Restaurant Files: Davanti Enoteca, Rama Thai and Sushi Ota in San Diego
In my previous San Diego post, I gave you my version of a perfect day in San Diego, where of course the food was a very important part of the experience. Today, I want to add a few more of the restaurant suggestions, just to expand your cuisine selection.
Let’s start with Davanti Enoteca in the Little Italy neighborhood. The restaurant is appropriately Italian for the Little Italy area – but if the word “Italian” brings up an image of mozzarella sticks or a pasta with meatballs, shoo those images away, as they have nothing to do with modern, exquisite, creative Italian dishes served at Davanti Enoteca.
When you look at the Davanti Enoteca restaurant on outside, it is hard to tell what to expect. Inside, the restaurant is nice and welcoming, and offers a number of sitting options including [unexpectedly large] completely enclosed patio, which creates a great dining atmosphere.
So you are situated inside, and it is the time to eat. How about some Focaccia di Recco (Ligurian style baked focaccia, fresh soft cow cheese…must add honeycomb) for the starter? Very different from what you might expect, this one comes with the layer of soft cheese baked into a paper- thin crust. Addition of honeycomb on top increases “deliciousness” ten-fold. When you take a bite of that focaccia, the foodie’s climactic moan can be easily heard at the table. To keep the excitement level high, how about some Mascarpone Polenta with pork ragout – every morsel as delicious as the Focaccia. And then how about some Bruschetta? No, not the traditional tomato and onion, but may be a Creamy Avocado Mousse Bruschetta will do? Very unique and different again. Keep in mind that both Bruschetta and Mascarpone Polenta might have different toppings on different nights – but I’m sure they will be every bit as tasty as the ones we had.
When you look at the list of entrees, one thing becomes clear – it will not be easy to make a choice. You definitely got options. For instance, a Polpo con Rafano (seared octopus, warm fingerling potato salad, marcona almonds, finocchiona, fresh horseradish aioli) – perfectly cooked octopus (not an easy task in itself), absolutely delicious with all the little condiments there on the plate – every bite makes you happy. Spada Davanti (grilled swordfish, toasted bread crumbs, calabrian chili, brussel sprouts, calabrian chilies, mint) – another home run.
Craving meat? Davanti Burger (special blend beef burger, bacon jam, roasted tomato, cheese curd, arugula, roasted garlic mayo, shoestring fries) – it is just a wow on the plate. I had a pleasure to experience the famous Boulud Foie Gras Burger – this Davanti Burger will give it a good run for the money, it is so juicy and delicious (and those shoestring fries are addictive!). And if you are in a mood for a steak – Bistecca con Cippolini e Funghi (grilled hanger steak, cippolini onion, grilled oyster mushroom, saba, salsa verde) is just what doctor ordered – succulent meat and great combination of flavors.
You know I have to talk about wine, right? Wine list at Davanti Enoteca is not large, but it has a good amount of interesting selections at reasonable prices. Focus is mostly on the Italian wines as one would expect. We had two wines that evening. 2012 Attems Sauvignon Blanc Venezia Giulia had an excellent herbaceous profile, both on the nose and the palate, with some notes of fresh cut grass and hint of grapefruit skin, only a delicate hint, and perfect acidity. Definitely very nice wine. Our choice of red, 2012 La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was fresh and lovely, with the very pronounced, but soft tart cherry profile and a hint, a whiff rather, of a cherry pit – light and simple, and very versatile food wise.
When it came to the dessert, I honestly stopped paying attention to what exactly did we order – I know that I tried a few different desserts and they all were very tasty.
Let’s continue. So far, considering both San Diego restaurant posts, I offered to your attention mostly restaurants with European cuisine. I think it is time to change the direction and go towards Asia.
Rama Thai Restaurant is located in the Gas Lamp Quarters, a primary dining destination for people living in San Diego and visiting from afar. From the moment you set your foot inside the restaurant, you are transported – you know I like to use this term a lot when I talk about wines, and it simply means that your experience affects your emotional state, the way you feel at the moment. This is definitely the case with Rama Restaurant. The ambiance, lighting, decor, the music, pictures on the walls, muted sound of creek-running water, statues of Buddha – all of it puts you in a different mood.
And then, to our delight, the food perfectly matched the overall atmosphere. We started with the few appetizers. Satay Skewers (chicken and beef with peanut sauce and cucumber salad) was perfectly done, with peanut sauce being simply delicious. Same goes for Fresh Spring Rolls, which were super fresh and crunchy, also served with similar peanut sauce, with just enough heat to make it very tasty. The Pot Stickers (pork, ginger soy sauce) were not necessarily unique, but cooked just right.
For the entrees we went with a very nice selection of the dishes. While Pad Thai is generally considered “The Dish” in the Thai restaurants, my personal favorite is Drunken Noodle (flat rice noodles, thai basil, tomato, chili garlic, kai lan) – for me, it has some homey delicious feeling, this is my ultimate Thai comfort food, which I’m ready to eat any day. The next wow dish was called Garlic and Pepper (crusted chicken, beef or shrimp, sweet and spicy reduction) – we had the chicken version, and every bite was perfectly crunchy and just right spicy – I can highly recommend this dish. Salmon Panang curry (ka‑r lime leaves, green beans, cherry tomatoes) was very well balanced dish, with Panang curry flavors being present, but mild enough. Last, but not least were Pan Seared Sea Scallops (with sautéed spinach, chili sauce) – you know, when the scallop is seared and done just right, it needs no explanation to any scallops aficionado, so this was our case. All in all, great meal, and I can’t recommend this restaurant high enough as a whole experience, with ambiance being a big part of it (and great service). Sorry, have no pictures for you – to get the pictures, I would have to use the flash, and I really didn’t want to disrupt the atmosphere…
Last but absolutely not least for today is the Japanese restaurant called Sushi Ota (yes, we are continuing to explore the Asian cuisine of San Diego). Sushi Ota is considered to be one of the very best sushi restaurants in San Diego (4.5 stars based on 1676 reviews on Yelp, very impressive), so one would probably expect to find such a restaurant again in the Gas Lamp district or may be somewhere in downtown, surrounded by many other restaurants. When you drive to Sushi Ota, you take the highway exit, and the very next thing you do is start thinking if you had the right address written down, as you clearly see that you are in the area of car dealerships and small business offices, far away from the perceived “hot dining setting” by all means. But then GPS tells you that you have arrived, and you barely notice the name “Sushi Ota” on the sign of the tiny strip mall. Yep, you actually arrived to the one of the very best sushi joints in San Diego. I also hope you actually made a reservation at least few days in advance, because otherwise, you will need tremendous amount of luck to score even single sit by the bar.
At 5;30 pm, when the restaurant opens for dinner, it instantly gets at least half full, and it is a full house at 6 pm. What matter is that you got your table, so it is time to eat.
As a starter, we took a Tuna Tartar dish. This is not your average Tuna tartar – it is presented on top of tempura eggplant, and each one of the 4 pieces has different topping. This dish was done more of a single bite style (a big bite, I have to say), and really delicious.
Next up – Clam Miso Soup. It is a “kicked up” Miso soup as it contains a few clams in the traditional aromatic broth – definitely a nice touch.
Our next selection (highly recommended) was the Spanish Mackerel sashimi. What you get is essentially the whole fish, with all the meat cut up in the small sashimi pieces. I like Mackerel sashimi in general, but it never tastes like the one we got at Sushi Ota. Typical mackerel sashimi is rather on the dry side, and can be even chewy. The one we had at Sushi Ota was succulent, sweet, soft and was literally melting in the mouth. Take a look at how it is served:
As you can see, you do get literally the whole fish. Wonder why you are get served the bones too? Well, once you done with the sashimi, the plate is taken away from you, only to be brought back in about 20 minutes after that fish skeleton was deep fried to the point that you can literally eat it like the potato chips! It is so tasty you literally can’t leave anything on the plate! Here you are:
And then, of course, we had sushi. We got a few different rolls and Uni (uni, a.k.a., sea urchin, you can eat only when it is super-fresh, and that’s the way it is at Sushi Ota). For the rolls we got Double Double Tuna, which is a combination of spicy tuna and regular tuna on top, as well as Eel Roll – fresh and delicious. And to finish the meal, of course, the mochi ice cream – green tea and mango. All in all, an outstanding meal, which makes you to leave the restaurant with the promise to self to come back as soon as possible.
That’s all I got for you for today – more choices for your possible San Diego trip. If you have already or will visit any of these place, I would love to know what do you think. And until the next time – cheers!