A week in San Diego
Saturday, October 08th , 2011
San Diego has the best climate in the USA, like Goldilocks' porridge, not too hot and not too cold, practically on the Mexican border; indeed it was part of Mexico until 1850. It is the base of the US Pacific Fleet, and if you walk along the seafront you will frequently see assorted warships cruising past (pictured). You can tour the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway should this take your fancy. Despite being the eighth largest US city it is not over-endowed with good restaurants. It is particularly tough to find anywhere decent to eat in the downtown area, where the Victorian-era Gaslamp district is full of cynical places targeted at the nearby convention centre. Owners know that few customers will return, and each new convention brings a new crop of tourists to prey on.
I had a tolerable meal at Cafe Chloe, a simple brasserie, though the service there was poor. The worst meal of the week was at 1500 Ocean, the flagship restaurant of the historic (by American standards) Hotel del Coronado. Despite a new chef who has worked in at least one serious restaurant in Europe, the meal here was dismal tourist fodder. Coronado has a view across the bay to the San Diego downtown, and in this area I actually preferred my meal at Candelas, a simple but competent Mexican restaurant.
I ventured into the suburbs to Narraya, a Thai restaurant with a reputation for using unusual ingredients, but the execution was very ordinary. I was quite impressed with the food at Hane Sushi, sister of the well-regarded Sushi Ota; mixed tempura were unusually well-made, and my eel dish was also good.
The best meal by a country mile was at Addison in Del Mar, north of San Diego up the coast. This restaurant, in an extremely smart newish hotel, delivered an excellent meal along with impeccable service.
My wine app featured in two press articles this week. One was in Eat Out Magazine, and the other was in the Sunday Times (the latter is behind the Times subscription firewall).
The first crop of the 2012 Michelin Guides appeared. In New York Michelin corrected the absurdity of Eleven Madison Park having just one star in a big way, bumping it to three stars in one go. They also elevated Brooklyn Fare to three star level, a restaurant so simple it lacks even a wine list, let alone tablecloths.
In the UK there was no change at the 3 star level, but two stars were granted to Sat Bains and (mystifyingly) to The Hand & Flowers, while Pied a Terre lost a star in the wake of the departure of its head chef. Stars were awarded uncontroversially in London to Dinner, Hakkasan Mayfair and Pollen Street Social, and (absurdly) to North Road. Outside London stars were awarded to Coworth Park, Sir Charles Napier, Butchers Arms, The Pass, Tassili, Black Swan and Drfitwood. In Scotland, Glenapp Castle, Castle Terrace and Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, while The Checkers in Wales gained a star. The following restaurants lost their single star: The Samling, La Becasse, Ynyshir Hall, The Plumed Horse, Champany Inn, Tom Aikens and The Bingham.