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I hadn’t seen a mandatory service charge at a restaurant in quite a while. Then, I went to The Turquoise Cafe-Bar Europa in Pacific Beach, where a gratuity of 17.5% is automatically added to every bill. Unlike some people, I don’t categorically hate the service charge. I’m even in favor of it, provided it guarantees exceptional service! With the menu claiming the restaurant refuses the right to serve people who are “grouchy and in a hurry,” I suppose I expected caring service at The Turquoise.

It was OK. My server, while otherwise friendly, forget to bring the drink order and she was somewhat scattered throughout the course of the meal. Far from terrible, but when the menu specifically guarantees excellent service (“ask about our good service guarantee!”), I feel obliged to point out that the service was on the low side of average.

Now, the glass of white sangria I got for a mere $5 was great. Not only was it enormous, it also had a high enough alcohol content to get me slightly buzzed after just one glass. I can only imagine the $18 carafe would...enliven the spirits, shall we say. The wine list was likewise nice, with $6 glasses of cask wine and $7-$12 glasses of everything else. Plus, $5 sherry for post-prandial chill out.

It was really too bad about the food. The gazpacho soup ($5) had been slicked with oil in a way that ruined the otherwise bright concoction. The one-note ratatouille ($6) tasted like it had been sweated in a saute pan and served on the spot. Tender greens ($4) were bitter enough that no hint of white wine or almonds could be detected. Calamari ($7) had been cooked hard, to the point that the ringlets of squid emulated the rubber bands used to keep closed the claws on live lobsters.

The only decent dish was the tortilla espanola ($7), the iconic tapas plate of potatoes, onions, and eggs. The potatoes were nicely poached in oil. Even then, the eggs were a shade overcooked and chewy.

I’ll give The Turquoise credit for having a cool atmosphere, at the very least. A two-man blues band delivered, gravelly melodies from the darkened recesses of the interior. The patio was perfectly heated and the inside of the restau would be awesome for a hang-out or a date. All the people in the place seemed classy and/or attractive.

It could be a rad place to get together and lay waste to the liver via inexpensive sangria, just ignore the food since it would only interfere with the alcohol anyways.

873 Turquoise Street
4-Midnight Sun-Thu
4-2AM Fri-Sat

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