Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

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Good Eats San Diego: Seasons 52 at Seaport Village Headquarters

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Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

I normally avoid chain restaurants. It's not that I'm a food snob it's that when I want consistency I go to McDonalds. I like restaurants where the chef makes a difference, where food isn't cooked on a conveyor belt. That perfectly describes Seasons 52. With 43 locations, 2 in San Diego alone, there's no getting around it - this is a chain. But with a seasonally changing menu prepared by talented chefs, Seasons 52 rises above and places itself squarely into Good Eats territory, certainly a contender for your next night out. I was lucky enough to check out their new Spring menu - let's have a look.

Start with the Flatbreads

Lobster and Mozzarella Flatbread

Light and crispy flatbread at Seasons 52

Flatbreads are the rage at so many restaurants but so many fail. I'm no flatbread expert but many of them are just bad pizzas. No so at Seasons 52 where the flatbreads are thin and crispy and topped with super high quality ingredients. My favorite has to be the Lobster and Fresh Mozzerella with roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallions, lobster sour cream, and paired with a glass of Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne Champagne. That's right, don't forget that Seasons 52 has an extensive wine list with 52 wines by the glass always available - try them all!

Oh My Cod! 

Asian-glazed Sea Bass at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Ordering something new off a menu is a bit like internet dating. It looks good, it sounds good, but will it meet your expectations when it arrives? Well let me tell you, the Asian Glazed Chilean Sea Bass is one of the most beautiful, best executed fish dishes I have ever experienced, a true 10 on the 1-10 scale, a knockout in both looks and flavor. The black rice was insanely delicious and the glaze was just sweet enough without being cloying. Order this an watch the heads turn at the tables as it passes by, it's that stunningly perfect.

Mmmmm, Meyer Lemon Ricotta Ravioli

Ravioli at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Say it - Wow! Yes, this is another example of why I love Seasons 52. The lemon ricotta ravioli was topped with a brown butter sauce, some roasted peppers and English peas and so tangy delicious that its memory is forever embedded into my taste buds. 

Even More Good Eats at Seasons 52

Grilled Scallops at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Rack of Lamb at Seasons 52

Grilling scallops could be a disaster but Seasons 52 knocked it out of the park with their Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops with Lemon Risotto. Scallops were delicate, the risotto complimented, the fresh peas and roasted asparagus cooked perfectly, this is a top dish. Get this one if you love seafood.  But wait... there's more?

Yes, a serious Wood Grilled Rack of Lamb with spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mash and shallot jus. It was gorgeous, perhaps a touch of finishing salt would make it pop. You do bring your own Maldon Salt with you to restaurants, don't you? 

Meet the Chef

Chef Mo at Seasons 52

Chef Mo is the guy who makes it all happen at Seasons 52 at San Diego's Seaport Village Headquarters. With a resume from some of the best restaurants in San Diego he knows his way around the kitchen. So thanks Seasons 52 and thanks Mo for an awesome meal. Chain restaurant? Perhaps. Predictable chain restaurant food? No way! Seasons 52 is good enough to rival the best in San Diego and deserves to be on your foodie bucket list.

Local Wally

Kona Kai Resort Gets a Makeover

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Hotels are like movie stars.  Sometimes they need is a bit of a makeover as they get older.  A couple of years ago the Kona Kai Resort was in desperate need of a refurbishing, a lovely resort in a gorgeous setting but looking just a little tired.  Noble House came in and sunk more money into the refurbish than they spent on the entire resort and recently unveiled their new flagship restaurant, Vessel.  Was it a success or is Kenny Rogers saying "I told you not to do it?"  Let's see.

Winner winner, Chicken Dinner

Sorry Kenny, this facelift is a winner!  The Kona Kai Resort looks fresh and modern, the pool is now a tropical paradise and the bar is simply beautiful and lively with live music most nights.  The rooms are also fresh and contemporary and the things we loved about the Kona Kai - the fire pits on the beach, the marina view on one side, Point Loma on the other - still remain but no longer overshadowing the resort itself.  Total success!

That said, dining in even the best resorts is sometimes disappointing so when Kona Kai sunk their faith into Vessel and chef Roy Hendrickson you wondered if they bit off more than they could chew.  But let's see how they did with their summer tasting menu.

Dinner at Kona Kai's Vessel Restaurant

Succulent pork belly

48 Hour Pork Belly with plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, anise, bitter chocolate was melt in your mouth delicious and the presentation stunningly beautiful. I would marry it if I didn't eat it first, that's how much I loved it.  This was paired with a nice Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter.  Wait, you want to see the beer?

Lots of great beers at the Kona Kai.

That's what I'm talking about. Kona Kai has a lot of great beer and cocktail offerings as well as a wonderful wine list so don't be shy, try them all.

So beautiful that I didn't want to eat it.  But I did.

Next up was the Roasted Pear with borage flower, Cowgirl Creamery Smoked Bleu Cheese with a fine herb medley and a caramelized black pepper vinaigrette, paired with an Alesmith .394 Pale Ale.  This one was so beautiful I didn't want to disturb it.  Is it just me or does that look like a painting?  Whoops, ate it all.  

Wonderfully cooked albacore and a crazy jar of jam with crunchy corn on the bottom. Weird, but delicious.

That pear was going to be hard to beat but the Corn Dusted Albacore with Serrano custard, bacon powder and onion jam was a fine follow up.  I'm sorry pear, I've loved you but already forgotten you once I took a bite of this albacore.  It's not you, it's me.  What was it paired with?  Sorry, I totally lost track since I drank all the beer out of order by this point.  

How do you not love this one?  A ribeye steak with foie gras butter?

I'm getting pretty full and then they have to put down a Dry Aged Ribeye topped with foie gras butter and a bordelaise cause, cooked perfectly and decadently indulgent.  Now I know you're thinking "where are the frites?" because that's what I was thinking but look at this oddball side they brought.

Crazy idea that worked - popcorn with the steak.

That's right, popcorn to go with the steak!  And not just any popcorn but a Blue Cheese popcorn that was so incredibly delicious that I hope they offer it as a side in the bar.  Please listen to me, I want more popcorn!  I really liked how the chef took a huge risk with this one and knocked it out of the park.

Perfectly cooked and seasoned Confit Game Hen.

As if this wasn't enough there was one more dish, a Confit Game Hen with anise scented couscous and roasted grapes.  So.  Full.  Must.  Lay.  Down.

In the end it was an amazing meal and proof that Kona Kai Resort is back on the right path and quickly establishing itself as one of the top resort destinations in San Diego, thanks in a big way to Vessel Restaurant.  Good job!

And here he is, Chef Roy Hendrickson.  All I can say at this point is thank you for a great meal - I'll be back soon!

Local Wally

Come try Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa for yourself and let me know how you liked it - 1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, 619 221-8000.