It isn’t often I walk away from a meal that makes me feel so utterly happy inside. A meal that is consistently good — no, great! — and the food, service, everything about the entire experience is simply top notch. This is one of those times.
Counterpoint in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood has been in business for five years and I’m not surprised that the place is pretty packed on a Saturday night. The atmosphere is casual but absolutely inviting, with a great soundtrack of 70s and 80s’ hits playing one after another on the night of our visit.
We start with some cocktails: Florida Canyon ($9) to satiate my thirst for tequila, and Counterpoint Gin & Tonic ($9) simply because I am intrigued by the house made tonic paired with the restaurant’s take on the traditional Plymouth gin and tonic. The Rancho Allegre Blanco tequila libation, with pineapple, ginger, sage and lime juice is great, but the gin and tonic wins hand down — I finish it quickly.
Owner Cam Fomby walk by and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I have many questions which I ply him and he graciously answers them all. An ex-marine with no prior restaurant experience, I am curious, and at the same time, intrigued. He is passionate, that’s for sure, and he is definitely excited about chef Rose Peyron, previously at Alchemy, where I enjoyed a great meal earlier this year. But is is when Fomby tells me all he wants is in “making ordinary things, extraordinary” that my ears perk up and I keep this at the back of my mind throughout my meal.
Our first course of Burratta Salad ($12) arrives with arugula, tomato, dollops of gooey burrata, and smoked almonds. The unique element on the plate is the accompanying leek-bread pudding croutons made in-house — words which will resonate throughout the post.
Next is Southern Fried Cauliflower ($7) with perfectly fried florets first soaked in a buttermilk marinade, then seasoned with creole spice. The coating is light but flavorful. The honey-hot sauce is slightly sweet with a lovely kick at the end. Pair everything together and it is a delicious mouthful. Definitely a must-order!
I always order rillettes because I love it, so Beef Cheek Rillettes ($8) — made in-house — is in order. The smoked beef cheek arrives topped with tomato confit in a mason jar. Toasted baguette — from Bread & Cie, one of my favorite bakeries in San Diego — is a lovely vehicle for the rillettes. Add a little of the grain mustard served alongside.
Pickles are near and dear to my heart — anything salty and sour actually — therefore Pickle Jar ($5) is not to be missed. A creative assortment of house-pickled vegetables and fruit, which include blueberries, grapes, carrots, wax and cannellini beans, which surprised even me. I’ve never eaten a pickled blueberry or grape before and the taste is strange upon first bite, but it quickly grows on you. An ideal palate cleanser after the unctuousness of the rillettes.
At this point I am losing the light very quickly and am never thoroughly happy with my photos when there is a lack of natural lighting. So from here on out, the photos won’t be as pleasing, but the food continues to tantalize.
Mac n Cheese ($8) using orecchiette pasta and house-smoked aged cheddar, is rich and decadent. The cheese adds a hint of smokiness without overpowering. The best part is enjoying the left-overs a few days later.
One of the most over-used vegetables right now is Brussels Sprouts ($7), but I have never been happier eating the ones here. My son takes one bite and says “these are way better than yours” and I’ll have to agree with him. Fried to a perfect char, they are then tossed in a kimchi sauce with a hint of sambal. Those are staple ingredients in my fridge but I don’t have the creativity to step outside of the bacon or pancetta box when it comes to preparing Brussels sprouts. This is one of the best things I’ve eaten in quite some time — simple and addicting.
Moving on to entrees, the Smoked Duck Sausage Pasta ($15) is a definite hit. The sausage is made in-house with the right amount of seasonings and the ideal texture I want when it comes to sausage. A light lemon cream sauce coats the pappardelle (made fresh by Assenti’s Pasta in Little Italy) tossed with roasted mushrooms, a handful of arugula and shaved parmagiana reggiano. Absolutely to die for!
Sausage lovers can revel in Bangers & Mash ($15) — yes, the bangers are made in-house — with creamy brown butter mashed potatoes and a succulent onion-bacon stout jam. A heavenly, but immensely filling dish quintessential for the cooler weather. Is it bad I just want a few of the sausages and a side of those Brussels sprouts and call it a night?
Beef Tongue Pastrami Sandwich ($13) is one of those things which can either be really good, or really bad because everyone loves pastrami, but tongue? The thinly sliced tongue is sandwiched between a rye roll along with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, spicy aioli and house pickles. The flavor profiles come together so harmoniously and I wish I have more room to take another bite. I end up eating it for lunch the next day after warming it up a tad in the toaster oven. Still good! And don’t forget the generous portion of house-made black pepper chips which sits alongside. You won’t be able to stop eating even half way through.
It has definitely been a while since my last encounter with a little restaurant where the chef takes pride in creating as much of the menu in-house as possible. Counterpoint is definitely impressive with tasty cocktails and solid fare, most of which are familiar, but take on a different approach. I think the menu is a clear indication that Cam Fomby’s vision of ordinary things being extraordinary has come to fruition. We will be back, my son will make sure of it.
830 25th Street
San Diego, CA 92102