A few months ago I started tweeting with Top of the Market and casually asked if I could come by, review their food and write a review about it on my blog. A few weeks later I receive an email from the awesome Tracy Phillips inviting me down to SD to do just that!
San Diego is one of my favorite places in Southern California, and whenever I’m there I let my foodie nature take hold and all I can do is eat. I’ve set up my own food tour (which I will show you how to do, post coming soon) and made sure to eat at a new place every day I was there.
This time I was there for a purpose. To try Top of the Market and give my honest opinion about the service, the decor, the environment, the drinks…and most importantly the stunning food delivered by Executive Chef Ivan Flowers. Chef Flowers has over 25 years of experience in Fine Dining, and it really showed during this dining experience. His hospitality was very much appreciated and the food was impeccable.
Let’s get this party started!
Upon arrival, my guest and I approached the host stand to a smiling young woman. She was very friendly, approachable and articulate as she explained she had our table ready and waiting for us. She brought us to the outside patio area that overlooks the harbor. The sun still had a few hours before setting so the heat was noticeable at that time of day.
Chef Flowers approached us a few minutes later with our server for the night; Giovanni. They were both very kind and welcoming, asking us if the heat was too unbearable and if we’d like to be moved. We decided to move because it was particularly hot; just an FYI about that patio if you’re heading to Top of the Market during the Spring or Summer months.
We arrived at our new table which still had a beautiful view of the ocean, and we were informed that Chef Flowers would be offering us drink pairings with our meals. Of course we were okay with that!
First we started off with this Lobster Bisque Michelangelo with Porcini Mushroom Infusion and Fanny Bay Oyster with a Vietnamese Chili Droplet. Sounds fancy? Well it was, and it was DELICIOUS too.
Chef Flowers brought this dish to our table and told us to shoot the oyster and sip the bisque. The oyster was perfect. Nice temperature, not grainy, and the chili droplet gave it a little kick. The bisque was served warm and offered a rich blend to chase the slight spice of the oyster. I would say this was a delectable pair. My guest agreed.
Shortly after we received, and devoured, our first course, Giovanni came to us with our drink pairings. A Mai Tai and a white sangria.
Both were very good and my guest (who has bartended for many years) said the Mai Tai was the best he’s ever had.
Next we moved on to the Togarashi (chili powder) Seared Yellowfin Sashimi with Mango Salpicon (which literally translates to medley) with a Sweet Soy Wasabi Aioli.
If you know me you know I’m a major fan of Tuna, so this was quite a treat. Let me tell you, the best quality fish I’ve ever eaten, and it was prepared perfectly. The Togarashi gave it a little kick, so they paired the meal with a Rosé to soften the bite on the palate.
He explained the sauces on the plate as an “arabesque” of sauces, which I thought was not only poetic, but accurate. In arabic, Arabesque translates to a design of flowing lines, which this plate definitely conveyed. Beautifully plated and a mouthwatering taste.
Next we were given the Crispy Royal Trumpet Mushrooms with Garlic, Parmigiano, Sweet Chili and Meyers Lemon. This was quite interesting and Giovanni explained that many vegetarians order this dish because trumpet mushrooms are so meaty and filling. I have to agree! If I were a vegetarian this is a dish I would order!
This dish was topped with fried Kalettes which gave it a nice crunch since mushrooms can sometimes be chewy. The balance of flavor and texture really made this dish stand out.
We were given a Tempranillo with this course in preparation for the next, which is probably my second favorite behind the Yellowfin Sashimi.
Seared New Bedford Sea Scallops with an Asparagus Fritti (fried asparagus) and Lobster Rose. The dish was tied together with a decorative watermelon radish, giving it a little flare that was greatly appreciated on my end.
The scallops were seared to perfection and the asparagus fritti was something I had never had, but it was different and tasty. The sauce was sweet and tasted a bit like homemade caramel. I had to email the Chef and ask him how he developed that caramel flavor. He told me the caramel taste comes from a blend of confit tomatoes, sweet smoked paprika and baby peppers that are grilled and carefully blended into a sweet lobster glace.
My palate was in heaven. The sweet richness of the sauce brought a new element to scallops that I had not experienced before!
During the entire dining experience Giovanni checked in with us, re-marked our silverware and replaced our dirty napkins with new ones. The bussers and other staff members seemed calm, relaxed, and happy to be there which was a very soothing dining experience for us.
Los Angeles dining experiences have always seemed a bit hectic, but this was a perfect night overlooking a perfect sunset.
The last dish on our menu for the night was a Roasted Rack of Lamb with Garlic Basil Persillade (seasoning mixture) with Haricot Vert (french green beans) Baby Fingerling Herb Potatoes and Confit Tomatoes Pistou (similar to a pesto) with a Balsamico Drizzle.
I was very excited for this dish as the Sous Chef delivered it and introduced himself, but I will say that sadly the lamb was a bit overcooked. The flavors and presentation were there, but the meat was a little dry. This was my only “complaint” (if you can even call it that) of the entire night!
We finished the night with a crème brûlée which was so good I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture! Giovanni explained that the chef uses a brown sugar on top rather than a white, which gives it a bit more crunch and darkens the surface more when they fire it up!
In conclusion, the food isn’t the only star of the place; the service really stood out to me as well as the hospitality of every individual in the restaurant. If you’re ever down in San Diego, take the opportunity to check out Top of the Market. It’s the perfect place for an important business meeting, a birthday dinner, or even just a romantic evening with a loved one. If you don’t, you will regret it!
The creativity of Chef Flowers paired with classic French techniques really does live up to his explanation of his cooking style.
Declectic – Eclectic and Delicious.
Chef Flowers will be teaming up with Chef Böehmer at his restaurant Böehmer’s in Toronto Canada in June. This event is hosted by U-Feast and sponsored by Harley Davidson; as both Chef’s ride Harleys! If you’re in the area check it out, it’ll be a good one!