Addison - Del Mar, CA

Dinner - Friday, February 17, 2012

Addison, the Grand Del Mar's fine-dining restaurant, claims more awards than you can shake a stick at - among others, it bills itself as Southern California's only Forbes five-star, AAA five-diamond restaurant. These are certainly not accolades to be sneezed at, but somehow we'd never felt compelled to visit in the past 20 months living in San Diego. One can tell from reading our blog that classical French cuisine rarely makes it onto our radar these days, in no small part because we were completely spoilt by our last trip to France a few years ago.

It was only when searching for a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary that we began to consider Addison. Sadly, our friend Elizabeth Harcourt, formerly one of their sommeliers, relocated before we could make good on a promise to visit her there. However, she did put us in the care of Addison's head sommelier, Angelo Ingrati, who made sure we were well-watered and who came up with some inspired wine pairings for the evening.

Addison offers three- and four-course prix fixe selections, as well as two degustation menus - a six-course carte blanche where diners work with the kitchen to mould a progression, and a predetermined eight-course "Le Menu Gourmand". We opted for the carte blanche, in order to exert some influence over the direction of the night's dishes.

Amuse 1 - Salmon rillettes, watercress, radish
Our first bite was an unmitigated flavour explosion - the most perfect way to begin. The salmon, denser than anticipated, was absolutely delicious. It was offset by the tangy, peppery watercress purée and a crisp slice of sweet radish.

Amuse 2 - Mascarpone and aged sherry gougère
Amuse 3 - Truffle quiche, smoked sea salt
Intense on the nose and palate, redolent of the musky forest floor. I loved the slight crunch of the smoky salt against the creamy truffle filling - this felt like I was eating a savory Western egg tart.

Grissini, Meyer lemon, sea salt
Bread service began with the grissini and progressed to some excellent (surprisingly not house-made) brioche buns (not pictured). Good as the buns were, the bread sticks stole the show, especially with the adornments of lemon and salt.

Scallop, Osetra caviar
Crab consommé, celery confit
St. Pierre
Picholine, basil pistou, squid, red pepper coulis
Squid ink risotto, olive oil emulsion
The St. Pierre (known widely as John Dory) was served with the bowl of risotto on the side. We've had many iterations of the fish and olive theme, but I particularly enjoyed this one - the texture of the delicate fish was just wonderful, and flavours were very balanced throughout (the standout basil pistou was especially noteworthy). I initially questioned the accompanying risotto, but its shockingly forward olive brininess echoed and enhanced the main dish.

Foie gras pot de crème
Port wine and hibiscus tea reduction
Very decadent. Our server recommended dropping the grilled bread into the glass in order to eat everything together, and I heeded her sage advice. Creamy, rich, unctuous liver (nary three-quarters of an inch deep) was soaked up by the delicious bread and countered by the thick, sweet, earthy (almost herbal) reduction.

Pork and black truffle terrine
Celery, radish, mustard
Roasted duck breast, fennel pollen, duck glaçage
Pistachio purée, pearl onions, black truffle, potato
A perfectly cooked piece of duck, its essence reduced with port wine and poured tableside. The combination of the duck and rich pistachio purée was truly great in terms of both flavour and texture - my favourite savory bite of the dinner. Likewise, the pairing of onions and black truffle was expectedly delicious. Surprisingly, the pommes purée were gritty, the only glaring technical oversight this evening.

Cheese, house-made soda crackers
The cheese plate was rather tame considering the restaurant's aspirations, and we sampled the breadth of their cheese cart with only five passable selections. Strangely, Chef Bradley does not believe in serving accoutrements with this course, believing that the cheeses should stand alone. An interesting opinion, but not one I agree with at all.

Intermezzo - Cranberry sorbet, cranberry confit, apple cider granita
An excellent pre-dessert. Sharp, with just enough sugar to mellow the sourness. Comforting and familiar flavours from the spicy apple cider integrated well with the other two elements. A wintry dish that reminds those of us in Southern California that much of the country is currently blanketed in snow.

Crème fraiche gelato, apricot confit, raspberry
Oh, if only I had the skills to compose a paean to this gelato - it was stupendously good. Thick and rich, tangy with a hint of nuttiness, and a long finish. I would have eaten bowlfuls of it, the accompaniments being practically unnecessary. Still, they were pleasant enough, their acidity and texture serving to highlight the gelato further.

Peanut butter cake
Unspun honey, Amaretto gelato, chocolate ganache
Mignardises - Peppermint pop, raw sugar

Altogether, I'd say we had ourselves a fine night indeed. The front-of-house team worked like the well-oiled machine it should be, and course pacing remained consistent even as the vast dining room filled up. Expectedly, there were no big surprises on our menu, but sometimes it feels pretty good to revisit a storied tradition - as they say, one should always look back before moving forward.

5200 Grand Del Mar Way
San Diego, CA 92130
Phone: (858) 314-1900