Friday, June 19, 2009

Prado restaurant- San Diego

Prado a No-Go
The ROY G. BIV of blown glass billowed like clouds beyond the doorway and into a swanky lounge. I was surprised I hadn’t made it here before, since Balboa Park’s ornate, Spanish architecture loomed only moments from my house, but then again, this was the type of fancy-schmancy joint that was only fit for special occasions where the wallet had to be ready and willing. My best friend’s mom was in town, so this was one of those nights.

Entry gave way to plush upholstery and dizzying hues of amber that were so rich, I felt full before I sat down. The hostess led us to a table directly in front of the kitchen door...hmmm. With over a week’s reservations and most of the restaurant empty? Not acceptable. They “found” us an open table in the adjoining room that was so lovely, it made me feel as if I could drawl, “The rain in Spain falls gently on the plain, doesn’t it dahhhling?,” and the grand theatrics would be perfectly acceptable amongst this Gasby-esque aura.

But then the food arrived and the mystique lifted. First came a small nosh of tasty flatbreads (asiago, seasame seed, “everything” version), but they were served with a thimbleful of white bean hummus that had the four of us staring greedily at each other, too polite to take the last scoop (at these prices? Cough up some more hummus, stingy.)

So instead, we set our minds on the menu, where my girlfriend and I decided to split the goat cheese/mushroom risotto and the short rib angelotti (a stuffed tube of pasta). But she started hording the angelotti as soon as I murmured the word, “rich” about the risotto, which was the understatement of the year. It was gluey and not a clean grain could be picked without the overwhelming abundance of mushrooms.

I understand its mushroom risotto, but enough already- know when to say when. There was a generous scoop of goat cheese on top, but instead of adding its usual airy tartness, it just created a dense, pasty blob of goo. Two bites into it, I was done (but still hungry.)And then there was my buddy, gorging on most of the short rib angelotti, but I didn’t have a smidge of food envy because the bite I had was dry, watery and under-seasoned.

The best dish of the night was the black bean soup, which was flawless (and can also be ordered during happy hour where you don’t have to empty your wallet.) Like a pretty girl with no personality, the Prado would be great to impress at parties, but you wouldn’t want to hang out otherwise.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

San Diego- Tractor Room

The Tractor’s Pull
Apperantly 10pm on a Sunday night isn’t an opportune time to go to dinner in San Diego…unless you’re headed to the Tractor Room. They’re serving food until midnight with an authentic lodge aesthetic, sealed by their deer horn chandelier and smoky lighting over dark woods.

Drinks: After eyeing quite the exotic cocktail menu (fig and thyme cocktail, mint juleps and peach bellinis to name a few), my cousin landed on the English breakfast martini for a twist of Sapphire gin, fresh lemon juice and orange marmalade. Mini toasts sat on the side- the point of these? I don’t know, just for fun, but he munched on them like a substitute for breadsticks…until the black skillet cornbread came.

Food: When this square, cast iron of edible gold arrived, glazed with honey and scallion confetti, my joy was comparable to receiving a birthday cake out of the blue. My “b-day candles”? A knob of butter protruding from the center. Happy day to me!

Since it was a little late, we didn’t want to go crazy with the eats, but almost changed our minds when we saw the likes of elk sausage ravioli and lamb burgers with caramelized onions and goat cheese. But we stuck to apps and my cuz enjoyed his chicken wings- perfectly seasoned, not too hot- and matched well with their horseradish/ sour cream sauce vs. your run of the mill blue cheese.

Again it was Christmas morning for me as my personal pot of duck and white bean soup was laid before me. Earthy, creamy and hearty, I was enjoying each layer of depth when I uncovered a secret. There was one lump, then two. Like an archeologist discovering a lost village, I started unearthing hunks of cooked bacon for a bounty as valuable as King Tut’s tomb (to my stomach anyway.)

Service was impeccable and the offerings were intriguing. I’d love to go back for brunch and check out some of their creations like wild boar hash and the buffalo quesadilla. That’s when I know I like a place…when I’m already planning my return. The Tractor Room’s definitely got game, and I’m not just talking about the elk.