mmm-yoso!!! is Kirk's foodblog, and he posts about all things food in San Diego and the world; sometimes Cathy shares meals with us here too; but today, ed (from Yuma) is posting about Kensington Grill (in San Diego).
Sometimes bad luck is good luck in disguise. Case in point – Tina and I had arrived in San Diego for a brief vacation in the latter half of June. Of course, I had a list of restaurants with locations and phone numbers etc., but we knew we would only be able to make it to a few of the places on the list. Anyway, the first place we wanted to go to didn't have its regular menu on that Monday night. The next place was closed because it was Monday, and I had not read the website carefully. By this point, we were ravenous, and only one other restaurant in the area was on my list. That is how we ended up at Kensington Grill:
I really had no idea what kind of food to expect, and the menu was full of various choices listed in categories like Soups and Salads, Boards, Bites/Sides, Bowls, Small Plates, Large Plates, and Hog Bar. My mind boggles pretty easily when faced with the unusual (and at my age, there is a lot of unusual in this world). So Tina and I spent some time going over the menu trying to figure out a dinner plan.
Eventually, we decided to choose a wine and then select a range of dishes that would complement the vino and show off the cuisine of the restaurant. I was intrigued by the Tangent Albariño ($36) – a white wine from Edna Valley in Santa Barbara County – so we ordered a bottle:
This was certainly a fine way to begin a meal. Albariño is the best white wine grape in Spain, but I have seen or tasted very few bottles from California. In the glass, the wine had an intriguing floral aroma, and in the mouth, the initial dryness on the palate became lush and rich and complex and fruity. Flavors exploded on the palate. Unexpectedly good. And a good value in a restaurant wine.
The predominant ingredient in this chilled soup was ripe creamy California avocado, its natural sweetness set off with a slight sour (citrus?) note. The avocado was matched by intense fennel flavors. I had never imagined those two things combined, but like experienced lovers, they danced together beautifully. The chunks of crab added some texture and proved again that the inventor of California rolls understood flavor pairings. The fresh herbs and drizzle of chili oil completed the dish.
The tender calamari had been lightly breaded and fried and then tossed with shredded cabbages, sliced sweet peppers, bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, crushed peanuts, and sweet chili sauce. Altogether like some Southeast Asian salad. Crisp and refreshing. A very nice contrast with the soup, and Tina and I loved it.
We felt like we should try something from the Boards category – a customer's selection of three ($14), four ($18), or five ($21) different bruschettas, each cut into three pieces and all presented on a wooden paddle:
As you would expect, the taste focused on those fresh ingredients, but instead of the standard artichoke hearts I was expecting, puréed marinated artichoke was spread across the bruschetta before the chopped fresh ingredients were added.
Rich intense tastes. Sweet, salty, smoky, crunchy. Reminded me of childhood, when I would dip my breakfast bacon in pancake syrup.
In retrospect, we had already eaten enough food for a normal dinner. However, we had placed our entire order at the beginning of the meal, so more food kept arriving.
Weird as it sounded, this was tasty. The waffle had standard waffle flavors enhanced with jack cheese and scallions. The shrimp were fresh, perfectly cooked, and flavorful. The buttery creole sauce, with slices of shallot and red fresno pepper, brought the whole thing together. Good and rich. More memories of childhood breakfasts – but also like no waffle dish I’d ever tasted before.
This was a difficult dish to photograph, as is evident by the picture. The plump and fresh flavored mussels were served in a black frying pan (so little light and minimal color contrast for the mussels). The bivalves were bathing in a standout spicy green curry sauce with abundant kaffir lime and creamy coconut milk. The slices of toasted bread were perfect for soaking up sauce. Unfortunately, neither Tina nor I had much room left at this point. So we fished out the tasty mussels, appreciated the flavorful broth, and ate almost none the crispy toasted bread slices.
All in all, we got lucky and had a good time. The chef skillfully brought together techniques and flavors from around the world. The setting was pleasant, the service good, and the timing of the meal excellent. The only problem was that we ordered too much. Honestly, I am surprised that there doesn't seem to be a lot of buzz about Kensington Grill. Perhaps the menu or head chef are new. In any case, Both Tina and I are eager to eat here again.
Kensington Grill, 4055 Adams Ave., 619-281-4014. Open for dinner 5-9:30 on Monday through Thursday and from 5-10 on Friday and Saturday evenings.