Food First



Chef Teri McIllwain holds a Capeside poke she creates for Chandler's in Hilton's Cape Rey Carlsbad resort.

Martin Mann

When an ocean-facing restaurant relies on more than the view to fill tables, it’s worth noting. At Chandler’s in Hilton’s Cape Rey Carlsbad resort, new Chef Teri McIllwain says simply, “My dishes are focused on fresh flavors.”

She follows through in colorful salads like a beet-citrus medley with a sprightly blood orange vinaigrette; cioppino aswim with a galaxy of shellfish in well-spiced tomato-fennel broth; and the Capeside poke consisting of sushi-grade ahi with chile aioli, marinated seaweed and ponzu sauce.

Across the road, Pacific waves glitter until the sun slips away.

SHAPED LIKE DOUGHY, oversized Hershey’s Kisses and moistened with vinegar, the xiao long bao dumplings at Convoy Street’s new Tasty Noodle House put a big smile on your face. These minced pork-stuffed packages are lifted by soupspoon to your mouth, where they explode. Since they’re boiling hot, experienced eaters take a brief break before tearing into another parcel of perfection. Part of an L.A.-area chain, Tasty Noodle entices with a genially priced, authentic and nearly endless menu of Shanghai-style dishes.

Besides a trove of dumplings, there are dozens of noodle dishes (braised noodles with onion sauce are fascinating).

The garlic sauce eggplant is unexpectedly piquant and utterly irresistible. A lively, fairly young crowd gets the joint jumping by 6 p.m., fueled by a long list of beverages that encompasses honey chrysanthemum tea, Spanish coffee and fresh watermelon juice. 

THE SCAFFOLDING recently outside the 1250 Prospect restaurant/boutique complex in La Jolla was simultaneously unsightly and welcome. The Hake, the seafood bistro nestled between George’s California Modern and Donovan’s Steakhouse, was rebuilt and considerably expanded, a rare success story in this no-view space.

Donovan’s temporarily closed for lunch Monday through Wednesday, when workers on the scaffolding interfered with extraordinary views of La Jolla Cove. A deluxe restaurant on a street that once had many, Donovan’s menu is reasonably priced at lunch — unless you get carried away, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

The server sold the extremely attractive steak salad by saying, “The greens are tossed in blue cheese dressing with blue cheese crumbles.” The many delights piled on top include chunks of grilled-to-order steak, crisp bacon and ritzy deviled eggs (one speared by a tall, slender leaf that rises like an exclamation point).

At this juncture, may we ask if Alfonso’s move from Prospect Street to Solana Beach is yet another upgrade?

IF A PLATE of mint pappardelle with Bolognese sauce and shavings of Piave Vecchio cheese sounds interesting, try it at Bice, the enduring Gaslamp Quarter charmer where chef Mario Cassineri routinely features unfamiliar Italian specialties.

Bice recently introduced lunch in a neighborhood crowded with other eateries — none of which serve pastel green pappardelle in a particularly robust meat sauce or savory, citrus and tomato-crusted sea bass roasted on a cedar plank.

Rarely wonderful in San Diego, tiramisu is elaborately finished with coffee sauce, a colorful smear of fruit purée and tiny beads of white, milk and dark chocolate.

CAN A VERY RETRO Harvey Wallbanger taste good at 11 a.m.? Yes, especially paired with a pastry cream-packed lemon doughnut at Bottega Americano’s weekend brunch. Chef Dave Warner put assistant chef Jeremy Oursland in charge of revising the top-of-the-morning menu. Jeremy says he’s “very excited about the new breakfast items.”

No reason to curb his enthusiasm, since newbies like the caprese scramble radiate the flavors of Bottega’s signature oven-roasted tomatoes, crushed avocado and grilled ciabatta bread drizzled with top-quality olive oil. Scrambled with creamy burrata, eggs melt in the mouth.

Also new are a classy chopped salad distinguished with artichokes, olives, sharp Provolone, ceci beans and fennel-bright finnocchiona salami. The revised breakfast pizza bears multiple adornments of eggs, cheeses, meats and caramelized onions, as well as crisp potato wisps that bring everything together so perfectly they may as well be truffles.

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