Let's just say 2008 is off to a well-fed start. I think this is easily the best meal I've had in a while. I love attention to detail, and Market really pays attention to detail.
It's San Diego Restaurant Week, so I made reservations at Market. I've been wanting to try it for a while, and SDRW is a good time to do so.
No pictures because there was no way to discreetly take them. Plus, D. looked horrified that I was even considering it. Anyway, thank goodness I didn't go there, because we sensed we didn't resemble their typical clientele. Ok, it was more than a feeling. D.'s car, a 2003 Passat Wagon, was the crappiest car to pull into the valet station. The valet attendant, who was no more than 2-3 years younger than us (if not the same age), was utterly surprised that we were going to eat there.
The crowd: older, rich, and pretty. We're not that young, but we do, unfortunately, look like we're still students at UCSD. That's not to say we dressed poorly... we were in the dressier side of "business casual," but we still look... young. Hell, we looked like we were going to Sunday school. What?! We're not J. Crew models. Someday, I'm going to be grateful for the genes that keep me looking youthful, but right now, I want to look my age, dammit! The hostesses raised their eyebrows and responded with a surprised, "Oh?!" when they noticed we had reservations. To the staff's credit, the initial surprise was instantly covered up and smoothly replaced by friendly professionalism.
D. and I joked quietly that we should wear sandwich boards that say, "Yes, we can afford this meal. No, we will not embarrass ourselves... we hope." Or perhaps we should enter with our W2's in hand... a bit direct, but it'd work.
Our server, a wry and dry gentleman who looked a bit worn-out by the swarm of customers, was great and so were his compatriots. He approached us with a bit of hesitation, looked slightly dismayed when we indicated that tap water was fine (he asked specifically about the water), and finally relaxed into a relieved smile when we ordered alcohol.
Then, he carded us. I'm flattered, since it's been a while since I've been carded, but it indicated that we were definitely viewed as quite young. Oh, well.
He brought me a delightful glass of tempranillo, a 2004 from Pago Florentino in La Mancha, Spain. Yum. On that wonderful note, our meal began:
It started with an amuse bouche of chili-glazed shrimp drizzled with ponzu and ginger sauce and topped with diced pineapple, peppers, and a little sprout of Japanese parsley. Really good. Their bread basket had crusty artisan bread along with amazing cornbread muffins. Mmmm... I'll have to tinker with cornbread recipes.
I started with the house-smoked maple-cured salmon, which was topped with two "fish sticks", freshly fried white fish (cod?) triangles sitting on top of a baby greens salad drizzled with a dressing that definitely contained yuzu, which I love, thanks to Morimoto. It was garnished with a hard-boiled egg, perfectly done so the yolk is just shy of solid and topped with caviar.
D. had the French onion soup with house-made meatballs. He thought it was a nice twist on the stereotypical French onion with the huge slab of bread and cheese on top. There was a little cheese and some bread, but the meatballs sat squarely in the middle of the dish.
For the entree, I had the miso-glazed seabass with shittake mushrooms in a warm broth that was highly reminiscent of Chinese beef noodle soup. Rich and shoyu-based, it was flavored with star anise, which led to the comparison. The fish was served on a bed of perfectly-cooked udon and topped with baby enoki mushrooms, slivers of baby bok choi, and more Japanese parsley. The fish was incredible, smooth and moist with the deep and almost meaty flavor of miso. I love bok choi, which is best when picked young.
D. liked his flat iron steak and roasted winter veggies. He bit into a brussels sprout and wasn't overly pleased with that, but he thought it was pretty good overall.
I can't rave enough about the dessert, a vanilla bean panna cotta on top of two crisp meringue sticks and a pool of huckleberry sauce. The panna cotta was smooth and complimented the crunchy meringue and sweet huckleberry sauce fabulously. A yuzu sorbet (very likely a palate cleanser) was served on the side with slices of blood tangerine (is there such a thing... it was dark red tangerine wedges), slivers of apple, and tiny cubes of red jello. It was a berry flavor of some kind, very sweet and definitely not strawberry, raspberry, or cranberry. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I liked it.Only one word to say about it all: AMAZING. I can't wait to go back... well, maybe after a slight makeover and/or laminating my W2, but I will go back.