I just recently returned from a little respite in southern California and had a couple of dining experiences to share. First up, San Diego.
JRDN – Mr. Sajak, please buy them a vowel, but nevertheless a strong showing. JRDN is the hotel restaurant inside Tower23 hotel in San Diego. Normally, I have a strong bias against hotel restaurants, but it was a late arrival and I was too lazy to really go anywhere else.
I’m glad that I was lazy. The menu is really great – they essentially have three of them: sushi, bar menu and regular table. We sampled off of all three of them and were really impressed. I particularly liked the ability to choose a protein, choose multiple preparations and then add sides. The wine list was strong, too.
A word on the bar – it’s really the "pretty person" bar, even more so than the Americano in San Francisco, but everyone seemed more mellow. I’d suggest not dressing like a kid who grew up in Michigan.
Next up in La Jolla was Zenbu – a local’s sushi joint. Great atmosphere and great sake surrounded by creative roll creations. It was the first time in several years that I saw roll creations that I had not had before. Best of all – they do half sized roll portions, so you can sample them all. Bravo, that was cool. Check out their menu, but my favorite was the Mexicali: Grilled Mexican white Shrimp, Crab, Cucumber, Avocado and Daikon Sprouts. Topped with Spicy yellowtail, Chopped Cilantro, Jalapeno and Fresno Chilli Peppers and a Garlic Ponzu Sauce.
There are a few tourist trap sushi places in La Jolla. This was a little off the beaten path. If you are in the area, make sure to stop by.
It was then off to Santa Monica where the pilgrimage to Pizzeria Mozza had to occur (awesome as usual, try the pizza bianco).
The next evening we gave the Border Grill a try. It was founded by the Food Network’s "Two Hot Tamales" Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. I’d give it a C+. Nothing inspiring except for wonderful salsas, as everything else was competent, but not worth the hype and certainly not worth paying $40 for a signed cookbook. (No, I didn’t buy one).
So bottom line, hit JRDN, Zenbu and always Mozza if you can. Consider elsewhere besides Border Grill.