Charlie Morgenstern 11 a.m., May 24
The Luna Grill replaces a failed Chinese restaurant in this no doubt high rent, make-or-break-it location in the heart of Hillcrest. Since kebab shops seem to be fashionable right now, trendiness at least is on Luna Grill's side.
Rather than the grab-n-go appearance that might be more typical of a kebab shop, Luna Grill is going for a trendier look. The decor is all bright white and red, and everything has a very Ikea-inspired look. The ceiling lamps that look like part of a coral reef crossed with a flower might have been on display at the massive retail store this very morning for all we know.
The overall impression of the decor is far from trashy, but it's not exactly classy. There's something overwhelmingly plastic about the design scheme that contrasts with the restaurant's stated affinity for sustainability and natural meats as proclaimed by banners around the dining room.
Still, the place is definitely hipper than than some alternatives and will fit in well with the neighborhood if it sticks around.
The lunch menu (served until four) is a good deal. Entrees ($7.5-$10.5) on the lunch menu deliver a solid plateful of food for the price. The chicken kebab plate ($8) came with seasoned chicken, rice, a salad, bread, and a grilled tomato; a filling meal. The salad had a zesty dressing but wasn't drowning in oil or anything. The rice was almost supernaturally fluffy and perhaps a touch on the soft side, though that's far better than gluey or heavy. Dipping the chicken, which was a good enough chicken kebab, in the minty sauce was quite lovely. A bit on the odd side, the bread had a strange texture, as though it were too soft and somehow synthetic, but it tasted fine enough.
The food was, on the whole, quite good and the menu continues at great length. Dinner entrees (which no doubt differ from their lunch counterparts by containing more meat) cost $9.50-$13.50 and can be had with tiger prawns or cornish hen instead of the conventional beef, chicken, or lamb kebabs. There are plenty of salads ($7.50-$13.50 depending on their contents) and appetizers ($4-$7), out of which the gyros quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla might be the most intriguing.
Kebab sandwiches are there as well and priced $7.50-$10.50. It seems they should be cheaper than the lunch plates, but they do come with fries or rice which assuages the cost a little bit.
There are actually six locations scattered around San Diego county, all of which seem to sell beer and wine in addition to the various kebab dishes.
350 University Ave
Open daily 11-10