Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Foodventure #66: Terra (San Diego)

Having signed up for a Sunday half-marathon that required runners to come a day early to pick up bibs and T-shirts, I decided to make a weekend out of my SD trip and spend some time discovering new eats in the area. Not having visited the city since my friends went here for college, I pretty much took a "spin the carrot" approach to choosing my eateries - with a little input from Yelp, Chowhound and Citysearch. For the pre-race dinner, I settled upon Terra -- the fusion-themed menu looks interesting, it's practically right off the freeway and en route from the registration area to my motel so I have less chance of getting lost or wasting gas and time.
The restaurant's atmosphere is casual-elegant - white clothed tables against dark drapery, a colonial interior feel and full-pane windows that let the wonderful late afternoon-early evening sun flood in. There is also a pretty nice patio seating area, but it was still a tad too warm for outdoor dining so we sat in one of their generously-sized booths instead.

Like the restaurant, the food at Terra is casual-and-classy, with an emphasis on "foods from the Americas in contemporary fare" (as our waiter explained it), blending culinary influences from European, Asian, Caribbean and Latin American cuisines.

Wine and cocktails was out of the question for me this time, so my dining companion and I ordered an iced tea for a fairly-light small plates meal consisting of:
Special of the day Ahi Tuna Tacos with Wasabi Cream - the quality of the fish was top notch and the sesame seeds and wasabi cream complemented the tuna well, adding a bit of complexity of the dish w/o being overpowering it. The tortilla shells, though, felt a bit stale but still got a nice crisp for the contrast in mouthfeel.
Coconut-Dusted Crabcakes in a Hot Mustard Sauce - decent but not particularly exceptional, the combination of flavors from the fruity-spicy mustard sauce and the sweet-smelling coconut flakes was interesting, but despite having very little binders, the crab's (Maryland blue, the server explained) natural flavors didn't come through. Maybe the mustard was too overpowering or maybe they didn't get the best batch from Chesapeake bay.
Pumpkin Ravioli in Roasted Corn Cream Sauce with Hazelnut - yes, it's messy looking, but the taste was wonderful, a sweet-savory combo that hits me on all the right notes. The pillowy pasta were stuffed with lightly-spiced pumpkin that's not overly sweet (which tends to happen with gourdy ravioli fillings), the sauce was a little peppery, a little creamy and studded with lots of sweet and firm kernels, and the extra nutty crunch added another flavor and texture dimension.
Finishing the meal, their signature Chocolate "Cigar" with Whipped Cream, with molten dark chocolate ganache rolled inside phyllo and lightly grilled. Love the presentation in the ashtray - this not-too-sweet cigar was fun (and quite messy) to eat as the dark molten cocoa-licious goo erupted in my mouth at the first bite of the flaky roll. But it quickly became an annoyance as liquid chocolate is dribbling everywhere, so we just set the cigar back on the tray and let it dribble in with the whipped cream. That also turned out to be delish as well.

To sum it up, Terra was an enjoyable dining experience. Their dishes are creative and solid, the prices are reasonable, the environment is pleasing and service excellent. Definitely looking forward to a return trip here.

Citysearch gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
21 Yelpers gave it an average of 3 out of 5.
San Diego Daily Transcript has a little more detail on Terra's self-taught, San Diego native chef Jeff Rossman, and is overall impressed by its dishes.

~ Street Parking is available in the area, but watch out for green zoned spots: some are 2 hour spaces and some are 20 minutes.
~ The patio dining area is "doggy friendly"
~ They also offer an early bird dinner special most days of the week; for about $20/person until 7pm diners can enjoy a 3-course prix-fixe.

Ahi tacos - $9
Pumpkin ravioli - $8
Crabcakes - $13
Chocolate cigar - $5
Iced Tea + Coffee - $6
Pre tax/tip total - $41

Ambience: 4/5 (Casual yet classy, the interior has a mix of modern and colonial elements)
Value: 4/5 (Decent given the portions and quality of dishes served)
Service: 9/10 (Superb, our waiter was attentive and knew the menu and winelist in and out, and was not afraid to steer us towards dishes he thinks we may like, and upon hearing we were outsiders, even gave us some tips about foodie hotspots to check out over the weekend.)
Food: 17/20 (The dishes here do fusion justice, pulling the right elements from different cuisines to put together an innovative and interesting menu)
Bonus/Demerit: N/A
Overall: 34/40

3900 Vermont Street
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 293-7088

Terra on Urbanspoon



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