Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The most expensive restaurant in San Diego

Its name is Osetra The Fishhouse, located in downtown San Diego. My girlfriend and I went there last night not because we're particularly wealthy or because we were trying to make some kind of point, but because I was fooled by the website of the steakhouse which I had intended to make reservations for. (Phone numbers everywhere, because Osetra is part of a restaurant "group" that feels it must promote all their holdings on a particular restaurant's website. Whatev -- I'm pretty dumb and hasty.) Let it be said that the other restaurant I had planned on dining at was nearly as expensive . . . but at least it was a steakhouse. There's something rather foolish about $35 fish entrees.

Well, it's an aggressively contemporary, unapologetically tacky, sullenly hip restaurant, of the sort that New Yorkers and Angelinos and Franciscans know all too well . . . except that, in San Diego, we dispense with the dress code. Indeed, one fellow at a table next to us looked like, and I'm paraphrasing my girlfriend here, as if he had crawled out of a Dungeons & Dragons convention: black t-shirt and jeans. Meanwhile, we were conformist enough to be "business casual" -- a ridiculous oxymoron, incidentally. (Since when is business ever "casual"?) There was trancy jazz music pumping through the place that sounded rather like the soundtracks to some of the better soft-core pornos I've seen. Strategic lighting deftly illuminated the two storeys: neon blues, scarf-over-lampshade reds, creamy whites. Pretentious bar, featuring a tower of a wine "cellar" rising in the midst of it. Now this bit provided our entertainment: a young blonde girl -- the "wine angel" -- sat on a cable hoist and, by some sort of lever attached to the hoist, flitted mid-air up, down, and across this tower, ostensibly to retrieve bottles of wine ordered by diners . . . although it seemed to us that she was just opening and closing the doors of the wine tower. I understand that this tacky gimmick was originated in Las Vegas -- big surprise. Myself, I think I prefer the micromini-skirted waitresses one still finds at run-down steakhouses that try to emulate some sort of 1950's heyday, but that's just me, I guess.

What about the food? It was good. My girlfriend's entree, in fact, was rather spectacular: gigantic shrimp stuffed with lobster, scallops, crab, and some sort of herbs, accompanied by a nicely done risotto. Mine was a tad disappointing: Ahi tuna rolls, obscured by spring roll paper, spinach, and "soy glaze" -- a fancy-restaurant-term for teriyaki sauce, one presumes. I might've preferred just the raw tuna. The wine list was astonishing, and not marked up to stratospheric levels (such treatment was saved for the food). Also available were endless bivalve treats and $100 caviar samplers, which we passed on, as we were trying to focus on the entrees. Don't get me wrong, all this was decadent as hell, a perfect way to take revenge against an unseasonably hot and humid late June day, but last Monday we enjoyed a far more rigorous and enlightening experience at a little place in the North Park neighborhood here in San Diego called TheLinkery, which featured a five-course meal composed entirely of an Ossabaw hog (read the details here) . . . all for half the price.

Nonetheless, there's a time and a place for such pretentious eateries as Osetra. Basically, there is a season -- turn, turn, turn -- for wretched excess and blonde wine angels. Take your significant other to Osetra while you're in town, tough guy. (And get the stuffed shrimp.)

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