Rapt attention

Saturday, February 20, 2010


We were invited out to a nice dinner last night by Retha and Doug. They wanted to try 333 Pacific, the relatively new Cohn family restaurant at the Wyndam in Oceanside. The Cohns' own many fine restaurants in San Diego including the Prado and Corvette Diner.

I can honestly say that the half evilly titled 333 had flown beneath my radar screen in the almost two years that it has been open. And readily admit that it was the best meal I have ever had at any of their locations.

We met at our hosts' house and R cracked a bottle of excellent Moet Imperial champagne to lubricate the passageways for our upcoming feast. What a delicious champagne, full bodied, perfect round fruit, if it was an omen for our night, it was clear sailing!

Oceanside is a town that has enjoyed a real renaissance. When I moved back to North County in 1975, Oceanside was a dark foreboding place. The words "The Strand" brought terror to many a mother's ears as Oceanside back then was a dilapidated assortment of seedy strip clubs, junkies, hookers and marines living at the poverty line. That has all changed. Except maybe the last part. Tough to live in SoCal on serviceman's pay.

333 is located right across from the Oceanside Pier. When we entered the busy restaurant at the bar, I was immediately struck by how young, vibrant and good looking the crowd was. I was almost underdressed but my leather jacket covered up for a multitude of sartorial shortcomings. We sat down at the aqua lit table near the bar and considered their lengthy list of vodkas and martinis, settling on almost too sweet meyer lemon drops.

We were quickly seated at our table on the heated patio. A server, who was drop dead gorgeous, brought us our menus. We started with pot stickers and calamari with a sweet chili sauce. D. brought along a 2003 Papapietro Pinot Noir, which they graciously uncorked for us.

The menu was quite interesting and not pretentious in the least - southern fried game hen with a white cheddar biscuit and greens, kobe beef meatloaf, this place was going to be fun. I settled on a special, a bone in rib eye with a topping of lobster claws that was at least twice the expected weigh in. Cooked absolutely perfectly, and as you know, I am a critical SOB. Leslie and I both ordered the huge and reasonably priced house salad which was a bit underdressed for my liking. We got broccollini and asparagus for the table. Leslie had seared diver scallops with a white bean garlic sausage cassoulet accompanied with chunks of bread pudding.  R had a trio of differently prepared filets, sporting peppercorn demi, bleu cheese and Oscar and D went with the crab legs.

Everyone's meal was delicious and there were absolutely no complaints, except maybe one itty bitty one from me, when I questioned my dinner companions about the bread roll, which I found squishy and uninspiring with a too sweet maple butter. They basically told me to shut up and that it was fine but I prefer crusty bread nine times out of ten. This almost felt microwaved and might have been. And the martini glasses, while hip and asymmetric, were prone to tipping and I had a brief thought about some old architectural credo regarding form following function.

Dessert was a strawberry cobbler with ice cream which we shared and a mousse cake, both superb. If you are looking for a nice, fancy, moderately expensive meal, surrounded by beautiful people in north county, by all means try 333. Hipper than anything else around with exceptional food. And a big thank you to our companions for picking up the check!

Click on the following link to check out the menus.

333 Pacific
333 N. Pacific St.
Oceanside, CA 92054
p: 760-433-3333
Lounge Daily at 4pm
Dinner Nightly at 5pm


North County Film Club said...

We've had martinis in that nice bar and we did feel a little old for the very hip crowd. The hostess was terrible and rude. But we let this pass while enjoying our martinis. It wasn't dinner time so we didn't stay but vowed to come back. Then we started hearing a lot of bad reviews. When a very wealthy friend was here recently from N.Y. he wanted us to chose the very best restaurant for dinner. Nancy read the comments on their site and there were so many bad ones that we rejected it. Now, after reading your review I guess we'll have to reconsider.
I used to own a place on The Strand in the 80's and while the strip joints, etc. weren't right on The Strand it was a pretty sketchy place. What a shame since you couldn't get much closer to the ocean anyplace else. During that really big storm in the late 80's a wave actually washed over the front cottage.

Blue Heron said...

Thanks Barbara - I think I am pretty critical and it was great. Not as great as Vince's in Escondido was, as the food was perhaps not quite as serious and full of itself , but excellent nonetheless. Trust me.

Anonymous said...

i hear the grub at the Fallbrook Hospital cafeteria is really good, am going to give it a try next week... :.(

Emergefit said...

Concur. This place is the real deal and a delight. Only in reading this did I learn that it's 2 years old. I thought it opened this Summer.

Anonymous said...

the fish sandwiches at McDonald's are terrible; i tried one last Friday; waste of 1.29; am going to give Taco Bell a try... :.(

Blue Heron said...

If your point is pointing out that I cavort like a patrician swine, take your best shot. If you want to discuss the finer points of fast food, we can rap. I like the jack and the box mystery meat taco myself, as does my sister and friend Bruce Taylor. Bruce liked the large ninety five cent one but I prefer the two for a buck. Bruce tells me the large one has been discontinued.

Anonymous said...

i agree, Jack's two for .99 "tacos" are unique and wonderful... :.(

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert
I thought your comments were informative and surprisingly positive. You do have a dark side when it comes to cuisine. It has been a challenge to find decent restaurants in the far North County and this one helps fill the abyss.

The Imperial champagne was a nice starter as we have had a run of too sweet champagnes. This one was nice as it had some fruit, not so dry as to be bitter, with a smooth and bright finish. French wines can have drinkability (whatever that means but Budweiser thinks its important)

I moved to the North County in 1964 and I've known and seen the dark side of Oceanside. Truly refreshing to see its rebirth: however, I'm one of the persons that would like to see the downtown waterfront remain accessible. I'm opposed to rows of tall hotels and condos.

Along with the Papapietro Perry pinot, if you remember, we also ordered a Raptor Ridge pinot from their wine list. While the 333's wine list was not extensive they had a good selection of wines and they were reasonably priced. Our choice of the Raptor Ridge was without previous knowledge of this Oregon vineyard but it turned out to be a nice pinot and while not big it was elegant.

My salad was fresh and crunchy and the dressing was zesty and not too heavy. The crab legs were a touch dry as they appeared to have been heated by placement on the grill. This made for a nice dry crab leg as I often find them in other restaurants being served soaking in water or left over condensed steam and this is not the best presentation. Our waiter was courteous, efficient and I requested some french fries on the side and she was able to slip them in for me. The vegetables were nicely steamed and very flavorful.

All and all it was a nice evening with excellent food, quality service, wonderful ambiance, good company, and certainly a place I look forward to visiting often in the future.
Regards Dr Demento

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the adventure. I loved starting the evening with fine friends and fabulous champagne. The restaurant was full but they were able to seat us quickly after they made sure we first had a drink at the bar.

Three of us went for the meyer lemon drop martini (which was a tad too sweet), the fourth had sparkling water.

My dinner was delicious. The scallops were tender and flavorful. I didn't care for the salad dressing. The salad was huge. The dressing was just not very exciting or fresh tasting to me.

Desserts were yummy. I would highly recommend this restaurant.


Anonymous said...

Is 333 half of 666? or does the 333stand for your cholesterol count after the meal???

Blue Heron said...

I went back to 333 last night. The meal wasn't quite as good as the first time. I have experienced the same inconsistency at Prado, another Cohn Restaurant. The Calamari was mushy last night and lacked zip. My southern fried game hen had so much blue cheese that it was difficult to eat. We experienced some mildly embarrassing moments when my instructions on the tip were misread and it was doubled. The manager came by and I was honest about the entree and he was nice enough to take it off the check. NIce vodka flight and I will be more careful ordering in the future.