Running a restaurant in the Gaslamp isn’t easy. The transitory nature of the place means you have to appeal to discerning locals as well as tourist traffic passing by.
672 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
That’s the challenge facing a place like Florent, a modern-American eatery set up in what used to be the City Hall building.
The place has a nice vibe, a good combination of classic and modern. The food promises the same. In many ways they succeed, but, in some cases, the menu reads better than the actual dishes.
Case in point: The Golden Beet and Pomegranate Salad ($12), which is served with mixed greens, feta cheese and a pomegranate vinaigrette. My wife, daughter and I zeroed in on this immediately.
It was a good salad: crispy, tart and tangy, but the beets were diced and hiding under the kale. We were slightly disappointed. If your salad has “Golden Beets” upfront in the title, they should be the star of the dish. If the salad had been titled “Kale Salad with Golden Beets,” we would have been happy, but a salad with that name isn’t as likely to attract walk-by traffic as “Golden Beet and Pomegranate Salad.”
The salad was delicious and the manager seemed to understand us when we explained that it was all a branding issue.
I was a big fan of the Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer ($12), which was nicely crispy, with blue cheese crumbles, and a spicy, tangy wing sauce. My vegetarian wife liked it, which surprised her, because she wasn’t a fan of Buffalo anything when she was eating meat.
The Braised Short Rib ($28) was satisfying in many respects: The meat was flavorful, especially with the garlic polenta, but it kicked off to the stratosphere with the addition of kumquat jam to each bite. The crisp, tender broccolini made me feel less guilty.
My daughter was happy with her Truffle Burger ($18), topped with mushrooms, swiss cheese and a truffle aioli. At first, she thought she could only eat half, but she managed to finish the whole thing, though she left some of the bun on the side. The fries were hot and crispy — the way we like ‘em.
My wife ordered the Zucchini Florentine ($19) a sort-of vegetable sauce with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, spinach and parmesan. She thought it lacked a little flavor and was OK. That’s a common problem with vegetarian dishes at restaurants.
I liked Florent. The service is professional and many of the food items are delicious. I would come back for the short rib and my daughter would join me for another crack at the truffle burger. And if the beets are the star of the beet salad, so much the better.