dining at the historic US Grant Hotel San Diego

Several years ago, the Grant Grill served as a respite for a day of shopping and wandering around town, but I also wanted to check out this beautiful historic building as well. I remember that day vividly as we sat at the bar, sipping on drinks while we tried to agree upon the next course of action. I also remember why we didn’t end up eating here, but that’s not a story I wish to tell. Instead, what I choose to remember of that visit was of the grandeur, the old school charm and decor the restaurant seemed to exude, one I would have liked to explore further.

Fast forward to present day and here I am again, this time, guaranteed a dining room experience at Grant Grill. We entered the bar area, past the stools I sat at those many years ago, and into the casual elegance of the dining room. The booth was perfect, allowing me a view of the entire space while we perused the menu.

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Our server Natalie was delightful and I enjoyed her knowledgeable descriptions of every question I had for her. Her suggestion of The Mule ($12), a champagne fermented cocktail with vodka, ginger, muscat and cascade hops was an ideal start. I normally enjoy Moscow Mules because I love ginger, but for those who may find it overpowering, this rendition only has hints of ginger. It is light, effervescent, and an all too easy to drink cocktail.

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A skillet of house-made focaccia bread was brought out with a pat of soft delectable butter for us to munch on while perusing the menu. It was difficult to restrain ourselves from eating too much of this.

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After ordering, an amuse bouche of oven baked salmon with vadouvan-spiced onion, ginger carrot puree and sesame seed powder arrives. A piquant and savory bite with mild curry flavors from the vadouvan was a perfect way to whet our appetites.

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Turducken Pate ($16) caught my eye and since my dining companion loves pate, I thought it would be a great start. The pate was beautifully textured and well seasoned. I would have liked more fig bread to pair with the pate as the morsels seemed more decorative than an accompaniment. I absolutely adored the rhubarb & cranberry jam, which added the sweet and tart to the salty. The bacon snow sprinkled around possessed the smoky aromas of bacon, adding another dimension to the dish.

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I wanted to try The Grant Grill Mock Turtle Soup ($12) when I heard it was a signature item. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite item of the evening. The soup, served table side, comprised of the vegetable soup element as well as a braised short rib one, however, the end result was not as cohesive as I would have liked. I tasted the soup and the short rib, but neither melded into the other as one entity.

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I love fowl! Any kind of fowl! Naturally, Quail ($16) caught my eye. It was one of those dishes where you wish the quail was more the size of a pigeon because it was SO good. A perfectly medium rare quail, served in four pieces, is flanked by empire apples from Julian, ricotta cheese, warm prosciutto vinaigrette and dried figs. I think the warm dressing just brought the entire dish together. All the flavor profiles came together as one unit and it made me want more. My dining partner was too lazy to eat around the bones after one piece so lucky me! I got to eat three pieces!

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The menu at Grant Grill is seasonal and Natalie explained to us that the chef is now presenting it like he would a novel. On the night of our visit, the menu was at Chapter One, Volume One — right at the beginning. Entitled “Winter Citrus”, there are libations and edibles all created around that theme. Should I visit several months down the road, the chapters and volumes would have moved along according to season.

Having said that, one of the entrees we selected was Pro Tem Protein ($40). This is something which stays on the menu for a short time — or, temporarily —  so you might not find it again the next time you dine here. On this particular night, it was a Creekstone all-natural Angus prime strip loin with shallot marmalade, roasted king trumpet mushrooms and marrow on a bed of smoked potatoes. Beautifully prepared at a medium rare temperature, the unctuous marrow created a luxurious mouth-feel while the king trumpet mushrooms were meaty in its own way. A robust and hearty dish satisfying even the fussiest of meat lovers.

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I had a difficult time deciding on the other entree, so I asked Natalie for her pick. When she described the Bass ($30) and said “kaffir lime”, that was it. I’m infatuated with that leaf and its intoxicating fragrance. It makes me immensely giddy. This turned out to be a perfect choice as the fish was moist and flaky and the lump crab meat added layers of flavor together with the crisp and refreshing apple fennel salad. The aromatic vegetable broth infused with kaffir lime and ginger was so delicate I was blown away by its sheer simplicity, yet, its ability to awaken all the senses on my palate.

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The Grant Grill is one of those classic restaurants where no matter who you are, the experience will be one you will remember. Service is impeccable and the food meticulously prepared. Valet parking is available for $10/3 hrs with validation at the restaurant.

Grant Grill
The US Grant Hotel
326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-744-2077

Grant Grill on Urbanspoon

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