It’s been a long time coming, and I finally made it to Fort Oak, the second restaurant from the good people at Trust in San Diego. If you’re following my blog, you will know that I loved Trust, and Chef Brad Wise has killed it again with Fort Oak — the group opened its latest restaurant Rare Society several weeks ago.
The restaurant is huge, separated into several dining areas, including a room completely dedicated to the bar. We were shown to our table in the main dining room looking out onto the patio.
It was my birthday and I was excited to celebrate with some delicious fare. We consulted our server Jeff, who concurred with many of the dishes I had my eye on. He explained the nature of the menu — plainly put, a rustic, wood-fire cooking over an open flame.
But before we begin eating, some cocktails were in order. I picked Camaro ($14) a tequila cocktail with carrot juice, lemon and ginger. I can’t quite remember what my friend had but I believe it was Fairlane ($12) a gin-based drink with grapefruit and lemon.
We began with Scallop Aguachile ($16) a concoction of cucumber, onion, cilantro, and coriander oil. The scallops were melt-in-my-mouth tender, and the marinade was perfectly tart, just the way I like it — a burst of freshness in my mouth!
I was intrigued when I saw Coppa Ham ($14) and after Jeff’s description, I was sold. Raclette cheese is slathered over grilled rye bread and served with house-made coppa, sliced thin, and served with bread and butter pickles. It is definitely a rich dish, meant for sharing, but it was difficult to stop eating but we had a lot of food still to come.
Garlicky Hearth Grilled Prawns ($17) were so good my dining companion almost devoured all of them on his own. The prawns possessed a great smokiness that comes from the Santa Maria-style grill that the majority of the menu is cooked on. The kimchi aioli was a lovely addition, as were the namasu pickles. I love Chef Brad’s food because there is always an acid element, and everything is well balanced on the palate.
My dining companion loved our next dish of Chicken Fried Quail ($19) as well. The quail is so tender enveloped in a light corn bread coating, lending a touch of sweetness to the fowl. Cabbage, local red beans, red eye gravy, and date puree provided a sweet and sour element to the finish.
A dish I loved at Trust was the branzino, and here, a different rendition is offered in Hearth Grilled Branzino ($33). The fish is grilled whole and served with peperonata, salsa verde, fried herbs, and grilled lemon to squeeze all over. The branzino is flaky and moist, the fried herbs enhancing the aromas of the flesh. This is an item I will order over and over again.
Order some of the incredible vegetable sides to complete your meal with. Charred Caulilini ($15) was my favorite, with fermented chile aioli, shallot vinaigrette, smoked almonds, currants, and herbs. My dining companion is not a fan of vegetables but not only did he enjoy the caulilini ….
…. But he also loved Hearth Roasted Carrots ($15) dotted with crispy quinoa, Humboldt Fog cheese, pickled fennel, carrot top pesto, smoky yogurt, and last but not least, tarragon. It is hard to choose which veggies you want from the menu, but in my experience, Chef Brad does them all so splendidly.
The meal ended with Pear Crisp ($12) a scoop of ice cream infused with the embers from the hearth, Chantilly cream and a candle. I removed the candle for the photo, but overall, the cobbler was excellent, albeit a little too sweet for my palate. The ice cream definitely stood out. What a clever way to add that touch of fire to a cold dessert.
We had a lovely evening at Fort Oak. Service was attentive without being intrusive. Our server, Jeff, was very knowledgeable about the menu and the preparation/execution of the dishes. The meal was excellent, but I knew it would be … it IS Chef Brad Wise, after all.
1011 Fort Stockton Dr
San Diego, CA 92103