By Frank Sabatini Jr. | SDUN Reporter
San Diego Author Maria Desiderata Montana spares us the hassle of begging restaurants for the recipes of their signature dishes, the ones that we love of course. In her newly released book, “San Diego Chef’s Table” (Globe Pequot Press), she snags the precise specs for spiced Szechuan duck from Jonathan Hale of The Prado at Balboa Park; homemade pretzels with beer mustard from Riccardo Heredia of Alchemy; and the famous pork burger with candied bacon by Hanis Cavin at Carnitas Snack Shack. Recipes from numerous other restaurants throughout San Diego County are featured. The 207-page book is also loaded with chef-restaurant profiles and luscious photography by John Dole. The cost is $24.95.
He’s cooked for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bill Gates, President George Bush and other luminaries, and is now helming the kitchen at Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest. Since coming on board recently as its new executive chef, Rodney Robinson has overhauled the menu by about 75 percent. In doing so, he’s given new twists to signature items such as the blue-cheese stuffed filet mignon, served now with two crab-stuffed shrimp. Robinson hails from Detroit and climbed the ranks in major hotel kitchens. Since his arrival, Martinis has extended its dinner hours to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition, “prime rib night” has been reinstated on Wednesdays. The meal costs $20 and includes potatoes, vegetables and bread. 3940 Fourth Ave., 619-400-4500.
Armed with plenty of garlic, vanilla beans and chipotle peppers as some of his favorite cooking ingredients, Chef Abe Botello has been hired to elevate the menu at West Coast Tavern in North Park. The locally based toque grew up in a restaurant family and attended the Art Institute of San Diego’s culinary program before working at Urban Solace, True North Tavern and Station Tavern. His menu includes roasted bone marrow with apple-rhubarb chutney; an eight-ounce Duroc pork chop in brandied cherry gastrique; and coriander-crusted halibut with garlic butter sauce. 2895 University Ave., 619-295-1688.
The iconic Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in Harbor Island, built in 1971, has reopened after a $3.5 million renovation that showcases the early-California design of the restaurant. Its newest features include a bay-facing upstairs bar, a keg room and a bayside wedding site marked with an eye-popping arch containing 2,000 aluminum rings (yes, the restaurant has been catering to same-sex weddings since the days of non-official commitment ceremonies). The menu has also been modernized with dishes like pomegranate-glazed pork belly, lobster bouillabaisse and crab BLTs. As for those piles of lobster claws and crab legs that create frenzies during Sunday brunch, they still remain. 2150 Harbor Island Drive, 619-291-9110.
The California Restaurant Association’s semi-annual Restaurant Week returns to San Diego County Sunday, Sept. 15 – Friday, Sept. 20, with over 180 San Diego establishments participating. “There are no passes to buy, no coupons to carry and no cards to punch,” organizers said in a press release. Instead, show up to a participating restaurant and purchase a prix-fixe lunch or a three-course prix-fixe dinner. Lunch menus are $10, $15 or $20 per person, depending on location and dinner prices are $20, $30 or $40 per person. There are over 25 restaurants participating in Uptown – hint: search under “Uptown,” “Central SD Neighborhoods” and “Old Town” on the Restaurant Week website for complete options – and “reservations are strongly suggested,” as organizers said over 140,000 people participated in the January Restaurant Week. As a bonus, the Cohn Restaurant Group’s Uptown establishments, 100 Wines Hillcrest and The Prado at Balboa Park, will extend the special for an extra week. The complete list of participating restaurants, organized by course, price, cuisine or the all-important neighborhood, are on the website. sandiegorestaurantweek.com, 619-233-5008.
Note: San Diego Uptown News Editor Anthony King contributed to this story.