In the past few weeks Buzz has been to a couple of press events.  What this means is that new restaurants and their public relations firms invite press for a menu sampling and a glimpse of the place.  Sometimes, as happened last night at Solare Ristorante & Lounge, it’s a fun, crowded bar with the kitchen sending out small plates, the chefs working the room and the public relations people meeting and greeting the invitees. Other times, as was the case with Red Marlin it is a seated dinner.  And no, press doesn’t pay at these events.  So, here’s the quick Buzz on both places. 

Locals in Point Loma can now dine at Solare Ristorante & Lounge, a top-notch northern Italian restaurant with a great vibe in a comfortable setting, slightly off the beaten track in the NTC Historic area at the corner of Historic Decatur and Roosevelt.  That means a nice alternative to Old Venice and the other red sauce and pizza standbys.  The lively and inviting room, designed by owner and co-executive chef Stefano Ceresoli, includes terrace seating that overlooks the Promenade. Ceresoli and his wife Roberta also own Caffe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach.

The food reflects Stefano’s Milan roots co-executive chef Mark Pelliccia’s more than fifteen years cooking experience in Italy and Europe (he owns a house in Italy with a small vineyard).  Think butter instead of olive oil, a Slow Food appreciation, homemade pastas, desserts and food that is approachable and well presented. Among the small plates we tasted: a smooth carrot timbale, a Colorado lamb chop and a feather light croquette of cod. 

Open for lunch only until April 14 when they begin dinner service as well.  In the meantime, from April 1 to 13, they will have two tasting menus available:  A four course ($50) or six course dinner ($69) with wines that will be available from 5pm to 11pm, reservations are necessary at 619-270-9670.  The lounge is open and tapas can be ordered there. 

Want to watch the sunset with views of Mission Bay without the mess of beach sand?  Then follow Quivira Road (to the right around the newly renovated Hyatt Regency Mission Bay) where it dead-ends into a parking lot and where you can enter Red Marlin that is part of the hotel.  Large picture windows surround the room with seating that allows for views of the marina and at night the lights of Mission Bay.  The top of the slightly tiered room has a large chef’s table (where the 16 of us were seated) and where the view is of the wine wall and the the sunset or the marina.  There’s a terrace and an indoor-outdoor bar that looks towards the hotel pool area. 

And the food?  Chef de cuisine Danny Bannister comes to the kitchen with an education from the French Culinary Institute in New York and local experience at Laurel, Pamplemousse and 3rd Corner.  Our meal included seared ahi and a slaw flavored with a ponzu vinaigrette and spicy aioli; smoked salt and chli dusted scallop with a fava bean edamame puree and sweet chili sauce, and a grilled filet with five-spiced sweet potato mash.  Wines were paired for the courses, but unfortunately the menu forgot the vintages.  Bannister uses good local ingredients including breads from Con Pane, but I wished for a more assertive hand in his food.  Would I have chosen to have a puree and a mash in the same meal, likely not and in particular the fava bean one needed a seasoning jolt, even with the scallop’s nearly oversalted edge.   The service was gracious and attentive.

Hotel cooking can be difficult for a chef with good ideas–most of the time the chef has to find a middle ground to satisfy his or her creativity yet cater to guests who may not be familiar with food beyond steak.  Would I go back to Red Marlin?  Absolutely, and I hope Chef Bannister finds his stride as he settles in.  It’s a great place for locals.  Reservations:  619-221-4868.