4.3/5 - (3 votes)

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.

8 thoughts on “Press Dinners: Solare and Red Marlin

  1. I think it is awesome that you have full disclosure on any event you attend. This is rather progressive, insightfull and should be standard.

  2. Buzz: San Diego’s restaurant scene is not serious enough to ever gain the recognition that the James Beard awards require. The reason Gavin Kaysen has done so well, is that he pays attention to business and focuses on his food and his career rather than the politics of the restaurant scene. As a disclaimer, I did represent him while I was in the PR business in San Diego. Another reason is that very few people belong to the James Beard Foundation in San Diego. Every member gets to vote in the awards nomination process in the first round. Third, we live down the road from Los Angeles, where the excitement in the food scene never ends. And people dine in LA and they pay the dollars necessary to support great chefs and what they do. Many excellent chefs have left the area because they have been unable to sustain their high standards. Riko Bartolome comes to mind. With a Gaslamp area full of bars and beautiful people who want to be seen rather than dine, don’t expect much from the Beard Awards in the near future.

  3. Pam,

    I think you made some great points. I think we get forgotten being underneath LA’s shadow. Orange County never seems to get a lot of recognition either (although possibly for good reason).

    “people dine in LA and they pay the dollars necessary to support great chefs and what they do” – I agree with you here to some degree, although restaurant prices in San Diego are very comparable with LA and San Francisco. In many instances San Diego is even more expensive (which is crazy because the quality is significantly lower.)

    I also agree with you on the Gaslamp. The Gaslamp’s historical soul has been sucked out and replaced by a Disneyland type nightlife area (cops on every corner, chains, tourists, conventioneers). Although the history of the Gaslamp has never counted great dining among its historical strong points (as opposed to say, The French Quarter in New Orleans).

    The current state of the Gaslamp is not at all conducive to a quality restaurant.

  4. Hi Steve: I would agree that some of the higher end places in SD have equivalent pricing, but their audience is very limited. They get groupies who like to try new places and say they have been there and they get the client who simply wants to impress those around him. What San Diego really lacks is people who truly love food and appreciate all the effort that goes into it regardless if it is prepared by a celebrity chef.
    And as for the Gaslamp, it’s a sad commentary on downtown San Diego. It’s also unfortunate that the local restaurant association doesn’t do more to promote something other than the Gaslamp’s bars.

  5. I think you are right. Many times it seems the people in Mr. A’s and other restaurants in that higher price point seem to be a San Diego person taking out a few people from SF or NYC and showing them that San Diego too has expensive restaurants with some sophistication.

    It really seems that the higher end places in town are just to show that we are a more advanced city than just fish tacos.

    There really doesn’t seem to be a true fine dining crowd in san diego.

    Witness the same thing with nightclubs. The busiest bars in town have always been the dive bars. Watch and see this year as high end nightclubs that have been opened over the last few years will start shutting down.

    Real Estate people and media people can put whatever spin they want on San Diego, “The Next South Beach” or making it out to be some super sophisticated city (and that talk has been a lot more quiet over the last 6 months), but ultimately San Diego is a dive bar, surf shop, taco stand kind of town.

    For better or worse.

  6. Correct…San Diego is not a fine dining town, maybe it’s not meant to be. It’s unfortunate however that some new venues (like Red Marlin) treat locals with disdain. It was insulting to find out we couldn’t bring in a special bottle for dinner (even though we were purchasing a bottle of sparkling to start). I was told that since they have an “extremely extensive list of over 600 wines” (…sorry but that happens to be less than standard in other major cities), that bringing in a bottle was not allowed…what a way to treat locals. I’m not impressed and further more won’t honor such an establishment and will tell other locals, with long family histories in the city, not to bother being insulted as there are many other restaurants that are friendlier to locals.

    This will bite them back in the end and is a ridiculous policy…as the list in not even that impressive.


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