After perusing the online menu (of course) and reading the highly rated Yelp reviews, I was excited to try their culinary masterpieces, like Duckaroni, their famous warm cheese biscuits with orange-honey butter, Niman Ranch pork belly, and the braised beef cheeks.
The inside of the restaurant was dim with soft lighting all around. The decor was classy, but very contemporary. It was very comfortable. We didn't have a reservation, which would have allowed us to eat inside, but the outdoor patio was fine with us as long as their were heaters. The hostess sat us against the wall with a heater pointed towards the center of the patio. It did not make sense to have seating against the wall on a cold night with the heaters pointing no where near you. I tolerated the "no heat" for a bit, but the cold wind was getting the best of us. We asked our server to be moved towards the center and she gladly let us.
We each started with a warm cheese biscuit for a small appetizer. I was curious to see what the hype was with these. I ordered the braised beef cheeks, Arlene ordered the lamb meatloaf, and we decided to share a side of their famous Duckaroni.
Shady and I each received a mini plate of a single warm cheese biscuit with a small sampling of orange-honey butter. I sliced the biscuit in half and carefully put a thin layer of the sweet butter on each side. I started with the biscuit top. It was still warm and had a crunch to it. It was good, but sadly, the first thing I thought of was the cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster. It had a similar taste, but of course, Red Lobster does not have that amazing orange-honey butter, which was yummy.
Beef cheek = muscles that are located on either sides of a cow's cheekbone = finely grained meat that when braised are deliciously tender
Arlene had the “Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” with ground lamb, figs, pine nuts, feta cheese with fig jus. It was served with the same mashed potatoes and topped with crispy red onion strings, ooh! The meatloaf was moist and very good. Meatloaf is something I would not usually order at a restaurant, plus I don't eat a lot of lamb, so I'm glad got to try Arlene's dish.
The last delicious thing on our table is the DUCKARONI. Who doesn't love duck confit, blue cheese, macaroni, roasted garlic, and arugula all mixed and transformed to THIS lovely dish? It's topped with a buttery bread crumb crust, scallions, and more crumbled Maytag blue cheese. Yes. Sir. I preferred the bite without extra blue cheese crumbles (I think it can be overpowering), and boy, this is excellent. It's very rich. There were large pieces of the duck confit that were pleasant surprises. You have the ability to order this as a main entree, however, be prepared to do some cardio the next day.
Ar and I passed on dessert and continued to discuss our personal lives, the upcoming holidays, and her triathlon in Hawaii this year. We also noticed that two other parties that were seated at the same table against the wall asked to be moved to the center of the room, so we're not the only "high maintenance" individuals. *smirk*
Dinner #2 - December 2009
To thank Mr. Q for everything he has done to assist Mike with the real estate website he's working on, we went to Urban Solace for good company, great conversation, and of course, good eats before the Christmas holiday began. Since Q lives in North Park, we met him at his place and walked a few blocks down. We walked by a lot of restaurants that I'm curious about and would like to try: Rancho's (vegetarian Mexican food), The Linkery (which Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit talks about a lot), and Heavenly Sent Desserts.
For a change, the air was crisp and felt good because I was bundled up in my scarf and thick jacket. We arrived without dinner reservations and waited in the lobby near the bar for our table outside to be ready. We heard a familiar voice at the bar, and it was Linda Stewart of San Diego 6 News in the Morning. She was having dinner with, what it looked like, her husband and sharing the Duckaroni. Good choice, Linda.
Mike and Q both had a glass of wine while we were waiting. About 15 minutes later, we were called to our table and were asked to close our tab at the bar before moving outside. Musicians with acoustic guitars were playing to the outside patrons, something that did not occur when Arlene and I went. The music gave the outdoor seating a more festive and fun environment than the inside.
So, yes, I broke down and ordered what I was craving, the beef cheeks. Mike ordered the arctic char and Q ordered the quinoa. Once again, the food arrived in a timely manner and looked yummy!
My beef cheeks had a lot more jus/broth and came with crisp green beans and carrots. Unlike my first experience, it did not have any "oils" drizzled on the plate and garlic in the jus were nowhere to be seen. Still though, the cheeks were beautifully braised and tenderly delicious. I did enjoy that it came with some vegetables because it added the crunch factor to the tender and creamy textures.
The hubby ordered the cornmeal crusted arctic char accompanied with roasted potato, an apple and fennel salad and no lemon butter. I should have told him to ask for a lemon wedge instead. Fish needs to be paired with something citrusy, in my opinion. Regardless, he loved the arctic char, which is similar to a salmon and trout.
Q ordered the warm quinoa, which came with cumin scented vegetables, grilled sheep-goat Cheese and drizzled with a roasted garlic vinaigrette. It was topped off with some wonton crispies. I had a small bite of the quinoa and the goat cheese. The quinoa had an interesting texture, similar to an al dente small pasta. It has a nutty flavor that went well with the grilled goat cheese.
Because I was craving something sweet after dinner, I ordered their slice of pecan pie with caramel and creme fraiche. Mike and Q took one bite. Is it bad to say that I ate all of it? It was so good because it wasn't too sweet, kind of unusual for a pecan pie, which is basically all sugar. Who knows. It was fabulous and that crust is also what made it.
Alright. Seriously, the next time I come here, I'm going to try the steak or the sustainable trout, and even get a cup of the tomato-fennel soup. I have also heard great things about their sweet potato fries, so a burger may be on the list, as well...
...we'll see. Now I'm curious to see if the beef cheeks come out different again. Kidding.