A few years ago, during a telephone interview with chef Strauss about that year’s Chef Celebration, he told me he was such good friends with Eleanor Widmer that he often accompanied her to dinner at other restaurants she was reviewing. Eleanor was hugely influential but not good at anonymity. Not only did she appear on TV, but after she enjoyed a dinner, she’d insist that the chef come out from the kitchen for a kiss. Back when she started reviewing at the Reader, quite likely a decent meal was worth a kiss — San Diego really was a culinary wasteland. Well, this is now: I don’t kiss chefs (except in print) or recruit them as restaurant escorts. And when it comes to the food at Pamplemousse, I’m with Max Nash. Thousands may love it to death, but I find it overrated and overpriced.
514 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 858-792-9090, pgrille.com.
HOURS: Lunch Friday only, 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.; dinner nightly, 5:00 p.m.–closing (about 10:00 p.m., later on weekends or when busy).
PRICES: Appetizers, $18–$24 (sampler plate $39); soups, $13–$15; salads, $10–$21; entrées, $24–$45 (most around $40); desserts, $12; cheese plate, $15; weeknight happy-hour bar snacks menu, $8–$18.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: French-California bistro cuisine and grilled meats, garnishes of local-grown veggies. Huge wine list (mainly California and France) with many great bottlings, slim pickings under $50. Full bar.
PICK HITS: Smoked-salmon salad, roast beet and goat cheese salad, game mixed grill. Possible good bets: day-boat scallops, cowboy rib eye, vegetarian platter, panna cotta, happy-hour bar menu.
NEED TO KNOW: Many dishes heavily salted; desserts very sweet. One vegan entrée, plenty of veggie starters and sides. Rating based on Restaurant Week dinner, adjusted to compensate for extra pressures on kitchen from crowds.