1670 Coast Boulevard, Del Mar
We inlanders (who are at least a 15-minute drive to the coastline) can get caught up in our day to day and forget the sparkling majesty that lies just beyond the concrete horizon. Every once in a while I crave the smell of the ocean air and a front-seat to that great blue vista.
I am particularly drawn to the water when the weather is warm, as it was when, after a meeting in Del Mar, David and I randomly chose to stop for lunch at a restaurant situated on the water, nautically named Poseidon.
After handing my car keys over to the happiest valet driver I’d ever encountered, we were led to a seat on the patio, which turned out to be right on the beach. On the other side of the low cement wall were countless people, some in the water, others seeking shade under a spate of umbrellas, others laying on towels and soaking up the sun. I would have preferred an uncluttered view of the water. This was more like a “boardwalk, people-watching” view than an unobstructed ocean view.
We began with an appetizer, the coconut shrimp ($5), served with a pineapple-papaya dipping sauce. They arrived in a metal fry-basket, each of the shrimp skewered with a thick wooden stick. These were satisfyingly crunchy, and with the stick making them shrimp-pops, they were easy enough to dip, but I still ended up removing them from the sticks and using utensils.
The service, though friendly, was all over the place. Things kept getting misdelivered. I witnessed this happen at two separate tables, and then it happened to us. A busboy set a salad before me that was topped with strawberries. When I explained this was not the salad I’d ordered (Thai chicken), he actually argued that yes, this was the correct salad, as it was written on the piece of paper in his pocket.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not a Thai salad,” I said, pointing out the strawberries where bell peppers were supposed to be. Instead of simply apologizing and taking it back, he stayed there and called the server over, and it was a whole hubbub of annoyance. Excuses were made, at one point he had the gall to ask if I wanted this salad over the one I’d ordered, and then, finally, after assuring him I didn’t mind waiting for my chosen dish even though David already had his, the strawberries were taken away. A few minutes later, the salad I’d originally ordered finally appeared.
I enjoyed the flavor of the Thai chicken salad ($15.50), with little gem lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, and grilled chicken. It was lightly dressed, which I appreciated, and the peppers were fresh and flavorful. The chicken itself was overcooked and dry, but at this point, having survived the debacle of all the stares as servers stood over us considering plates, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of requesting a replacement.
David ordered the grilled mahi mahi tacos ($16). For all the supposedly flavorful ingredients — red cabbage, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa fresca, chipotle aioli — he said they were bland and the fish overcooked. He jazzed it up by using the sauce that had come with our shrimp but was still disappointed. Between bites, he said, “It would be tragic if somebody was visiting California for the first time and wanted to find out what fish tacos were all about, and this was the only one they had.”
I’m always disheartened when a restaurant further proves the rule that a good location will be more heavily relied upon to fill the tables than a smooth kitchen. I guess that’s what makes the exceptions that much more exceptional.