KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: San Diego Nights: Pacifica Del Mar
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Thursday, July 21, 2005
San Diego Nights: Pacifica Del Mar
After some initial mass confusion which involved my insisting that Enoteca was actually this huge wine bar that seemingly existed only in my head and in North Carolina, we grabbed a bottle of Piedmontese Barbera d'Asti and settled back to watch my first sunset in San Diego on the deck of Del Mar Plaza. Well, as I've been here for two weeks, of course it wasn't my first but it was the first I got to see sink into the ocean. Unfortunately the final slide was obscured by cloud cover on the horizon and that prevented us from seeing the mythical "green flash" as well.

The scene at Enoteca del Fornaio was crazy. There was more plastic and silicone on that deck than in a kid's toystore. What got me was not so much the women with their raisin complexions, padded chins, and breasts that defied gravity -- what got me was the men. The predatory, waxed-eyebrow, billowy-pant-wearing men. It was just odd. I've never seen men so obviously vain. Anyway, that's not so much food as it is food for thought.

The food came in when we tripped on over to Pacifica Del Mar for dinner. Mark had been there in his first week in San Diego and could already recommend the calamari (See? Sampling calamari wherever we go!) because of the amazing dipping sauces. Well, the amazing dipping sauce. The red pepper aïoli was tasty, to be sure, but it wasn't anything special. What was special was the Vietnamese fish sauce that was also offered up for squid dunking pleasure. I don't think that was any run-of-the-mill nuac mam -- there was definitely a hint of coconut oil in there and Mark swears something else was in there ticking his tongue. Whatever it was, it was an awesome idea for a dipping sauce. The calamari itself was also pretty good. I'm not saying it was salt-fried Bocadillos good, but it wasn't overly battered, greasy, or tough.

Our other starter was the Chinese Five-Spiced Ahi Tuna with arugula, pickled shiitake, and a Meyer lemon emulsion. That? Was amazing. The tuna was just beautiful, like shards from a garnet prism, and succulent. The whisper-thin spice crust on the edges of the tuna was neither overpowering nor non-existent -- it was perfect. The garnish was inspired. I loved the pickled shiitake and the Meyer lemon emulsion went deliciously with the spiced tuna. I'd go back for that alone. Hell, I'd go back and order several plates of it and make it a main course.

We were less enthused by our main courses. Well, we were less enthused with one of the main courses. Being fair-minded foodies, we always agree to share our starters, mains, and dessert fifty-fifty. As soon as we saw that they were offering Sauteed Pacific Snapper with Maine lobster-red potato hash, shiitake mushrooms, and haricots verts as a special, we both leapt on it. However, to order two of the same is just something we can't do, so we also agreed on the sauteed Northern Halibut with asparagus, shimeji mushrooms, udon noodles, and onion-miso marmalade. It wasn't a special. Oh boy, was it NOT special. We both agreed that the snapper was delicious, perfect, succulent, lovely, and a whole bunch more adjectives. The haricots verts were done to a perfect crispness that even I liked.

The halibut was just...meh. The only flavorful part of the dish was the onion-miso marmalade and they just didn't give enough of it to really matter.

Ah well, 3 for 4 is pretty good for our first night out.

Pacifica Del Mar
1555 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014


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