The bird comes with a side of baked mac-and-cheese with white cheddar, truffle oil, and bits of mild summer truffles. The posse went for it big-time, while I found the white cheddar bland. The mac is also available as an inexpensive side to add to whatever else you’re eating.
Finally, regular readers know that I’ve been fulminating for years against the perpetual popularity of ultrabland halibut — but chef Calamari turns it into Cinderella. He treats it to the treatment that my favorite San Francisco chef, Roland Passot, used to use with gusto on John Dory: a crisp crust of potato, here with a subtle touch of horseradish. “It’s like a thin latke spread on top,” said Ben. This fairy-godmother makeover offers a crisp, lively crust and tender flesh. The seasonal vegetables alongside were winsome, and pretty, too, including big, sweet fava beans and segments of a delicious Mediterranean broccoli variant, most likely romanesco.
The wine list offers plenty for big spenders but also a sufficient assortment for small spenders ($30 to $40). We started with a Colombo Viognier from the South of France, dry but meaty, and moved on in the mains to an enjoyable Kunde Sauvignon Blanc — a tad sweet, hence well suited to complement the assertive flavors of the chicken and the sensuality of the crusted halibut.
We didn’t save room for dessert, and the choices, many of them held over from the ancien régime, sounded too sweet, not inspiring. I do remember that the espresso was decent last time we were here. We felt we’d already eaten quite well and had been treated well, provided with comfortable seats, good service, and a quiet, handsome room, a feeling of chic luxury at a middle-class price point. Food ran a little over $25 each; double that to include wines, tax, tip.
With the holidays coming up, bringing the annual influx of visiting relatives and long-unseen old friends, Suite and Tender has become a viable destination to wow your guests (or to escape from them for an evening). It looks like a million bucks, but depending on food and drink preferences, of course, the two-digit overall per-person costs shouldn’t shatter your checking account. They say penance is good for the soul. It’s certainly been good for Suite and Tender’s cooking and ambience. ■
Suite and Tender
★★★ (Very Good)
Se San Diego Hotel, 1047 Fifth Avenue (north of Broadway), downtown, 619–515-3003; suiteandtender.com
HOURS: Tuesday–Thursday 6:00–10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11:00 p.m. Breakfast daily.
PRICES: Starters $1.50–$10; light entrées $12–$16; mains $18–$25; sides $5–$7.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: American bistro with Mediterranean touches. Interesting international wine list, sufficient bottles under $40; creative cocktails ($12 each), full bar.
PICK HITS: Wagyu beef carpaccio; seafood ravioli; mussels Provençal; mustard-brined roast chicken; potato-and-horseradish-crusted halibut. Possibly worth trying: bacon-braised pork belly and fig-prosciutto crostini starters, light entrée of six fried oysters.
NEED TO KNOW: Just south of House of Blues. Validated valet parking $12. Looks dark and empty, but the huge brass-rimmed doors are entrances to the (dark) bar-lounge and hence to the restaurant. Elevator access to mezzanine dining room. Quiet, with comfortable seating, excellent service. Unisex bathrooms. One vegetarian pasta entrée plus salads, lacto-veg sides. Decor is ultraspiffy; patrons (sparse) not so much, ranging from chic to geek.