Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant

Our October restaurant pick: Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant, located in Bankers Hill, just north of downtown San Diego and west of Balboa Park.

Atmosphere: Barn-meets-garden-meets-glass warehouse. We loved the succulent plant "art" on the wall, which the host told us was grown in the owner's backyard before transferred to the restaurant's patio area. There were a few light fixtures made of wine glasses and glass bottles which intrigued us, and the high-beamed ceilings inside added a rustic touch.

What we drank: Elisabeth had the Rum Ramos martini: rum, lemon, egg whites, sugar, and orange cream soda. Jen had the #5 (gin, lime, St. Germaine, cucumber & basil), followed by the grapefruit martini: grapefuit vodka, lemon, and sciracha.

Appetizers: We split the Deviled Farmer's Market Eggs and the Braised Bacon-Green Apple Salad.

Entrees: Jen had the Crispy BBQ Braised Pork Tacos, and Elisabeth ordered the BH Burger with Truffle Fries.

Dessert: We split the Butterscotch Pudding and Chocolate Cake.

Elisabeth's take: Apparently there's a new trend in cocktails: adding egg whites. Though it originally gave me the shivers to even think about it, it's yummy. It gave my drink the perfect touch of creaminess. None of the ingredients was overpowering, and although I love a sugary drink, it wasn't overpoweringly sweet. So delicious, I had two! Impressive. The deviled eggs were amazing. Little capers everywhere... the texture and taste were such a creamy and wonderful combination I could have happily ordered a few more and had them suffice for my dinner. And the chips that came with them were the size of our heads. The bacon and apple salad was great too, but a bit salty... maybe influenced overmuch by the bacon? Hard to tell, as the bacon sat off to the side and was superb in its own right. I liked the crunch of the apple salad (and more of a slaw, I thought), but the salt needed something else to tone it down...

My go-to at a new place is almost always their burger. I can't resist a good burger, and this one didn't let me down. It was moist and the heirloom tomatoes atop added an elegance I appreciated. The truffle fries were the perfect side: salty but with a depth of flavor from the truffle that was unexpected and really enjoyable.

The butterscotch pudding, much-hyped, was great! A good balance of cream and sweet. The top was almost like a creme brulee, but underneath was very special. I liked the chocolate cake, too; it was denser than I usually enjoy and the chocolate-covered pretzel sticks on top weren't much to note. But what really stood out was the accompanying banana-caramel ice cream. I could have had much more of that deliciousness and been so happy!

Jen's take: I normally love a drink that includes gin but The #5 was a disappointment. It lacked flavor and, for the first time ever, I returned a drink to the bar. But my replacement, The Grapefruit Martini recommended by our server, made up where the previous drink failed. The Absolut and lemon brought a nice sour note that was oddly complemented by the Sriracha. In fact, all of our server's recommendations that night turned out delicious. Second on his list were the deviled eggs with housemade potato chips. I was having trouble imagining how to make deviled eggs fancy but BHBR did an excellent job. They were creamy and flavorful and the capers added a nice element. The housemade potato chips I could take or leave but that may have more to do with my general dislike of chips than the quality of the ones we received. I also loved the bacon and apple salad even with the salty overtones. All the flavors and textures combined nicely on the tongue. If we return I would order it again.

For dinner I was vacillating between the Spice Rubbed Idaho Trout and the Crispy BBQ Braised Pork tacos and again our server came through. Although I imagine both items are superb and will probably order the trout should we return the tacos ended up being an amazing choice. There wasn’t much to them, mostly meat, but the flavors were enough all on their own. A nice added touch was a side of pineapple in mint cherry vinaigrette. I could have eaten a large bowlful of these and highly recommended asking for a few if you eat there.

Dessert was the oddest part of the night. As a chocolate fan I insisted on the chocolate cake figuring the sweet salty combination would be a certain win. I wouldn’t have given the butterscotch pudding a second thought if not for the recommendation of a friend and our server who had already proven his worth. The cake was a disappointment, too salty (seeing a theme here), lacking in flavor, and dry. Unsurprisingly I didn’t care for the ice cream as I don’t like banana flavoring. The butterscotch pudding, however, was all that the hype made it to be. Smooth and creamy, deliciously flavored, I would definitely order it again.

The verdict: In spite of the saltiness of some dishes Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant is a great place. The food was delicious, the atmosphere just hip enough, and the service superb. Not only would we recommend this restaurant, but we also hope to return very soon.

Yelp.com reviewers average 4 stars for Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant. We think a 5!

Best Bites,
Elisabeth & Jen