On the more delicate side of the “Land,” Lemon Verbena Ricotta Ravioli are thinly rolled green-colored stuffed pasta with bashful shreds of leeks, bright red splashes of tomato confit, and a rich tarragon-vermouth cream sauce — another winner in the easy-deliciousness contest. It’s maximal comfort food. The green color of the pasta comes from lemon verbena, a sweet and fragrant old-timey herb that’s nearly forgotten nowadays but shouldn’t be. (Only problem with growing it yourself: in about two years it can become a big, disorderly shrub. But just give it space and prune it back yearly. Smells great and is fun to cook with.)
What didn’t we like so much? Two items that were slightly overcooked. Potato-Thyme−Crusted Local Halibut is — crust or no, local or no — still halibut, chicken breast of the sea. It’s lean white-meat diet food, and I only like it swamped in rich, fattening sauces. Potato-crusted fish were a big trend in the ’80s and ’90s, but they typically involved richer species, such as John Dory, with the potato decoratively applied like fish scales and then sautéed to crisp, like hash browns. Here the coating was pale, soft, and herbed. The fish was only a tad overcooked, but with halibut I’m unforgiving because it has so little to offer but tenderness and neutrality.
Also, sadly, the Vande Rose Farm Apricot Glazed Pork Chop was overcooked. We asked for rosy medium-rare. It came a pinky-brown medium-well. Vande Rose is one of the highest-quality hog farms in America, and its meat does not need to be cooked brown. (Once again, the litany: there’s no trichinosis in American commercial pork. It’s ideally cooked to 130–135 degrees Fahrenheit, then set aside for five minutes to rest, to complete internal heating to the rosy pink of about 140 degrees.) Everybody ate a few bites of the pork but gave up soon. The sides were good, though. I loved the mascarpone polenta, minty carrots, onion jam, and sage-flavored jus.
For our appetizers, I chose a pleasing Paso Robles Bootjack Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. Good enough. Luckily, Lisa showed up at our table in time to relieve me of the stress of choosing wine for a combination of seafood and meat entrées. From the half-carafe list, she brought a rosé (Mi Sueño from Napa) and, for the meaty entrées, a new, almost undiscovered Argentine grape, Bonarda from Ichanka. It was plummy, velvety, deep, and passionate, but, unlike Argentina’s more typical Malbec variety, not too tannic — a graceful tango-dancer of a wine, memorable, and worth remembering for future imbibing.
I’m not all that fond of sweets right after a meal, and this was a big meal. We were only mildly tempted by the Carlsbad strawberry shortcake, key lime pie, passion fruit brûlée, and several dreamy-sounding but heavier concoctions. What I hated to miss was the cheese plate with its four superb California artisanal cheeses, plus fig jam and crostini. But the body has its limits, even if mental appetites are infinite.
With all the changes, I now envy Bobbie and Roy their neighborhood restaurant. In fact, the prices are really about the same as most of the better neighborhood places in areas like Kensington, Little Italy, Banker's Hill, et al. The food at the Shore rivals any of them and is better than many. Do we believe in change? Yes, we do!
Hot Specials in Foodland
I love the artisanal cuisine of Christian Graves at J-Six, and right now there’s a special, daily from 5:30–6:00 p.m. and 9:00–9:30 p.m.: half-size portions of entrées for half price. From now until Labor Day, you can get free corkage when you BYO wine to dinner. Time to whip out those aged Bordeaux in your closet before they turn brown!
Meanwhile, at the Prado (that ever-so-pretty place in the park to take your visitors in summer), there’s an art-and-food bargain: for $80 per couple, you get a three-course prix-fixe meal and a bottle of wine (with a few choices for the wine, and for all the courses), plus tickets to the Museum of Photographic Arts’ rockin’ ’n’ rollin’ Taking Aim exhibition. This event runs Thursday nights only, June 17–September 2. ■
★★★½ (Very Good to Excellent)
La Jolla Shores Hotel, 8110 Camino del Oro, La Jolla, 866-644-2630; theshoresrestaurant.com
HOURS: Breakfast daily 7:00–11:30 a.m.; à la carte Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; lunch Monday–Saturday 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly 5:00–10:00 p.m.
PRICES: Dinner appetizers, soups, salad, $6–$11; entrées, $17–$26; sides, $5; desserts and cheese plate, $9–$10.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Seasonal “Neighborhood American Cuisine” with Mediterranean and global influences. Adventurous, intelligent wine list, mainly under $50, plenty by the glass and by the generous ½-bottle carafe. Classic and creative cocktails; beers include three local brews on draft.
PICK HITS: Forest Mushroom Bisque; Carlsbad mussels in beer; Baja shrimp fritters; ahi poke; diver sea scallops; bacon-wrapped monkfish; roast rack of lamb; Lemon Verbena Ricotta Ravioli. Good bet: cheese platter.
NEED TO KNOW: Validated parking in underground hotel garage. One lacto-vegetarian entrée, but chefs can put together interesting veggie plates upon request. Trustworthy sommelier. Resort-casual dress.