One of the most well known cities in California is sunny San Diego known for its beaches and of course tons of Mexican food.
I haven’t visited this city for over five years and I was excited to see one of my closest friends who recently moved down there. The first few nights I stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego and the other nights I stayed at my friend’s apartment.
The first day Tommy and I arrived in the morning so I quickly checked into my hotel and grabbed breakfast at a nearby restaurant called Lucky’s Lunch Counter.
Both our breakfast burrito and bagel were delicious! After breakfast we walked around the Gaslamp Quarter, also known as the downtown area, where there are a ton of restaurants and shops.
After walking around the downtown area, we headed to the San Diego Zoo, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. I recommend buying tickets in advance because the line was out of control and we even got there at 10:30 in the morning!
After exploring the zoo for over two hours, we headed back to our hotel to relax before dinner.
San Diego isn’t exactly known for cutting edge restaurants compared to the San Francisco Bay Area. After doing some research, the most fine dining restaurant I found was Addison in Carmel Valley near Del Mar, about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. Since the Michelin Guide is only found in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, I would suspect that if they did San Diego, Addison would without a doubt have at least one star. The restaurant’s venue is absolutely beautiful and so is the food where the cuisine is modern French with global influences. Addison offers two menus: a chef’s tasting menu where all the dishes are surprises or a four course menu where you can choose items from the à la carte menu. As much as I would have loved to try the chef’s tasting menu, we opted for the four course tasting menu since it was significantly cheaper. What was great about the four course tasting menu is that we didn’t need to choose the same dishes as our partner so technically we were able to try eight dishes!
The meal started off with a few amuse bouches which really got my palate excited for the dishes to come. The homemade Straus yogurt was creamy yet pillowy on top of refreshing tart cranberry granita and sweet pieces of dried cranberries. The gougère was the perfect bite; flaky pastry stuffed with a savory sherry flavored cream. The fennel and garlic lavash, a type of flatbread cracker, was delicate yet flavorful. After our amuse bouches, our first two courses arrived.
The foie gras torchon with a thin layer of white chocolate on top tasted amazing especially with the toasted brioche and candied almond and quince jelly. However, there were a few small veins still left in a torchon, a big technical mistake.
The mussels à la nage was a gorgeous dish but lacked a bit of flavor and the mussels were slightly overcooked. I would have liked more of the green curry and coconut flavor to come through as well as the aromatic cilantro. Before our next courses, we received a warm buttery soft parker house roll with butter. Amazing.
Our second courses were some of my favorite dishes of the night without a doubt. The chestnut agnolotti were perfectly crafted; petite bundles of savory goodness with sweet tender confited shallots, earthy brown butter and nutty and salty Parmigiano Reggiano cheese slices and airy froth. The iberico ham tartine was to die for. A thin piece of toasted bread with utterly buttery slices of ibérico ham (only the best ham in the world from Spain) on top. This little toast was served with a luscious Gouda cheese fondue with a creamy musquée de provence pumpkin purée. Out of this world delicious.
Next, our last savory courses surely didn’t disappoint. The coffee roasted duck breast was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The duck was cooked immaculately; crispy skin and tender medium rare meat served with a miso sauce and a peanut relish. The side dish of white rice with duck confit and candied peanuts was the perfect compliment to the duck. The Kobe beef short rib was glazed in a rich sauce and melted in my mouth. However, the dish itself was extremely rich and heavy with the glazed meat and the accompanying sauce so it would be difficult for one person to finish it all (we obviously shared it). Before our desserts we received a palate cleanser that was incredibly refreshing.
The cucumber sorbet was so light and paired beautifully with the yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus) consommé and candied sage leaf.
Now onto the desserts. The chocolate mille-feuille was expertly crafted with thin crunchy layers topped with a coffee cream and even pieces of gold leaf. The vacherin, a cylinder of meringue stuffed with pieces of carrot cake, was so good especially with the butter pecan ice cream and caramel sauce.
The meal ended with a complimentary macaron which was well made even though macarons aren’t my favorite desserts.
All the dishes at Addison were beautifully presented and tasted divine. As the meal progressed, each dish was even more delicious than the previous one. Overall Addison serves elegant yet flavorful food that is worth trying for any foodie or a special occasion so my rating is an 8.5/10.
After dinner, I met up with my old friend Minée, who just happened to be in San Diego that night, for a few drinks. We went to a few different bars in up-and-coming North Park area.
The next day we headed to La Jolla, probably one of the most picturesque areas of San Diego. First we had lunch at a great Mexican spot, Taco Stand, that my friend recommended and it didn’t disappoint!
Everything on the menu sounded delicious! The tacos were fresh and super tasty; the baja fish taco and al pastor taco were on point!
Next we walked over to Cuvier Park for a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and Seal Rock where there were so many seals basking in the sun!
Later that day we had dinner plans at Juniper and Ivy, where winner of Top Chef All-Stars Richard Blais is chef. I was ecstatic to go to this popular restaurant because chef Richard Blais has been one of my all time favorite contestants on Top Chef history. However, I was beyond disappointed with my experience at Juniper and Ivy. The menu is quite extensive so we started off with a snack and a few appetizers while we decided what else to order.
Good thing we only ordered a few dishes because everything we did try we weren’t a fan of. The octopus corn dog was the worst dish of the night. The octopus itself wasn’t as tender as it should be and the corn dog lacked flavor. The accompanying sauces of kimchi ketchup and mustard were also a letdown. The steak tartare, while beautifully presented, had almost no flavor. The steak tartare severely lacked salt, the carrot ketchup was overly sweet, and the pickled celery was overly acidic making a very unbalanced yet under seasoned dish. The last dish we tried was the most successful but was mediocre at best. The ahi tuna tartare looked like someone completely butchered the meat or if a dog chewed it up. No joke. While the appearance of the tuna was unappetizing, the flavors of the dish wasn’t terrible. The sweet satsuma mandarins with the aromatic micro basil and the sweet spice from the pink peppercorns worked with the ahi tuna but overall the dish needed salt as well. Since we only tried one snack and two raw dishes, I’m not sure how any of the hot dishes were. We were more than hesitant to order any more food since we didn’t want to be further disappointed. I could only hope that other items off the menu were tasty as all the rave reviews online said! Unfortunately our experience at Juniper and Ivy was a complete let down and sadly my rating is a 4/10.
The following day happened to be New Year’s Eve. During the day, we relaxed at Kate Sessions Memorial Park where you can get a view of downtown and Mission Bay.
For New Year’s Eve, we went to a Black and White party at the W Hotel in downtown San Diego. The hotel had transformed multiple rooms to basically a club like atmosphere. Our party had reserved a table in advance for bottle service and we had an open bar in our area!
Our last day in San Diego we walked from Mission Beach all the way down to Pacific Beach.
After walking along the beach for a few hours we grabbed a quick lunch at Poké Go before heading to the airport.
Our trip to San Diego was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of city life back in the Bay Area. Of course for my next visit I would love to go during a warmer period so I can actually hang out at the beach and perhaps get a tan. Another place that is supposedly beautiful and relaxing is Coronado Island, across from downtown, where the beach was voted number one in America!