>Harry’s Bar & American Grill — nice atmosphere, average food

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French onion soup

Whenever I’m in San Diego, I rely on my local friends to take me on certain dining adventures. On my recent weekend down south, I visited Harry’s Bar & American Grill with my friend for dinner.

The restaurant offers complimentary valet parking but don’t expect the valet to be always there when you arrive. If that is the case, you can easily park in the parking structure yourself or there is street parking if you are lucky enough to find it.

The restaurant itself is welcoming, the interior is warmly lit and tables nicely spaced apart and on that particular evening, there was a jazz band playing even. We opted to sit on the patio area and boy am I glad we did because the overwhelming sound from the band meant that we were able to enjoy our meal, but I was also able to hear myself speak!

Pancetta scallops

The menu is extensive ranging from tapas to appetizers to entrees and everything comes with a price-tag which is a little more than what I would expect from a restaurant such as this one. The selections sounded exciting and I was immediately enticed by the French onion soup and wanted to order my own when my friend wanted it as well. After my friend suggested that we not get the same thing so we could try more items, I selected the sea scallops wrapped in pancetta instead.

A bread basket was brought to us consisting of garlic bread and grissini — garlic bread was definitely a welcoming change from the usual boring breads I’ve encountered of late. I actually had to restrain myself from eating more although, I did munch down two slices before the appetizers arrived.

16oz bone-in rib-eye

French onion soup looked great when it arrived, complete in its little crock-pot with the cheese melted on top. However, that’s where it ended. The broth was light in color and there was no beefiness to the flavor. The onions weren’t caramelized well leaving the soup tasteless and uninspiring. I sheepishly looked at my friend and admitted that if I had gone ahead and ordered the second soup, it would have been a dining disaster.

The sea scallops on the contrary were perfectly cooked with the pancetta adding a really nice salty and crispy contrast. Unfortunately there were only three scallops to the appetizer — I could’ve eaten ten of these on my own. Served with a handful of baby greens, there was also a balsamic reduction which was really awful — tasted like cheap balsamic rather than the nicely aged Modena version. There was also a sweet chili sauce which reminded me of Thai sweet chili sauce from a bottle. The scallops would’ve held up on their own and the addition of everything else flavor-wise completely thwarted what were the best part of the meal.

rack of lamb

For entrees, we selected the bone-in rib-eye and the rack of lamb. I would have to say my rack of lamb was far better than the steak, much more flavorful although, slightly under-seasoned and very strangely served. The rack of eight chops were sliced apart, but unevenly. On the plate were four pieces — two of them with two ribs, one single rib and another, with three ribs. I was completely befuddled by this arrangement. Some pieces were great, while others were really fatty. It was okay, I just expected more for a $35 entree.

The rib-eye looked impressive, a one-pounder of a steak no less, and it was cooked correctly as requested. My complaint was for a $40 steak, it was really tasteless. Again, there was a lack of beefy flavors and the mushroom sauce accompaniment was really watery and I could barely detect the mushroomy aromas I was looking for.

Both entrees were served with roasted potatoes, green beans and cauliflower. I asked for French fries instead of the roasted potatoes but I guess the server forgot, but when I reminded her, they brought out the tastiest fries ever! The roasted potatoes were absolutely disgusting! They were hard and dry. I couldn’t figure out what exactly happened to them except probably they were pre-boiled (and not cooked through) and then pre-roasted and left sitting. It tasted like they were reheated and not fresh.

Oreo cheesecake

Desserts never appeal to me but my sweet-toothed friend wanted to see the selection and so the tray was brought out and some looked really awful — like it had wilted and melted, which it probably had seeing it had been sitting on that tray probably all night. Oreo cheesecake was selected and surprisingly, was a good ending to an otherwise, mediocre and expensive meal. The cheesecake portion was light and had a hint of citrus while the Oreo crust was enough to give a nice contrast without being overwhelming.

If you do go to Harry’s Bar, I suggest going for appetizers and dessert. Some items on the tapas menu looked interesting — truffle fries for one caught my eye. I am a firm believer that there are places you go for appetizers and drinks, sometimes, even desserts (see my Seasons 52 review), this is one of those places! I don’t believe the price tag justifies the end product received, however, www.restaurants.com offers discounted gift certificates which could be a good way to try Harry’s out.

Harry’s Bar & American Grill, 4370 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92122. Tel: 858-373-1252

Harry's Bar & American Grill on Urbanspoon

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