George’s: Stunning views and classic California cuisine
Few dining experiences are better than taking in the views of a setting sun over the Pacific Ocean within the temperate climate of Southern California. In San Diego’s La Jolla Cove there is local culinary institution that has been serving California cuisine to visitors and locals alike for more than thirty years, George’s at the Cove. The views from this iconic restaurant are undeniably spectacular.
After three decades in business, George’s still packs ’em in. I made reservations for a Tuesday evening (typically the slowest night of the week for restaurants) and was quite surprised to see how crowded the restaurant was upon my arrival—not a seat in the house was free. When I made the reservations I was unaware that there were distinctive parts to the establishment, including two entirely different restaurants…one casual and one fine-dining. When my sister and I arrived and checked in, we were told our reservations were upstairs. We walked up a flight of stairs and were struck by the open-air terrace that presented a stunning view of La Jolla Cove and beyond. We timed things perfectly as the sun was just getting low on the horizon and would set about thirty minutes later.
As we got settled, a server brought menus. I looked around, then glanced at the menu and began questioning a few things. While the views from the Terrace were stunning, this did not feel like fine-dining to me. I asked our server if the downstairs part of the restaurant was different, and she explained that in fact there were two kitchen staffs with different menus. I thought the “Terrace” was just one of the seating options, I clearly did not look close enough at George’s website before making reservations. The website displayed a stunning array of photos and even a video montage that highlighted the culinary artistry. I was not only looking forward to tasting, but also photographing the eatable works of art.
When I realized my mistake, I was quite disappointed. I had no doubt our meal would be good, but with all my dining experience, I’m on the lookout for great. I’ve had good plenty of times. Culinary greatness is what I seek to experience and what gets me excited to write about and share photos with all of you who read my work.
My sister and I started off with a couple of cocktails as we enjoyed the sunset. I had a Not So Salty Dog which had house-infused grapefruit juice, vodka, organic lemonade and a salt & sugared rim. It was quite tasty, but gone in just three sips. At $13, I think $5 must have been for the view!
George’s has never rested on their laurels, always innovating and changing up the menus. However, one constant that has maintained space on the menu is the smoked chicken, broccoli and black bean house soup. Ascetically it was nothing worth a photo, but boy was it hearty and delicious!
We then tried a couple of the salads:
- Roasted Beet Salad with frisée, dried currants, toasted almonds, goat cheese, orange-citrus vinaigrette and toasted bread crumbs.
- Arugula Salad with fennel, Asian pears, toasted walnuts, Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and a champagne vinaigrette.
The roasted beets were full of flavor and I loved the various ingredients used. I think I would have preferred arugula rather than the greens they used. The Arugula salad was very plain and quite boring I thought. The champagne vinaigrette barely made an appearance.
For our entrees we had:
- Achiote Rubbed Yellowtail, fingerling potatoes, grilled onion, arugula, roasted pineapple-jalapeno salsa, avocado aioli, Sesame Crusted Tombo.
- Roasted Organic Chicken Breast, fingerling potatoes, rapini, salsa verde.
The Yellowtail was one of those traditional California cuisine dishes that I thoroughly enjoy…this dish was no exception, however it was a tad overcooked. The roasted chicken was moist and had a strong lemon/lime/citrus flavor infused throughout. It was good, but not a dish I would order again.
For Dessert we tried:
- Warm Chocolate Cake Amarena cherries, toasted pistachios, chocolate fudge sauce, vanilla bean ice cream.
- Baked Pineapple Crisp shaved coconut, ginger-oat streusel, coconut-lime ice cream.
I typically prefer desserts that are less sweet (like Asian origin) and thought the Pineapple crisp would be a great choice. Pineapple is already quite sweet, and in my opinion requires no added sugar, however the pastry chef must think differently…and/or they are catering to the typical American sweet-tooth. While I love chocolate, I typically don’t indulge in chocolate cake, but in this case I was glad I did. While quite rich, the hot and gooey center cooled by the vanilla ice cream was outstanding. I will say this though…both desserts should either be smaller, or they should have a larger scoop of ice cream. Both desserts require equal parts ice cream with every spoonful.
Unfortunately I cannot speak about the culinary prowess of George’s fine-dining (California Modern). When it comes to the Ocean Terrace, it’s a nice place with good California cuisine. The view however trumps the food. The meal prices are fair given the outstanding views, but they make up for it on the high price of drinks.
If you’ve ever been to George’s Ocean Terrace in La Jolla, please leave a comment below and share your experience.