Edit ModuleShow Tags

From the Archives: Global Cuisine in San Diego 40 Years Ago

A 1977 restaurant review by former food critic Tom Gable


Published:

In April 1977, San Diego Magazine’s wine editor and restaurant critic, Tom Gable, reviewed a Point Loma establishment called Omar El Sharif (an unlicensed homage to the movie star, we assume). It was located in Scandia Plaza on Sports Arena Boulevard, where the Pet Kingdom and Dunn-Edwards Paints are today. The concept was unique and ambitious: “The menu changes every night featuring that of another country or mixture of countries. You must call that same day to find out what to expect.”

It’s a shame that no photographs accompanied this article. We would like to have seen the black-tie waiters waltzing along booths that were “imported from Belgium... winged and canopied—with fox and wolf fur on the inside above your head.... The tile on the floor is Italian, two Burmese riding saddles are hung nearby for decoration and the ceramic plaques on the wall are from Persia.”

Omar El Sharif offered a nine-course, fixed-price meal for $12.95 (about $52.99 today). The waiters never volunteered the price, but Gable saw other parties ask and then leave. This was a “Master Charge and American Express” sort of place.

The chef could handle fish but not meat, apparently, and the wine was lacking. “A veal cordon bleu was more like meat loaf wrapped around a cheese cube,” Gable wrote, continuing, “I find it hard to take a restaurant seriously when its wine list has just 20-odd selections, headed by products from Greece, and the waiters open them by turning the bottle instead of the corkscrew.” He did note, however, the “lone glamour listing” of Château Lafite for $45 ($184).

I had a tape recorder in my jacket pocket, with a wire down my sleeve to the microphone so we could talk about the food, decor, and service as the evening unfolded.

As a food critic, Gable would visit a restaurant three times before typing up the verdict on his IBM Correcting Selectric. “I had a tape recorder in my jacket pocket, with a wire down my sleeve to the microphone so we could talk about the food, decor, service, et cetera as the evening unfolded,” he recalls. “My wife is an award-winning cook, so she was very helpful, as were some other wine and food buddies who liked to come along, so I had many dishes to sample.”

As for Omar El Sharif, he says, “I don’t know how long it lasted, but I think most people enjoyed it once and didn’t return. It was more of a novelty.”

From our present-day perspective, it seems the global dining scene had a long way to go. “San Diego always had a wide array of good Mexican restaurants,” Gable explains. “The next waves seemed to be Japanese: Sushi Ota was one of the first to take sushi to the highest level; finer Chinese restaurants, with classic Sichuan dishes, for example; then French—Bertrand Hug had his San Diego debut as maître d’ at Mon Ami in Solana Beach—then the Italian explosion; and finally quality Thai and Vietnamese restaurants around the county.” 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

The Pet Lover's Guide to San Diego

Living your best San Diego life with your pet by your side just got easier

From the Archives: 'Scuse Our French

San Diego's French cuisine was more classy than casual in 1976

Meet the Tastemaker: John Resnick

The owner of Carlsbad's Campfire restaurant shares his must-have items
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  2. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  3. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  4. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018
  5. Your 2018 San Diego Summer Bucket List
    Here’s our insider’s guide for Memorial Day through Labor Day
  6. The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now
    A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags