7330 Via De La Valle, Del Mar (858) 523-0007
San Diego experienced a fine dining renaissance in 2006, and early 2007. I previously referred to this batch of restaurant openings as "the bumper crop," and included Market Restaurant & Bar in that group. Residing in the building which previously housed Black Horse Grill, Market is a collaboration between Executive Chef Carl Schroeder (previously at Arterra), and Cafe 222 owner, Terryl Gavre. Hoping to harvest another winner from "the crop," like 1500 Ocean, or The Dining Room at Jack's, I ventured into North County to see for myself.
Arriving at Market on a mid-week night, I was promptly seated in the dining room, where Terryl Gavre's tasteful and creative interior design provided a comfortable and pleasing environment. My server, Roger, greeted me with menu in hand, and took my drink order.
Shortly thereafter, a strawberry and watercress amuse bouche in Chinese soup spoons was served.
This amuse bouche was ideal for cleansing my palate. I was then given a generous basket of fresh bread and corn muffins.
The muffins were sweetly addictive, and the bread had a crisp crust with a pleasingly soft interior. Along with the bread, I was served an attractive Starter Salad
that consisted of asparagus spears, fresh peas, watercress, and croutons.
From the list of starters, I chose the French Spring Onion Soup with a Duck Confit and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($8.75).
The full-bodied duck confit went well with the concentrated flavor of the soup, which had a touch of sweetness from the spring onions. The soup & sandwich combination was tasty, nostalgic, and fun.
Again from the starters section, I ordered Fromager D' Affonois Ravioli with Bolognese sauce, Wild Arugula, and Arbequina Olive Oil ($11.25).
This dish, with its buttery triple cream brie filling, shaved parmigiano-reggiano, meaty ragu, and ample drizzle of olive oil, was seriously rich. Even though I enjoyed the exotic ravioli, I found the bolognese sauce to be pedestrian, unlike the version I recently enjoyed at Bar West.
Being careful not to satiate my appetite on starters, it was time to move on to entrees. I selected Alaskan Halibut with Green Garlic Risotto Cake, Chorizo-Snow Pea Salad, and a Saffron Shellfish Emulsion ($26.50).
My palate was treated to a whirlwind of textures and flavors with this original offering. Perfectly cooked halibut provided a canvas for the unusual and delicious chorizo-snow pea salad, risotto cake, and saffron emulsion. This was an excellent dish that showcased Chef Schroeder's imaginative style.
I followed the halibut with Milk Fed Veal Two Ways ($29.50).
The two ways were: strudel (left), and scaloppini. The lightly battered scaloppini was cooked to crispy perfection, served with a delicious cream sauce, and topped with roasted artichokes. The strudel featured tender braised veal covered in a pastry-like jacket, served with fresh sweet peas, and finished with demi-glace. Veal two ways is another outstanding entree which I would not hesitate to order again.
My final main course choice was the Cabernet Braised Prime Beef Ribs with Sweet Onion-Potato Puree, Sherry Glazed Cipollini Onions, and Spring Vegetable Roast ($33.50).
I ordered this entree, in part, due to a number of glowing recommendations the braised beef ribs had received locally. On my visit to Market, however, these accolades proved to be unfounded. While I liked the sweet onion-potato puree and the spring vegetable roast, the beef itself was unpleasantly stringy, and the cabernet braising liquid reduction was absurdly salty. For me, this was just braised beef ribs gone bad.
Having seen positive reviews on Pastry Chef James Foran's work at Arterra, I saved room to sample his desserts. My first selection was the Chocolate Tasting ($9.00).
The plating of this dish was quite artistic. The tart had an intense chocolate flavor, the macaroon was tender and delicious, and the shake, delightful and refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed this study in chocolate, despite my not being a chocoholic.
I also ordered the Banana & Rum Tres Leches Cake ($9.00).
This was a bit more of a mixed bag. I liked the caramel and fried plantain, but found the cake to be dry, and not as flavorful as I had hoped.
In principle, I appreciate what Market is trying to do. The menu changes daily, in order to feature the highest quality ingredients available that morning. This noble mission can, however, prove to be risky. With menu items constantly changing, a kitchen has the potential to be more uneven. This appears to be the case with Market, as the offerings that I sampled ran the gamut from innovative and excellent, to uninspired and poorly executed. If improvement is made in the area of consistency, Market can attain its rightful place at the pinnacle of San Diego's fine dining scene, because when Chef Schroeder is on his game, the results are truly remarkable.
Hours: 5:30pm Nightly
San Diego Restaurant Reviews