1500 Ocean Dining Review
Nestled into the beachfront backside of the Hotel del Coronado, just a seashell’s throw from where the sidewalk turns into sand, 1500 Ocean beckons with a taste of the good life for tourists who no doubt see the restaurant’s higher-end prices as the cost of admission for a stellar seaside seat.
We locals are a tougher sell, less impressed by sweeping ocean views available to us all year long. We’re a culture that hasn’t historically been able to sustain a substantial fine-dining sector, as evidenced by the opening and closing or reconfiguring of many in recent years.
But slowly, we’re becoming more discerning about food and increasingly appreciative and supportive of the places that cook it well, whether it comes from the mobile canteen of a food truck or the well-appointed kitchen of a four-star restaurant.
So though the sight of 1500 Ocean is sigh-inducing, even for this longtime San Diegan, it wouldn’t be worth the premium price tag if the food that came with it weren’t up to par. Luckily it is, deliciously so.
Chef Brian Sinnott arrived at 1500 Ocean in late 2007 after establishing a serious food following at the since-closed Molly’s Restaurant in the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. His cuisine has always been defined by the quality of the ingredients he chooses, in particular the local produce that serves as launching point for the seasonal menu. Sinnott’s talent lies within his ability to combine textures and flavors and coax the very best out of already pristine vegetables.
Sinnott knows not to mess with the soil-and-sun-ripened goodness of heirloom tomatoes from Peterson’s Organic Farm in Fallbrook, simply dressing the rainbow spectrum of slices with flaky salt and fruity olive oil. He stuffs squash blossoms from Suzie’s Farm minimally, with a mild ricotta-and-basil filling that lets you still taste the flower.
A white-corn soup is all about delicious contrast: A bundle of chilled Dungeness crab is placed into the creamy, warm purée, and the corn’s inherent sweetness gets tempered by a hit of Aleppo pepper. This full-flavored variation of crushed red pepper flakes brings just the right amount of heat to keep the soup from tasting like dessert. Even basic bruschetta gets interesting when it’s topped with a smear of soft fromage blanc, ripe peaches, arugula and spiced almonds.
A trip to the motherland inspired Sinnot, who has some Italian heritage, to add a housemade pasta and risotto section to the menu earlier this year. His saffron spaghetti is memorable; the noodles, which have the silken texture of good fresh pasta, mingle with nuggets of lobster and corn in a rich, spicy tomato broth. A sprinkling of breadcrumbs seasoned with bottarga (salt-cured mullet roe) provides occasional crunch.
Although Sinnott’s menu primarily focuses on contemporary coastal cuisine, he has affection for classic Italian flavors. I still think hungrily about his grilled puttanesca pizzetta, served at the 1500 Ocean – hosted Cooks Confab sustainable seafood dinner this summer. The golden dough, topped with a chunky tomato, black olive and caper sauce and canned pole-caught wild albacore from local American Tuna Company, was an unforgettable standout.
The most economical way to eat here is through the $75 tasting menu, which includes three selections of your choosing, plus dessert. Among the generously sized entrées, I’d reorder the Duroc pork tenderloin, a breed whose flesh is known to be more marbled and flavorful than its factory-farmed relations. The medallions sat on mounds of soft polenta, sautéed maitake mushrooms and fava beans that were sauced lightly with red wine jus. Tenderloin is often disappointingly dry, so I was happy to be asked my preferred pork doneness (a little past medium rare). Another main dish, local white sea bass from Catalina Offshore, suffered a little from un-crisp skin and excess salt, the result of sitting in briny mussel broth seasoned with nudja, a soft-textured and spicy Calabrian salami.
For an extra charge you can add wine pairings to each course or ask wine director Ted Glennon to recommend a glass or two. The young sommelier’s canny choices and enthusiastic explanations of each unique pairing revived this beer-drinker’s interest in wine.
And you’ll be glad to have saved room for dessert. Best picks from the late summer’s seasonal selections included trios of great housemade sorbets and panna cottas, as well as my favorite, a moist brown butter cake with toasted almond semifreddo, strawberry – port wine sauce and fresh berries. Either way, at the end of the night you’ll consider it money well spent . . . or eaten.
[Get A Table]
Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado 619-522-8450 dine1500ocean.com