Sunday, March 30, 2008
I spent this past weekend in San Diego and dined at the (somewhat new) Quarter Kitchen at the Ivy Hotel located in the trendy Gas Lamp District. I'd heard good things and it was highly recommended by The Hard Rock. Normally I stay away from "fine dining" in hotel restaurants, but since amazing food wasn't the focus of the evening (we were more concerned with finding a dance club), I thought why not? Well ... unfortunately, we found a multitude of reasons ... as to why not.
I'd like to preface this review by telling you I am always very grateful for any meal, no matter the quality, and I do recognize how VERY VERY lucky I am to have the opportunity to eat in a restaurant at all. I enjoy reviewing restaurants as a past time because food-art/fine cuisine is a true passion of mine, but in the larger scheme of things, I am so fortunate just to be blessed with 3 meals a day. That being said, it's time to put on my critic's hat.
First impressions are not always incorrect. Around 5pm on Friday my friend Tami and I call to make a reservation at Quarter Kitchen for later that night, hoping we can be squeezed in by 10pm. They are able to take us at 8:30, or 9:00, or 9:30, and even at 10pm when we finally arrive. (Somehow, we lost track of time in Nordstrom's ... crazy I know.) Clearly they are not booked despite the fact every other place we drive by is teeming with people. An empty restaurant is not a good sign but we ignore this since our stomachs are on empty.
We walk into a grand space with heaven high ceilings and a modern vibe that makes you feel chic and cool just to be dining there. Our waiter is nice but not knowledgeable about basic menu questions. I order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc which is excellent and she has a Riesling, also very good. The wine, FYI, is the highlight of the entire experience. An amuse bouche arrives ... watery potato leek soup drizzled with olive oil. This little gift from the chef was CRYING for sodium and or any flavor at all.
We order truffled, leek empanadas with queso blanco and truffle dipping sauces. I can see the black perigord truffle slices in the lukewarm, coagulated gravy-esque sauce (also needing salt) but the slightest hint of truffle flavor is difficult to make out ... quite a feat considering the flavor of truffle is so potent and unique. The empanadas seem to be made in-house but possess minimal flavor and remind me of pop-tart dough stuffed with mushy vegetables and cheese.
A caprese salad arrives next ... not horrible but nothing an amateur cook could not make at home. The VISION of heirloom and fried green tomatoes with 25 year old balsamico described on the menu, somehow does not translate to the plate. When a restaurant serves an amuse bouche, it sets a certain tone for the entire meal. At very least I'm expecting juicy, succulent tomatoes, soft rich mozzarella with a slight tang, and memorable balsamic. We are served average at best tomatoes, what tastes like cheap mozzarella, and wilted shreds of basil.
We share an entree,which they split for us and that is gracious service. Blackened Hamachi seared rare with Togarashi, wok fried vegetables and a spicy red miso sauce. We are not able to try anything beyond the first bite of Hamachi which is so fishy we send it back, order 2 more glasses of wine, and get the check.
Oh, we also try a side of grilled asparagus with shaved Parmesan which is fine. Normally, in a high end restaurant, a manager is sent over when guests are so clearly unsatisfied, but no one seemed too concerned. Oh well.
I believe this place has potential ... the exhibition kitchen is gorgeous. Perhaps they are just working out the kinks many new restaurants experience. We go party all night anyway and have glorious French Fries at 2am. The following morning we ate at The Bondi, an Australian Cafe with phenomenal decor and excellent food brimming with flavor. I would have gone back to the Oz inspired cafe for dinner if we'd stayed another night.
Quarter Kitchen - Ivy Hotel
600 F Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 814-2000
333 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101