Black crowned night heron © Robert Sommers 2023

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blue Heron Restaurant Review - Market Restaurant and Bar

In order to prime the pump and help kick start a faltering economy, Leslie and I decided to go out for a nice meal last night.  We were joined by our friends Doug and Retha.

I have had my eye set on the Market Restaurant and Bar in Del Mar for some time. It has had generally excellent reviews, boasts a James Beard Award winning chef, Carl Schroeder, a disciple of Bradley Ogden, and is known for being heavily into local produce. The chef has his own blog, which you can read here.

We had planned a big excursion down there with my loose knit dining club, The Fallbrook Gastronomic Society, for $40.00 prixe fixe Restaurant Week, but schedules got screwed up, I misread the calendar, and we ultimately took a look see with a smaller group.

The restaurant has had several incarnations, Cilantros, Blackhorse something or other, and a couple I have probably forgot, none sticking around for too long. It's the place across from Mary's Tack Shop. We arrived to find a valet only parking lot peppered with Aston's and Bentley's and were quickly escorted to our table by the charming hostess. The place is decorated in sort of a seventies, eighties chic, not decades to plumb for style points in my book, but who asked me? Garish purple prints on the benches, funky hanging mobiles, in my opinion, it exudes an over busy design mediocrity. Add a mansard roof and, well, I don't want to be mean...

I noticed that the well coiffed guests tended to heavily list towards April/November couples with swarthy guys my father's age hanging around with buxom young twenty somethings. Might be Rancho locals, could be the race track crowd, but there was an odor of new money that seemed to languor around the restaurant like musky aftershave.

Our meal started with excellent muffins and bread, with a nice rich butter. Leslie brought a wine out that we had been saving for a special occasion, a 2001 old vine Zinfandel from Mike Grgich, that Mike had personally signed for her in 2005. It was absolutely delicious. Perfect. We were each given complimentary little japanese spoons filled with a waldorf salad with a curried balsamic vinegar that were tasty.  It was hard to pick appetizers and entrees because everything looked so promising.  Leslie had the Fois Gras with nectarines and toast points and a fruit sauce, Retha the Blue Cheese Souffle with plums, butter lettuce and candied almonds. The plums looked like some other fruit to me. Doug had the Corn Soup with chile relleno and tomatoes, I had the Duck Confit with white nectarines.

The appetizers were iffy.  My confit was dry, crackly and overcooked. It was an odd melange of food and shapes that lacked focus. There were too many disparate food elements on the plate. We all sampled each other's dishes and I would say that they were good but not great.  I did not try the soup. The blue cheese souffle was paired with a round looking creation that was sort of unidentified. It was a bit lackluster. Aesthetics and taste. The fois gras was very good but not outstanding.

I think one of the feelings that I take away after my meal at Market is that there is too much fruit everywhere.  Maybe it was our ordering that was at fault, but it overpowered all of the dishes it accompanied.  I love fruit, but it seemed to take away from the main flavor component of the appetizers. I think Charlie Trotter is supposed to be responsible for putting so much fruit on the plate but there are times that it definitely detracts, for my taste.

We finished the delicious bottle of zin and Doug and Retha, big time Pinot lovers, ordered a very expensive bottle of Patricia Green's Ribbon Ridge. Our entrees arrived.  I had the game hen with a summer truffle sauce, Doug, the cabernet braised short ribs, Retha tried the Prime rib eye cap steak, and Leslie, my wife, had a Prime beef special.

I wish I could say, it was great, but my entree was only so-so.  The game hen was cut into small chunks about the same size as the accompanying vegetables. I want the meat to dominate the dish.  The hen itself was delicious. This was almost more like a casserole.  One of the vegetables in the mix was quite acrid and off putting. I was two thirds through before I tasted truffle. I left a sizable portion on my plate.  Leslie's beef was very tough. The other dishes were well accepted.

The Pinot was very young and a let down after the previous bottle.  We should have switched them around.  It had a nice finish, a high alcohol content and was consistent but was very thin. Not worth $135.00.  Maybe it's me - I tend to favor big cabs.  But this one assuredly didn't rise to the level of my favorites like Papapietro or DuNah.

We finished up with a shared dessert, a rather pedestrian white flour plum upside down cake with a cheesecake ice cream. I had a small peck, and it was tasty but I was unfortunately, "fruited out".

I can't say that I am eager to revisit the restaurant. Staff was really great and all the ingredients are there.  My problems with it tend to be more subjective and philosophical. If I am spending this kind of money, I want toe curling sublime.  I don't think it is the place for my big group. We met some folks outside that came for the sushi and they said it was excellent.  It was a great night to be with our friends but the food was a bit of a letdown.

MARKET Restaurant + Bar 3702 Via de la Valle Del Mar, CA 92014 P: (858) 523-0007


Anonymous said...

Coincidence. Sue and I are going to “The Market” tomorrow with some neighbors to celebrate her (Sue’s) upcoming B-Day. Been to that spot in various other of its incarnations but never in its current form. Thanks for the tips on what was and wasn’t so good.

Anonymous said...

Keith's review:

Dinner was good. I'm not the critic you are so cannot really comment on
the quality of the food; however the others we were with were quite
impressed (I saw a lot of fruit in the appetizer dishes but didn't
notice too much in the main courses). I can confirm your observation on
the "beautiful people" who like to be seen there and saw one or two who
fit the description you gave earlier. There was of course the obligatory
Rolls parked immediately adjacent to the entry and several convertibles
lines up side-by-side. I guess this means that owners of high end cars
are also very particular about good food?
One observation I would make is that the place was rather loud and the
service slow. We waited for what seemed like a very long time to be
attended to. Then when the first two dinner plates were delivered the
other two didn't come out for several minutes, long enough for us to be
commenting and trying to get the waiter's attention. They were polite
and knowledgeable enough, just slow.
So, overall a good experience and good food but not top on my list.