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Blue Fourno has everything going for it, except flavor

Pass the salt

A good-looking Mediterranean meal, but it’s missing something.
A good-looking Mediterranean meal, but it’s missing something.

I learned that fourno is the Greek word for oven when I dropped by the new Hillcrest spot for lunch. I could not see whether Blue Fourno Grill actually cooks with a blue oven, but I could tell right away that the casual sit-down restaurant had a comfortable atmosphere. With a mix of blue paint, exposed brick, and dark-stained wood, the tasteful interior looked polished without losing its laid-back appeal.

A new Greek spot in central Hillcrest

I felt the same way about the dishes I tried. The menu points out which are vegan on a Mediterranean menu that includes standard fare such as falafel, hummus, and baba ganoush. In fact, that trio is featured on the restaurant’s vegan plate for ten bucks, and I went for it.

However, I didn’t want to ignore the various kebabs. These range from beef and chicken to salmon and shrimp, mostly available as part of a $12–$18 platter. You can also grab a single skewer for $5, so I added a lamb kabob to round out the meal.

The only thing tasteful was the decor

The lamb looked great but was a touch chewy, like it had been a bit overcooked. More of a problem was the lamb’s lack of flavor. I got a hint of its gaminess but not enough salt or other seasoning to bring it to life.

The vegan side of the meal started with the creamiest hummus I’ve ever eaten. Silky smooth, it spread easily across the flat bread provided, with a splash of olive oil over it lending a little grassy flavor to the chickpea paste.

The olive oil stood out because the hummus too was underseasoned, wanting more to make it pop. Same problem with the baba ganoush. The eggplant’s subtle earthiness needs seasoning, and usually sesame and garlic will do the trick. But while it was perfectly executed texture-wise, any flavoring was too delicate to detect. The falafel, crunchy yet spongy, also wanted more flavor. Even the side of tahini proved lacking.

Place

Blue Fourno Grill

406 University Avenue, San Diego

Aside from the pair of olives topping the two spreads on my plate, I got the most flavor out of the tabbouleh salad, which featured parsley in heavy ratio against the bulgur wheat grains. Its grassy, almost minty quality was lifted by the citrus zing of lemon juice.

Still, you can’t make a great dish around parsley alone. In general, I wish more kitchens would master the art of subtlety in their food, but Blue Fourno seems to err the other way — offering good ingredients and mostly solid preparation but food that too closely matches the breeziness of its dining room.

A little more sesame, a little more salt, and this place could become something good.

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A good-looking Mediterranean meal, but it’s missing something.
A good-looking Mediterranean meal, but it’s missing something.

I learned that fourno is the Greek word for oven when I dropped by the new Hillcrest spot for lunch. I could not see whether Blue Fourno Grill actually cooks with a blue oven, but I could tell right away that the casual sit-down restaurant had a comfortable atmosphere. With a mix of blue paint, exposed brick, and dark-stained wood, the tasteful interior looked polished without losing its laid-back appeal.

A new Greek spot in central Hillcrest

I felt the same way about the dishes I tried. The menu points out which are vegan on a Mediterranean menu that includes standard fare such as falafel, hummus, and baba ganoush. In fact, that trio is featured on the restaurant’s vegan plate for ten bucks, and I went for it.

However, I didn’t want to ignore the various kebabs. These range from beef and chicken to salmon and shrimp, mostly available as part of a $12–$18 platter. You can also grab a single skewer for $5, so I added a lamb kabob to round out the meal.

The only thing tasteful was the decor

The lamb looked great but was a touch chewy, like it had been a bit overcooked. More of a problem was the lamb’s lack of flavor. I got a hint of its gaminess but not enough salt or other seasoning to bring it to life.

The vegan side of the meal started with the creamiest hummus I’ve ever eaten. Silky smooth, it spread easily across the flat bread provided, with a splash of olive oil over it lending a little grassy flavor to the chickpea paste.

The olive oil stood out because the hummus too was underseasoned, wanting more to make it pop. Same problem with the baba ganoush. The eggplant’s subtle earthiness needs seasoning, and usually sesame and garlic will do the trick. But while it was perfectly executed texture-wise, any flavoring was too delicate to detect. The falafel, crunchy yet spongy, also wanted more flavor. Even the side of tahini proved lacking.

Place

Blue Fourno Grill

406 University Avenue, San Diego

Aside from the pair of olives topping the two spreads on my plate, I got the most flavor out of the tabbouleh salad, which featured parsley in heavy ratio against the bulgur wheat grains. Its grassy, almost minty quality was lifted by the citrus zing of lemon juice.

Still, you can’t make a great dish around parsley alone. In general, I wish more kitchens would master the art of subtlety in their food, but Blue Fourno seems to err the other way — offering good ingredients and mostly solid preparation but food that too closely matches the breeziness of its dining room.

A little more sesame, a little more salt, and this place could become something good.

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Comments
1

Instead try Mediterranean Cafe at 112 W. Washington St. You definitely get the flavor there! As for tabbouleh salad, I prefer less parsley than is usually added in the recipe. I love my greens but I don't want to eat rabbit food.

July 4, 2017

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