Thursday, January 25, 2007

Downtown Eating

After eating at The Oceanaire, I thought hmm, should try to get downtown to eat more often. No doubt that Red Pearl Kitchen (right around the corner) is on my list. Well, thanks to nearly a week of jury duty, I had a rare opportunity to lunch downtown for 4 days. That’s a nice side benefit – okay maybe the ONLY benefit unless you are really hardcore about the whole fulfilling your civic duty bull.

First up I had decided that I’d check out that Indian buffet at Monsoon on 4th Avenue if they were doing it for lunch. They were and I helped myself to several plates. Not quite Punjabi Tandoor quality but pretty good. For atmosphere, it’s a 180-degree turn from that “hole in the place” complete with nearly elegant high back chairs and white tablecloths. And at $13.99 you better believe I’m spilling more than a little glop on their nice clean linens!

They don’t seem to do all that great of business for lunch – I only saw about 10 other customers over the time I was there so you might see a heavy skin form on some of the buffet dishes. The Vegetarian Tikka Masala was just okay (again go to Punjabi in Miramar for this one) but Tandoor chicken was good. No doubt there was enough to eat – I thought the Chicken Mulligatawny soup was great. Of course they have that spinach dish and some sort of lamb dish – maybe Lamb Vindaloo. I know I've missed something. A good sampling of food with a couple of simple desserts.

I vaguely remember sampling this buffet on a Gaslamp "taste of" tour.

Samba Grill
The second day I actually got picked to a jury so I needed to find some place to drown my sorrows. A liquid lunch at The Yardhouse? Mmm? Maybe! But what if blurted out the wrong thing in the afternoon session?

Then I decided what about that Brazilian Steakhouse place in Horton Plaza? Passing up other food court choices I wound up at Samba Grill. This is where the servers come out with loads of meat on long metal skewers and slide or cut off a serving for anyone interested. Yes, all you can eat meat! Perfect for an afternoon without a chance at a bathroom break.

San Diego’s very own mmm-yoso guy did a great write up last summer of this place. I think lunchtime is great time to check this restaurant out on the cheap – $13.99. But even at lunch I was offered over 10 offerings of a variety of meats. Sausages, beef ribs, sirloin and filet mignon, marinated chicken, turkey wrapped in bacon, maybe bacon wrapped with turkey that was wrapped with bacon again and then deep fried. Okay forget that last one. As I said, even at lunch, plenty to eat.

Along with the meat served tableside, they have a mostly salad buffet that was just okay. Nothing special there except they did have some sort of doughy bread ball. I don’t recall the name or if I even knew the name there – but I liked it a lot. Besides cold salads they had a few warm items like meatballs and lamb in a dark sauce.

Café Cerise
By day 3 I thought maybe I should ease up on the all you can eat stuff so I thought a visit to Café Cerise was in order. The place gets a few good mentions on Chowhound – and we sampled there for a downtown taste of once and I remembered that they seemed to be a restaurant excels in careful preparation of good products to create some great food. Or something like that.

There have been some rumors that they would be closing – they just don’t seem to attract enough business. At lunch I saw all of 7 other diners – so hardly a crowd. It’s a shame as the food is really good! I started off with a Caesar Salad With Parmigiano-Reggiano, Capers, Coddled Egg And Roasted Garlic for 5.25 and on the waiter’s recommendation got a Open Faced Lamb Sandwich, Covered with Bleu Cheese with Butterleaf Lettuce and Chanterelle Mushrooms for around 12.00 – or that is nearly how I remember it listed on the menu.

Looks like the menu is printed and changes daily. It’s a real steal for lunchtime I think considering quality and the pricing is about the same as anything from Red Blobster to Abblepees – or just a couple bucks more.

Grab and Go
The last day was a simple Grab & Go sub – a spicy tuna that was the special of the day. It was good – right around noon this place (2 blocks from the courthouse on C Street) gets line out the door busy. Around $5.50 or so.

I never did get to the Yardhouse though I think it would be next on my list – maybe.


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