Sunday, March 3, 2013

George's Ocean Terrace

George's combination of view, location and crowd-pleasing menu give it the reputation of tourist attraction, booked nearly every day around sunset (regardless of the weather) for its sweeping view of the ocean.  I've never heard much in complaints nor praises from the kitchen, its food always decent but not impressive, commanding a higher price than expected because of its popularity, making me rather averse to spending money here.  But one day, chance presented itself, possibly because lunch costs less than dinner, or that I was actually looking for breakfast again around 11 in the morning; I came to try George's.

George’s opens around 11, and we chose to sit in the Ocean Terrace level, the top of two outdoor levels of George's (the other being the bar).  Each of George’s three levels has its own kitchen and bar, but only the fine dining California Modern level earns itself a different and more expensive menu.  All three have great views.

Ocean Terrace has an open rooftop with direct sun that pleases the skin, but some accompanying plastic chairs and tables that do not.  I suppose it may be necessarily not to use fine furniture due to the threat of rain, dust and wind, but I would have hoped for some other material than regular light plastic - wood or composite, perhaps?

The view this morning was particularly great, and as we were among the first in line as the restaurant opened, our seats were right along the glass wall, next to the big blue ocean.  Even I confess that the view this restaurant commands is astounding, at least on a clear and sunny day such as this - probably moreso during sunset!  Of course, as many San Diego residents know, those days don’t come around as often as the city’s reputation suggests, but when they do…it’s mindblowing.

The late morning started nicely, with attentive service and quiet brunch-like talking over the serenity of the ocean; after being puzzled by the menu for a while, we settled on the fish tacos, a Yelp favorite, and the seared ahi tuna over soba, a pleasing sounding combination to me.

Marinated and Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos : 13
mango salsa, jalapeno-lime creme fraiche, guacamole and shredded cabbage

The fish tacos were good, with big slabs of thick fish swimming among a sea of fruits, vegetables, and guacamole.  I mention a tidbit because my partner is allergic and missed the menu description (we ordered off Yelp, remember?) - guacamole is present though hidden, camouflaged by the color of the tortilla.  Despite this, she assured me that she enjoyed the tacos, probably even more than I did.  The tacos also came with fresh sliced cucumbers, jicima, and carrots; of the dishes coming out of the kitchen, the fish tacos were among the most common, and every table was getting at least one order.

Seared Rare Ahi : 15
chilled Japanese soba noodle salad with wasabi-soy vinaigrette

The ahi tuna was delightfully cooked in a way that I have really come to appreciate: the tuna on the inside chilled, the outside warm from the flame.  This unfortunately did not last too long, as the sun beaming down on us quickly warmed the plate up.  The soba too was good, clean, fresh, but a mere detail or filling to the wonderful ahi.  A more health-conscious substitute, if you will, for rice.

Caramel Apple Crisp : 8.25
cinnamon-oat streusel, walnut brittle, vanilla bean ice cream

We then took a look at the dessert menu, and settled on the caramel apple crisp, despite the waiter suggesting something different (a much heavier and sweeter dish).  I loved this.  The oats, caramel and apple formed that pastry-fruit type of dessert that I love so much, and the ice cream creating the contrast I appreciate dearly.  Granola is always acceptable in my book, but in combination with other foods, only grows evermore.  As for the cracker to the left, it looked as it tasted: the strength of the dish was elsewhere.

If there’s anything to add about my experience with George’s, it’s that by the end of the meal, the restaurant was a lot more crowded, a lot louder, and a lot more touristy.  Where in the beginning it had the air of a calm Sunday brunch overlooking the ocean, by the time we were looking at our food, I saw the reason for the restaurant's reputation as a tourist trap: other newer diners were coming in loudly, talking, crowding around our table to take pictures of themselves over the ledge, ocean in the background.  In another circumstance, I might linger in the restaurant, enjoying the view, the sun, a drink; while my entry into George’s was extraordinarily pleasant, I had no desire now of lingering to enjoy San Diego's weather.  And besides, my parking was soon to expire.

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