Week

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Seasonally San Diegans have the pleasure of enjoying one week of fantastic food and five star dining. The best part — it doesn’t have to break the bank. That’s right, San Diego Restaurant Week is back! From the high class foodie to the food truck connoisseur, everyone will find something to whet their appetite at this season’s Restaurant Week.

Is there a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try? Is there somewhere that’s usually out of your budget? Or is there a foreign cuisine you’ve never tried? If you answered yes, Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity for you.

If you’ve never tried Restaurant Week, or you’ve never strayed from your favorite dining spots, the biggest recommendation to pass on is to try something new. Take a step out of your comfort zone and go some where you’ve never been, order something you’ve never tried, or treat yourself to a three-course meal when you’d normally skip dessert.

As a Bay Area transplant, I’ve been in San Diego for going-on eight years. I’ve tried my fair share of restaurant weeks, and usually my expectations far exceed the $20, $30, or $40 price tag associated with each meal.

Last season I enjoyed a wonderful meal at Whisknladel in La Jolla. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I’m always in search of something I haven’t tried. And as a girl on a budget, I have to keep the price tag in mind when ordering. So, imagine my surprise when Whisknladel had bone marrow and beef carpacio on the menu. While I’d had carpaccio before, I was anxious to try the bone marrow. The rich, succulent, incredible flavor of bone marrow, capers and lemon on a crunchy piece of bread made my heart skip a beat. It was quite possibly one of the most decadent things I’ve ever eaten.

This time around, I had the pleasure of tasting the offerings from the kitchen at Tapenade (also in La Jolla). As a person who typically orders the most interesting, out-of-the ordinary thing on a menu, I was pleased by two things in particular: duck pâté as an appetizer and wild boar as an entree.

I’ll have to admit, I’ve had pâté before, but never duck pâté. The lackluster gray color of the pâté sitting on the plate isn’t the most visually appealing thing, but countered with the bright salad of pickled vegetables and greens, my mouth began to water. I first tried the duck pâté, first alone, then on top of the crispy bread jeweled with sweet walnuts. The crunchy bread and fatty duck were a great combination. The salad of pickled vegetables and salad with vinaigrette cut the richness nicely.

The second course was scallops on a bed of butternut squash risotto. The dish itself isn’t the most unique interpretation of scallops, as the combination is on many menus around the city, but the execution was on par with what you could expect from a fine French restaurant. The creamy risotto was seasoned perfectly to balance the sweet squash and the savory sauce. There was a slight bite to the risotto, which combined with the tender succulent scallops to create a perfect marriage of flavor and texture. It was quite possibly the best risotto I’ve had — ever.

Technically, my dinner guest ordered the wild boar, but I couldn’t pass up on the offer to taste it. The meat was slow braised and served with a red wine sauce that brought a deep flavor to the dish. Served over tender noodles, it was a spectacular plate of comfort food. The tiny pearl onions were “little sweet gems” as referred to by my friend as her eyes rolled back in her head from pure enjoyment.

Then came dessert. We had the profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce and a rich dense chocolate cake with an espresso sauce. Both were individually paired with a sweet port and a dessert wine to generously end the amazing meal.

The staff at Tapenade was incredible too. The were quite helpful determining what we should order and made us feel welcome as if we were dining in their own homes.

Needless to say, Tapenade will be a highly memorable meal in my repertoire of Restaurant Week feast I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Other than my meal at Tapenade, I can provide a few suggestions for this season’s Restaurant Week. First, if you can afford it, go with a $40 meal. While there are great options at $20 and $30 restaurants, the most memorable meals I’ve had have been at $40 spots. For $40 you can get a classic steak house dinner, a technically flawless French meal, or whatever genre of food tickles your fancy.

There are so many restaurants to try in San Diego, it can seem like a daunting task to hit all the spots recommended by family and friends. Restaurant Week is the time to try the best offerings from some of San Diego’s hottest dining destinations. Restaurant Week is just one more shining example of the incredible food culture we have in this city. So get out there and start eating. You won’t be disappointed.

San Diego Restaurant Week is taking place now through Friday, January 20. Visit http://sandiegorestaurantweek.com for more information.

San Diego resident for over 10 years, I now call this beautiful city home. Originally from the Bay Area, I'm a California girl at heart. I love the outdoors, fitness, food, and a good craft beer (from San Diego of course).

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