San Diego Restaurant Week is coming up, September 13-18, 2009. This year, the big sponsor is Fresh Express and the press release says that chefs are encouraged to incorporate their new salad mixes into the menus. To which I feel the need to comment that if Fresh Express is looking to have their salads on a $40 menu, I think they are missing the point. I also think it goes against the whole “fresh and local” thing that San Diego seems to be touting. But, I digress… I’m going to give you the press release I was sent, and then I’m going to tell you what I think.
San Diego, Calif. Aug. 3, 2009 — San Diego Restaurant Week, presented by Fresh Express Seasonal Salads, is returning from September 13 – 18 with the freshest ingredients and flavors for fall. This year is the first time San Diego Restaurant Week is taking place in September and it is expected to be one of the most successful events yet at a time when business typically slows down for local restaurants after the summer tourism season.
Restaurant menus are set to include local, seasonal ingredients and feature a variety of selections to delight the palettes of diners in the autumn season. Chefs are also planning to incorporate creative twists on the new Fresh Express Seasonal Salad mixes into their menus and consumers will be creating their best “Undressed Salad” recipes.
A new addition to San Diego Restaurant Week is San Diego’s own local TV personality, Sam the Cooking Guy. Sam will provide diners with video tips on how to be a good diner while eating out, to be available on http://www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com/.
“San Diego Restaurant Week offers an incredible opportunity to experience the best of San Diego’s dining scene while celebrating or reconnecting with friends, family and co-workers,” said Lehn Goetz, president of the San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association. “Restaurant Week has become a celebrated and highly anticipated local tradition, something that San Diegans as a community look forward to year after year. This September’s Restaurant Week is sure to have the best selection of menus ever, full of fresh seasonal ingredients to enjoy.”
According to Goetz, the January 2009 Restaurant Week proved to be the most successful Restaurant Week ever, with more than 180 participating restaurants, a 22 percent increase over the 2008 event.
Organized by the San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association, Restaurant Week provides diners with the opportunity to savor three-course, prix fix menus at the best restaurants in the county from Coronado to Point Loma to Escondido for $20, $30 or $40 per person.
No tickets or passes required. Reservations strongly encouraged. For more information visit http://www.SanDiegoRestaurantWeek.com.
About San Diego Restaurant Week:
In its fifth year as San Diego County’s largest and most successful dining event, San Diego Restaurant Week was launched to spotlight the city as a premier dining destination. From Sept. 13 through Sept. 18, culinary enthusiasts can experience three-course, prix fixe menus from more than 180 participating restaurants in San Diego County for $20, $30 or $40 per person (tax, beverages and gratuity not included). Visit http://www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com/ for details.
When SDRW started up, I was very excited. You hear about other big cities doing thing – offering their fancy menus at an affordable price as a way to get people to come in and, hopefully, get hooked. There are so many restaurants we’ve never visited because we’re hard pressed to spend so much money on one meal. When it started, the menus were $20. Then it went up to $30. Now, there are menus for $20, $30, and $40. You can guess what the fancy-pants restaurants are asking.
Checking out a new restaurant for $20 was a steal. But now, the $20 restaurants are kind of the ones where we could get out of there for $20 each with their regular menu. So, then, where’s the incentive? Especially now, with this “sluggish economy” and tourism being down?
I don’t even think we participated in the last SDRW (they aim for twice a year, although I seem to remember one being held in January…) because we didn’t see a menu that motivated us to spend $80 on a night out, before tax, tip, and maybe a glass of wine. This year, if we do participate, I might be interested in El Bizcocho. That is, if I can even get reservations. Because, seriously, we’ll never get there any other time of year. Maybe Nobu, too. I head their Black Cod with Miso is outstanding (but, seriously, mochi ice cream on your dessert menu?)
So, here are the restaurants we have gone to during SDRW:
1500 Ocean – The food was great, beautiful presentation and the associated serving size. Service was very, uh, grand? It’s a little more formal than we like, but that’s the vibe they’re going for. If we hadn’t gone before, I’d be tempted to check them out this year.
The Marine Room – Gorgeous view, incredible food. Their lobster bisque is decadent (although, their menu shows crab bisque). We’ve actually gone back to The Marine Room for an Easter brunch and their High Tide Brunch and the buffet spread is impressive. Expensive, but impressive.
Island Prime – It’s a Cohn restaurant and Cohn restaurants get a lot of flack among those who like to complain. I’ve only been to Island Prime during SDRW and we haven’t gone back, but I can tell you that the meal I had there was outstanding. Perfectly cooked rack of lamb and a very fun trio of chocolate desserts.
Thee Bungalow – Another Cohn restaurant, but one we’ve actually dine at often. It started with a SDRW visit, but then we went during their anniversary special (it’s like a 3-course menu for $20), and T and I have been to a couple of their wine dinners (which are among the cheapest in town plus you leave totalyl full and possibly a bit tipsy). Their duck is amazing and I think I order it every time, but I’ve also had chicken and fish dishes which were never dry and very flavorful.
Baleen – When we went to Baleen (whose menu is not up yet), I had a cocoa risotto that was different yet delicious. I remember waiting forever (for everything) and having to specifically ask for the bread we saw on everyone else’s table. But then, the bread was good, like a buttery garlic monkey bread. The food was good, too, and we had a great time, aside from the waiting and being hungry.
I think the menu at Restaurant at The Pearl is a good deal at $30. I’m sure we typically spend more than that when we normally go (which is not as often as I wish). If you’ve been curious about Suite and Tender, a $30 meal seems like a steal based on reviews I’ve seen, although I haven’t been and it doesn’t sound like my kind of scene, anyway. I don’t know if I’d try out Roy’s La Jolla, unless they’ve done away with their regular prix fixe menu.
The caveat is that the menus posted online are always subject to change, so don’t get too invested in a certain dish. Or, maybe, call the night of dinner to ask what’s on the menu. There are also quite a few restaurants that block out SDRW reservations so that you can only dine really early or really late.
I guess if you do go, let me know how it is and if you enjoyed your meal. Tell me if it’s a restaurant you’d return to for their regular menu.