There is something very cool about sitting on the heated patio and hearing the ocean waves at 1500 Ocean in the historic Hotel Del Coronado. The restaurant’s food and the entire experience make this classic beach resort hotel a great destination. Free valet parking for the restaurant is a plus. From the valet, walk along the outside path facing the ocean where you are at once gazing at the sand and sea, swaying palm trees and people having a good time.
From the pathway to the entrance you’ll find an outdoor fireplace and tables for drinks, then the heated patio where I like to sit to watch the sunset and hear the surf. Inside, the restaurant occupies the redone space of the former very formal Prince of Wales Room. And redone it is, in contemporary, simple beige and brown with wood accents, seating with a good mix of tables, booths and banquettes and a bar area at the back of the room with a lit sunset on the wall. Gone are the days of coat and tie for men, as anything goes. On my visits most men were casually dressed in sport shirts.
I confess that I came to know the cooking of Chef de Cuisine Jason Shaeffer when he was at the original Laurel Restaurant & Bar. After a few years cooking in New York, he returned to San Diego and I was delighted to see him at 1500 Ocean. Local purveyors and farmers from Santa Barbara to Mexico supply the seasonal ingredients for Shaeffer’s classic–with a twist–menu. A couple of my favorites: Gnudi (fresh ricotta dumplings) with fresh peas and morels, barely sauced with the mushroom juices, together make an outstanding appetizer. Yellowtail, cured with lime and honey, comes with avocado mousse, shaved jicama and radish and a sweet jalapeno jelly all melding into mouthfuls of subtle flavors and textures; the fish not overpowered by the other flavors. A childhood favorite, toad in the hole, comes to life with an organic egg cooked with its yolk still runny, in the hole of a slice of rich, buttery brioche (bread), surrounded by mushrooms and asparagus tips and some unfortunately soggy hash browns under the bread. It’s a fabulous dish (without the potatoes).
Picky kids (adults, too) will appreciate the classic side dish of mac-n-cheese with spiral pasta and aged cheddar, nothing frou frou here. Finish the evening with a stroll nearby on the ocean boardwalk—it’s spectacular. Appetizers from $12 to $20, Entrees from TK to TK. Dinner only from 5:30 p.m., 1500 Ocean Avenue, Coronado, 619-522-8490, www.hoteldel.com.First noted, June 2006.