location > 333 Pacific Street, Oceanside
phone > 760-433-3333
chef > Randy Miller
THE TELEVISIONS embedded in the restroom mirrors at Oceanside’s new 333 Pacific may be rather over the top, but they emphasize Lesley and David Cohn’s talent for making the most of an exceptional location. The couple, who started in business with a cute little hamburger stand in Grantville and now control one of the area’s largest privately owned restaurant groups, created a carnival of color in the heart of Balboa Park when they designed The Prado inside the House of Hospitality. On San Diego Bay, Island Prime/C Level Lounge presents an unrivaled view of down town. And Blue Point, whose walls of windows frame a parade of humanity unmatched in this county, makes the Cohns owners of the best corner in the Gaslamp Quarter.
With 333 Pacific, separated from the ocean only by Pacific Street and a narrow, pretty park that presumably guarantees grand vistas in perpetuity, the Cohns present Oceanside the top-class restaurant it must have craved for years. It’s a likely destination for all of North County, and with 250 seats, clearly prepared to accommodate crowds. And to welcome them warmly, for that matter; the Cohns also have a knack for hiring hosts and servers who shower guests with warm greetings and big smiles.
The restaurant is located in the new Wyndham Oceanside Resort, a focal point of the handsome renovation of downtown Oceanside, but has its own street entrance (find free parking in the hotel garage). The sign by the entry announces “Steak & Seafood” in bold letters, but “Vodka” probably deserves equal billing, since the menu lists more than a hundred. Bizarre names seem key to the vodka biz, and 333 Pacific features distillations like Crop Cucumber, Rain Organics (does this sound like shampoo?) and X Rated vodka, which just may put one in the mood. The specialty martinis uniformly cost $9, and the “cocktail chefs,” as three bartenders are known, stretched their imaginations when devising novel names like Detoxitini, Inside-Out Cosmo and Rangpur rosemary lemonade.
Vodka even inspired the dramatic décor in the lounge, which provides drinkers a double vision of bottles arranged on the back bar and on a wall pocked with lighted niches. In between bar and wall, a walkway conveys servers to the kitchen and guests to the restrooms, posing a question: Will bottles of prime vodka illicitly vanish on occasion?
VIRTUALLY ALL TABLES in the dining room and heated terrace view the ocean, neatly edged on the left by the 1/3-mile-long Oceanside Pier. The pier lights that illuminate the ripples and waves are a coup for 333 Pacific, since when night falls over most view-endowed restaurants, there isn’t much to look at.
Chef Randy Miller earned diplomas at the Cordon Bleu culinary academies in Paris (cuisine) and London (pastry). He shows his talents with a wide-ranging menu crowded with enticing creations, but while it offers numerous à la carte side dishes ($6.95 for choices like sweet corn off the cob, and grilled green beans and mushrooms), neither baked nor French-fried potatoes is available. If you don’t care for mashed potatoes with steak, or in the unlikely role of garnish to a pair of plump, juicy Australian lobster tails ($42.95), you’re out of luck.
The baked-on-premises bread of the day may be something lovely, perhaps a chewy scallion–sweet potato roll accompanied by butter whipped with maple syrup and a touch of spice. Only one, please——two would spoil your appetite for such starters as flamboyantly international tuna poke tacos with avocado salsa and macadamias ($11.95) and tempura-fried vegetables with a trio of sauces ($8.95). Servers keep their biceps trim lugging icebrimming basins crowned with a half-dozen Pacific oysters of the day ($11.95). On occasion, these are tasty Hama Hamas from Washington State, arranged around cups of a perfect red-wine vinegar mignonette, kicky cocktail sauce and, for thrill seekers, freshly grated horseradish. To best enjoy the clean, brisk flavors, drizzle the oysters with lemon or mignonette.
If you want to have your vodka and eat it, too, the “shrimp-shrimp Bloody Mary cocktail” douses jumbo and bay shrimp with Absolut Peppar vodka-spiked sauce ($13.50). The Seafood Tower for Two is an imposing and luxurious edifice of oysters, ceviche, shrimp, snow crab claws and steamed clams and mussels ($29.95). If you tackle a tower, the excellent “iceberg blt” ($8.95), a crisp lettuce wedge lavished with blue cheese, smoked bacon and tomatoes, might suffice as entrée. Starter options continue with sushi specialties and a luscious lobster bisque enriched with claw meat ($9.50).
The steak list impresses with selection, quality and optional adornments, like a bluecheese crust ($2.95 additional), or an “Oscar” dressing composed of blue crab, asparagus and sauce Béarnaise ($5.95) that bewitched a wonderfully tender 8-ounce filet mignon ($27.95). This was the little guy on the list——its big brothers increase in size: a 10-ounce prime, spice-rubbed hanger steak ($26.50); a 12-ounce Prime top sirloin ($25.95); a 1-pound certified Angus New York steak ($34.95); and a 25-ounce, bone-in rib eye ($39.95).
You can “take your steak surfing” with addons, like one Aussie lobster tail ($21.95) or an Alaskan crab leg ($9.95), or make a dinner of a pound of king crab legs for $39.95. Other notable specialties include grilled local swordfish with excellent potato croquettes ($28.95) and oven-roasted, mustard-crusted rack of lamb ($39.95).
Americans like outrageous desserts after big steaks and brawling lobster tails, and chef Miller meets the demand with a selection of sweets (each $6.95) that are decadently rich and filling. Tiramisu cheesecake is further enriched with lady fingers dipped in espresso and Tuaca liqueur, and the chocolate brioche bread pudding beguiles with caramel sauce and toffee. Best of all: the “ice cream Cohns,” a trio of deluxe flavors arranged on differently flavored tuile cookies. A lineup of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla makes a class act.
333 Pacific serves dinner nightly at 333 Pacific Street in downtown Oceanside. Reservations suggested; call 760-433-3333.