Fab Palace, No Clothes

Naomi Wise should give Addison another chance. It's not perfect, but it is very good. The restaurant now offers only either a four course menu with choices, or a seven course tasting menu "at the mercy of the chef." Two of us had the former yesterday, priced at $98 before drinks, tax or tip. At lot of what Naomi Wise writes is correct. The menu changes very slowly. The menu we were offered was identical to one framed by the entrance, who knows how long ago. All the ingredients are obviously first-rate, but not described on the menu. Preparations tend to be simple, but difficult, with contrasting flavors on the same plate. We liked all the dishes we had, and all were executed very well. Unlike most other top restaurants in California, it seems this one does not have unqualified, unsupervised line cooks. The cooking is in fact very French, in the “haute cuisine” style: small but satisfying portions of high-quality ingredients, cooked in traditional ways but with untraditional spices and combinations. As is customary in top restaurants in France, there are clear influences from Japanese and other cuisines, but the result is purely European. We didn’t see any foam or other postmodern influences. As Naomi Wise says, the service is formal, but we found all the servers to be friendly. As she points out also, occasionally they say things that aren’t true. Our waiter said that sablefish is the same as cod. It isn’t. It is sometimes called black cod or blue cod, but it’s still not the same. The restaurant suffers from its design and decor. It is very comfortable, but excessively spacious in a nouveau riche, Carmel Valley, American way. The artwork and the interior design are excessively homogeneous and symmetrical and tame. As of the summer of 2009, Addison is the only restaurant in San Diego to score a 17 from the Gayot guide. San Diego’s other top restaurants have 16s. Addison probably deserves this food rating, mainly for the consistency of the kitchen compared to at its competitors. Addison is very good, but other restaurants provide better value for money and sometimes a more sensual, satisfying experience overall.
— August 16, 2009 11:56 a.m.

Holiday Inn

Gavin Kaysen is long gone, to be a celebrity in New York now. Justification for five stars may be long gone also. El Bizcocho now has a new chef who is a fervent proponent of molecular gastronomy. We went for restaurant week in January 2009. The outcome is underwhelming. One dish supposedly had "foie gras powder" but this was undetectable. In Bananas Foster, the bananas are converted into a thin syrup. This tasted vaguely of caramel and that's all. On a nonmolecular level, the menu tries hard to be original, but without much point. For example, one main dish is "duck chop." Gee, yes, you won't get see that on a menu anywhere else. But what is it in reality? Just a duck breast with some bone attached. The downside of including the bone is that the traditional presentation of contrasting crispy skin, melt-in-your mouth fat, and rare flesh goes missing. The kitchen is no doubt excellent at technique, classical and modern, but the basics are sometimes forgotten. Butter was at the right temperature, but tasted stale. Cured sashimi had interesting flavors, but all were overpowered by salt. All in all, the molecular tricks come at the expense of sensuousness, and the elaborate preparations obscure the true nature of the ingredients. Portions were tiny, appropriate for a tasting menu but not for a three course dinner. Service was friendly and welcoming, but not sensitive. After telling us that we could continue talking as long as we wanted (not so directly!) the waiter came for the bill before we had laid down our credit card.
— January 14, 2009 2:21 p.m.

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