David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
Chad Deal has reported on special dining events and chef changes at Vagabond Kitchen several times, and they always sound great. Still, I’ve never made it there. Then other day my friend Kerri, who’s steered me towards several pleasurable dining experiences, remarked that she’d had a nice meal there recently, so I headed down to South Park to grab a drink and some happy hour food deals.
As befitting it’s name, the décor is a bit of this and that, niches with punched tin and colored glass lanterns, a row of African masks, a gilt proverb on a green shellacked wall. There’s a smallish, cozy bar area and a large sidewalk patio as well.
The menu, too, borrows from around the globe. A number of distinctly French dishes dominate, with nods to Morocco, Spain, Latin America and a couple of Asian-inspired plates.
I started out with a Bombay Sapphire martini, and John with a Duvel, both $2 off at happy hour. It was a generous pour that lasted through the meal. Had it not, there are loads of reasonably priced wines by the glass.
For a starter, we chose the Kung Pao Calamari ($9). The tender, lightly crisped rings were coated in a salty, strong hoisin sauce, sprinkled with chopped scallions and peanuts. It was just a bit overwhelming for the delicate flavor of the squid, and surprisingly lacking in heat, despite the presence of fried red chiles.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Grilled Duck Breast ($20), which came unsliced atop a mix of shredded duck confit, sautéed chayote squash, Asian eggplant, and pea shoots, with a drizzle of ginger caramel sauce.
Unfortunately, the duck breast wasn’t well cooked. The skin was pale, flabby and chewy, and the meat, instead of being rosy rare, was well done, a bit tough and devoid of any seasoning. The confit, on the other hand, was delicious, and paired very well with the cool, refreshing crunch of the chayote. The eggplant was undercooked and spongy, but was helped by the gingery, slightly sweet sauce. Sadly, as much as I enjoyed the confit, my last bite had a large shard of bone in it.
John’s Grilled Flatiron Steak ($19), was much better. Perfectly medium rare and topped with an herby, garlicky sauce, it had great beefy flavor. The roasted Peruvian potatoes and tiny roasted root vegetables were an excellent accompaniment.
Vagabond Kitchen has a daily happy hour from 4:30 – 6:00 pm, featuring discounts on the bar food menu, cocktails, wine and beer. They also have daily specials, including all day happy hour on Tuesdays and a prix fixe dinner for two on Wednesdays.
2310 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104
Mon-Thu 4 pm - 10 pm
Fri 4 pm - 12 am
Sat 10 am - 12 am
Sun 10 am - 10 pm