GENTLEMEN NEVER EAVESDROP, but they do overhear conversations on occasion. This happened recently at Po Pazzo, when a diner with a booming voice informed her out-of-town companions they would tour Coronado the next day. “It’s a lovely place,” she informed them. “There are military bases, and all the colonels have houses there. We’ll visit Hotel del Coronado, where there have been many presidential inaugurations.” Her guests didn’t blink once, and proceeded to order martinis and steaks.
THE CHEF WILL WEAR WHITE, the cooks pink taffeta, and oh, what a lovely occasion it will be! Given that many brides- and grooms-to-be don’t know how to get in that kitchen and shake those pots and pans, San Diego’s Infusion Culinary has discovered a potentially profitable niche to fill. All the equipment and ingredients needed for do-it-yourself, “full immersion” wedding showers, bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners are available, along with professional staff to guide guests through any culinary challenge, presumably including how to boil water and stuff eggs. (Test question: Which came first, the boiling water or the egg?) . . . A circa-1890 bank vault remains in the basement of the grand George J. Keating Building at Fifth and F in the Gaslamp Quarter. Finding an overlooked safe-deposit box full of gracefully aged greenbacks would be one way to pay the $2,500 membership charge for The Keating Lounge, a “semi-private” club (when space allows, nonmembers may hob with the nobs) set to open belowdecks at The Keating, the high-tech boutique hotel whose dramatic red-and-black color scheme is something to see. Cocktails will be shaken and sipped in the vault itself . . . One block away, the about-to-open The Ivy hotel (can’t wait!) bodes to be an entertainment Xanadu, unlike anything ever experienced here. However——and there’s always a “however”——the principal restaurant, where diners reportedly will be fed by an acolyte of Alain Ducasse, is to be named Quarter Kitchen, which sounds kinda like a retreat for steak and eggs after downtown bars toss out their last victims at 2 a.m. Since this is The Ivy, “Vines” sets up a pleasant echo.
UP, UP AND AWAY in the beautiful balloon-shape booths at Bondi, the new Aussie extravaganza on lower Fifth Avenue in Gaslamp. The seats and tables give guests the feeling of being suspended in space for a caged bird’s view of this enormous, visually captivating restaurant-bar with contemporary Down Under fare . . . It’s back to the 1970s at another vast and most impressive new eatery, this one at the Aventine in the Golden Triangle. Boldly decorated and possessed of the considerable talents of chef Hans-Trevor Gossman, Blue Coral provides diners opportunities to splurge on items like a $65 martini shaken from Louis XIII Cognac and French vodka (a sterling silver swizzle stick accompanies this tipple) and a truly impressive presentation of sauced Maine lobster “lounging” on sizzling potato chips. However (please see earlier “however” caveat), servers proudly present chilled salad forks with the various greenery offerings, including the lovely lobster cobb salad. This revival of a 1970s gimmick just seems so silly——would the lettuces wilt if pierced by room-temperature forks?
SERIOUS ELBOW-BENDERS know that just as developer Nat Bosa altered the downtown skyline, James Brennan and his partners at EnDev Enterprises are remaking the city’s nightlife landscape. The group’s Stingaree in downtown currently out-glitzes all other San Diego nightclubs (although the four-story club under construction in The Ivy may set the new standard), and their recent purchase of La Jolla’s venerable Top of the Cove has the gossip gristmill overheating. Plans also include a stylish new Hillcrest club, but in the meanwhile, April 27 was slated for the opening of BarWest on Hornblend Street in Pacific Beach. Such pricy Gaslamp Quarter amenities as bottle service and VIP booths will migrate to the coast, along with inventive California cuisine both served on-premises and delivered to beach parties.
What’s Up at the Inn?
THE ELKS CLUB IT AIN’T, although Inn at the Park does feature a nicely grilled elk chop in a huckleberry-port reduction. The cozy restaurant-piano lounge in Hillcrest’s Park Manor Suites hotel——where straight and gay San Diego mingle amicably——formerly was known more for after-dinner drinks sipped to Broadway lullabies than for rarefied chow. Now, chef Anthony Wilhelm’s new entrée list sports ambitious, well-made dishes such as buttery pork tenderloin seasoned with achiote and finished with a sweetly spicy honey–ancho chili sauce. Recent specials have included seared scallops on wilted arugula tossed with pancetta vinaigrette, and duck breast in a dark, ravishingly colored blood orange sauce. Low lights, vases of what appear to be wildflowers and live music that commences around 7 p.m. are choice accompaniments to frog legs Provençale, boldly flavorful shrimp and roasted red-pepper soup and, on occasion, a phenomenal tiramisu.