Urban Solace

by Rodzilla on March 25, 2012 · 8 comments

I first made plans to visit Urban Solace over a year ago. It’s not that reservations aren’t that hard to come by, it’s one of San Diego’s most popular restaurants, but a week should secure you a table. It was just one place that I had every intention of visiting during my initial visit to San Diego, but somehow missed before returning to PA. 

"Thinking of you is working up my appetite"

Well, I finally made it out to Matt Gordon‘s namesake restaurant, and it couldn’t have happened at a better a time. The restaurant just finished with an updating of the interior, and coincidentally some anti-foie ass-hat protestor decided to try and get himself some publicity the night before I visited. He won’t be getting any of the attention he so desperately desires here, but my two dining companions and I would like to thank him for his accidental recommendation.

Seared Artisan Foie Gras, Brandied Cherry Reduction, French Toast, Cress

I don’t want to turn this post into a foie debate, but I will say that for anyone who considers themselves a proponent of environmentalism; trying to start a feud with Urban Solace seems an awful lot like friendly fire. I wonder if said jackass protestor even read about the restaurant..or took a look at the menu aside from one misunderstood ingredient.

Free Raised Strauss Sweetbreads, Mustard Crust, Pickled Chard and Mustard Seed

Moving on, I don’t see sweetbreads on menus nearly as often as I’d like, and if you know anything about veal..let me emphasize the free raised. These had a very light mustard crust which complemented rather than hid the flavor of the pancreas itself.  I’m generally not much of a mustard fan, but the various forms in this dish won me over.

Steamed Black Mussels, Potatoes, Bacon Lardon, Herbs, Touch of Cream

Not a bad mussel on the plate. Every shell was open and showing sweet, plump pieces meat. The accouterments spoke for themselves.

Seared Albacore Chop Chop: Avocado, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Peppers, Spiced Pine nuts

There was no shortage of albacore or avocado, which gave a very light- tasting dish a bit more substance. The cucumbers, peppers, and pine nuts added a great textural element that I feel it often times missing from ceviche-esq dishes. Would order again…and again.

Duckaroni: Mac 'n Cheese with Duck Confit, Blue Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Arugula, Scallion

I can see why the duckaroni is a signature item. The noodles and cheese would be enough, but add in huge pieces of duck confit and I only recommend ordering this as a side so there is more room for entrees.

Sumac Rubbed Wild Sockeye Salmon, Quinoa, Spiced Roasted Lemon Butter

Choosing an entree really comes down to what you’re in the mood for. All three were great. However, I wanted to pay special mind to the Wild Salmon, the one that comes “direct from the fishing vessel Vortex in Bristol Bay

Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast, Caramelized Brussels and Squash, Root Veg Gratin

I also tried a famed cheese biscuit with orange-honey butter (highly recommended) and that would have to suffice for sweets on this visit. As our waiter was all too happy to remark on the amount of food the three of us had taken down, we thought it best that we give our stomachs a rest…which ended up being about 30 minutes before we saw a sign for frozen yogurt…

"Not Your Momma's Meatloaf", Ground Lamb, Bacon, Figs, Pine Nuts, Feta, Fig Jus, Sweet Potato Mash

I’ll have to leave desserts for my next visit, but I surely sampled enough to see why Urban Solace has become one of the most popular restaurants in San Diego. The space is great, the menu is accommodating to carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike, and it’s food that people can feel good about eating.

Ethically sourced meats, sustainable seafood, and regionally sourced ingredients won’t make great dishes alone; but they’re certainly making the ones at Urban Solace that much better.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chefprotoss

I love everything about this place. Duck confit mac is genius, as well as the giant lamb, fig and feta meatball haha. I do take issue with the lemon on the fish, but that’s because I’ll never forget the first chef I worked for screaming at me “Never put anything on the plate they can’t eat!”. He was right, and I’m glad I picked that tip up lol. Also, one of my favorite sauces ever is the super old school french-Escoffierian dijonaise. It’s just cream, demi and Dijon. I like to add thyme and sage to mine, but I guess my point is that nothing goes better with cooked flesh than mustard. During the anti-french movement of 80′s and 90′s, I feel a lot of rebellious chefs forgot about classic parings and simple sauces like that.

While I loathe the misguided anger at foie, I do take issue with veal and lamb. I’m not a fan of robbing these creatures of the gift of a long life. For me beef and mutton taste better too, so I find the practice incredibly baffling. Unfortunately, mutton is super hard to attain in the states. Duck bones make a far better demi than veal too.

2 Pavlov

Some sriously nice food there my friend… yet another reason to pop on over to SD for a visit! Nice piece and I’m right there with you on the foie!

3 Chuck

Forgive my ignorance, but what is difference between foie gras and confit?

Another great post man, I’m glad you finally made it to the restaurant!

4 James

Looks like they have revised the menu since I last went to be a little more modern. I don’t necessarily agree with you on all the dishes we had in common, but I definitely have Solace at the Moonlight Lounge on my list of places to visit soon. My previous visit was over 2 years ago, so I’m sure a lot has changed.
I also liked all the links to the other stories like the one about foie and the one about Bristol Bay. Thanks for the entertaining info!

5 Jenny

I’ve only been for brunch. I loved that they had a blue grass band playing :) Been meaning to go during dinner though. Thanks for the reminder :)

It’s hard for restaurants to be 100% environmentally friendly and I don’t expect it. But any positive efforts a restaurant puts towards lessening their footprint (using wild, local, or organic products or recycled containers/additional recycling) is awesome in my book.

6 Rodzilla

ChefP – what if I ate the lemon?

Pav – definitely a potential stop when you make it out here.

Chuck – foie gras is fatty duck liver – confit is a preservation method and and one of the most common products it’s done with is duck legs.

James – God forbid I liked something that you didn’t! I would assume there would be some variation, especially over the course of 2 years. Different strokes for different folks? :p

Jenny – there brunch looks killer. I’ve been meaning to check that out. Agreed on the environmental bit, it’s the type of place an environmentalist would support – not protest.

7 Nicole

We are taking a trip to SD very soon and this place is on my list of places to dine! Do you have any other suggestions? A place for our anniversary dinner? Some less expensive places? We’re staying in the Gaslamp area, but will have a car. Clara (Food Collage) sent me the list of places you gave her for her trip there, but I thought I’d see if you had any other suggestions now that you’ve been in SD a while!

8 Erin

Well, well, young man. Looks like you and your party sure ordered enough food. You all must be very hungry.

*inside joke*

But seriously, where is the dessert?

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