Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Farm-Fresh Urban Eats at Crescent Heights

San Diego has some great restaurants serving fresh and beautiful farm-to-table cuisine. The only drawback is that most are in La Jolla or Del Mar - and I live in central San Diego. So I was so excited to discover Crescent Heights Kitchen & Lounge a chic new downtown restaurant where I can have a meal that shows off the best of the season without driving for half an hour.

It's owned by a cute young couple named David and Mariah McIntyre. He was the kitchen manager for Wolfgang Puck for 10 years, working at Spago and the newish steakhouse CUT; she has a background in design. Together they've created a restaurant that's clean and modern yet still warm and inviting with expanses of wood and an earthy color scheme. I especially like the lounge behind the bar, which fronts on a huge picture window showing a stainless steel prep area.

David shows a real talent for turning that seasonal produce into subtle and well balanced dishes and making them beautiful too. Every time I've eaten there, I've had the urge to take a few pictures before digging in. The burrata salad (at top), made from creamy mozzarella ringed by prosciutto, sweet baby beets, the last summer tomatoes and a pistou was just as delicious as it looked. My next visit, I ordered the salad Lyonnaise, you know the one with the poached egg, frisee lettuce and juicy pork lardons? It was the most refined and stunning version I've ever had. I also loved the just-right accompaniments on the cheese plate: perfectly toasted bread, honey comb, candied Marcona almonds and apricot compote.

At their opening party a few weeks ago, they showed off lots of little bites: Kobe burgers on brioche buns, tuna tartare, marinated lamb skewers and their tangy yuzu citrus scented cocktails. But the one taste I'm pining for is the chocolate hazelnut ganache tart served in a chocolate crust and topped with sea salt.

Crescent Heights is busy for lunch, but dinnertime is when you can have a luxurious meal and lots of attention from the professional servers. And the side-benefit of going for dinner is all the free street parking available for the asking.

Crescent Heights is at 655 Broadway Suite 150 San Diego 92101 phone 619 450-6450. Lunch and dinner daily, closed Sunday.

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