230 South Santa Fe Avenue, Vista
(No longer in business.)
Pork is highlighted at this new “pub & kitchen” in Vista’s Paseo Santa Fe district, but I decided to go with the tri-tip. A good decision.
First I ordered a light fare of ham and melon, inspired by the outdoor organic garden next to my table. The small plate is small, but so is the price at $12. The serrano ham was sliced paper-thin, with an intense flavor and a dry texture. The local melon was as good as the melons I’ve had in the Luberon in Provence, and the lemon-verbena yogurt, mache, espellete pepper, and brined melon rind were both tangy and sweet.
As a lover of tri-tip, especially the Santa Maria style, I was excited for the main course to arrive. Executive chef Mario Moser prepared the 12-oz. carved portion as tender as one could hope for, and it was cooked perfectly to medium-rare. (Actually it was a bit rare, but that’s how I eat it. Order it a little more well-done if you prefer.) The roasted tri-tip (certified Angus beef) sat atop creamy smoked mashed potatoes with medium-sized portobello mushrooms sautéed in sherry and a perfect amount of gravy (which is really Makers steak sauce).
The new restaurant didn’t even boast signage yet, but the place was jumping, especially for Vista on a Monday.
Wanting to get on the road for the 45-minute drive home, I didn’t think I had the room for dessert. On the recommendation of the friendly server, I finished with the almond financier cake ($7) a dense almond cake with finely ground almonds, served with Tahitian vanilla gelato and fresh caramel sauce. It was gone before the check arrived.