This is review #101 on the 101!
The reason Hubby and I started this blog is because we have lived in Encinitas for over 19 years and until now, never got out. We saw all of these great looking restaurants and cafes, but never went to any of them. So when we started going each week, it was usually the first time we had been to most of these places, even the ones that have been here forever. I got such flack for never having been to landmarks like The Kraken and VG Donuts before. But now that we have completed the first loop of the 101 throughout Encinitas/Leucadia/Cardiff, and are hitting all of the new places that have popped up since we started, we are restaurant-savvy. We went from being last to know to first to know, and I’ll tell you, I like it much better this way!
Herb and Sea opened just this week, and here we are, front and center. It is the new Malarkey/Puffer restaurant that took the place of Manhattan Giant Pizza and Kialani on D St.. OK, so not technically exactly on the 101, but close enough, and like hell are we not blogging it!
Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey was a “Top Chef” finalist and is a partial owner of many restaurants here in San Diego. I took a cooking class from Brian about eleven years ago right after he was on “Top Chef”. I was really hoping he would be here tonight, I’m sure he would remember me. I would call him “Bri” now ’cause of how close we are.
The only rez we could get was for 8:00. 8pm! That’s almost midnight for me with recent daylight savings. I typically eat dinner around 4pm. Now that I’m 50, I find this very normal for my age. I like to go to sleep with my meal well digested, on an empty stomach for optimal sleep, waking the next morning light and refreshed. Herb & Sea was crowded, even at this late hour and by the time we ordered, it was 8:30pm. I was hungry. Eating after 9pm is practically next day’s breakfast for me.
Decor: The restaurant is beautiful. It is large and open with a great upscale yet beach- casual vibe. The lighting is great. The acoustics are rough. With the large open ceiling, it gets really loud. I heard from our waiter that they are going to fix this somehow, and I am glad to hear it. I literally couldn’t hear one word Dana was saying to me all night and she sat directly across from me. And the art….well…you decide:
And if you are a fan of beach balls, you will love it because there are tons of these beach ball pictures all around. Just like this one.
I don’t know, maybe the true sophistication of the wall art was lost on me. I’m more about the food, so art shmart, let’s get to it!
We found the exact menu pricing hilarious. The Fennel Sausage Pizza is not $17, it’s $17.08. The Field Greens Salad is $10.14.
Tracy and I noticed a lot of mom’s night out happening.
“How do you know they are on a mom’s night out?” asked a clueless Hubby. These ladies were in groups of 8-10, dressed to the nines, drinking boat loads of wine, giddy with the thrill of just being out. Oh, these were definitively mom’s on a night out!
I got tipped off from some friends sitting at a nearby table to order the Parker House Rolls off of the “secret menu”. Cindy and Todd’s daughter, Brooke, knows what’s going on. OMG, I LOVE secret menus! I ran to find our server and asked him to please bring two…no, make it three orders of the Parker House Rolls to our table.
Waiting for those rolls. Waiting. And hungry. Hungrily waiting for rolls. Tracy and I have been on a kick-ass weight loss bonanza and have been doing great. But as many of you know, it’s hard, hungry work losing weight! But we have been perfect little angels lately and were both excited and nervous about eating out here tonight. The best thing to do is to make a plan then follow the plan. So we looked at the menu online before we came and decided ahead of time that we would order and share both a salad and the Branzino fish. I am perfectly capable of going out to eat, making a healthy menu selection, and then eating a normal portion. It is possible. I’ve seen other people do this. Now where are those roooooolls??????
“Would you like some more water, Love?” asked a very darling young server. She called me “Love”! It made me feel nice and warm inside. I wondered if I could pull off throwing “Love” around. I want to be that person. I waited a while and tried it.
When someone at our table asked me to pass the carafe down I said “Here you go Love“. But the words felt wrong and fake coming out. Hubby glared at me, totally embarrassed. He mouthed “N-O” shaking his head. He’s right. I’m not really the “Here you go Love” as much as I’m the “You want water? Get it yourself bitch!” kinda gal. Good or bad (bad) that’s just more me.
I liked the large linens that were more the size of towels than napkins. Not dish towels, actual bath towels. When I get into food, I get into it, so a bath towel is actually very useful. The water glasses are way too small though. But leaving carafes of water on the table is good. Just noting all the little things here whilst waiting for our rolls.
At 9pm our salads arrived. They were all good, the kale with delicious bits of crunchy Parmesan and toasted pine nuts being my favorite.
You know what goes really well with salad? ROLLS! I asked another server to please go check on them. And finally, they arrived.
One order went on our end of the table, one in the middle, and one at the far end. Tracy shook her head, denying these rolls with the most intense willpower I have ever seen. I respected it, but I was going in. I had to try one, they are on the SECRET MENU for darn sake!
This roll was warm, flaky, and moist. It was brushed with a sweet garlic butter and might be the best bread I have ever tasted. Tracy looked at me with sad eyes.
“Should I?” she asked.
“Oh yes you should!” I answered, though she was already diving in. If I was going down, she was going down with me.
“OH MY GOD!” she moaned with her mouth full of roll. We have been living on things like salad with no dressing. White meat chicken, no sauce. And soooo many steamed veggies. Now, a plate of warm buttery buns are set before our starving selves and we are supposed to only have one?
“I’m going back in!” she confessed, but I was already a roll ahead of her. I finally pushed the plate away and let the others gobble them up. But there were still some rolls at the far end of the table and I couldn’t stop staring at them. I was obsessed. “Roll. Roll. Roll.” was the mantra playing in my head. I couldn’t hear any of the other conversation going on around me.
“Hey, why aren’t they finishing those rolls?” I whispered to Tracy.
“See the one with the crispy edges?” she asked.
“What if I had one more. That makes three. Three’s not actually that bad.” I justified.
“I mean, we’re just sharing fish for dinner” she agreed.
“You could reach right over and grab those two.” I suggested.
“No one knows we’ve already had two each. For all they know, these could be our first rolls of the night.”
I was starting to sweat. I finally reasoned that eating one more roll was better for me than dealing with the stress of not eating one more. And since I care about my health, I went for the third.
My friend Todd came back over to ask what I thought about the rolls. Really Todd? Because I look like someone who maybe wouldn’t like them? Too much warm buttery goodness for me? Frankly if it wasn’t for your family, I wouldn’t even know about those damn rolls and wouldn’t be in three deep before my meal has even arrived!
Food started coming out and it was all superb. Every morsel was flavorful and unique.
When we were done, Cindy from the next table came over and said, “You MUST order the butterscotch pudding.”
“Yah, I saw that but they have chocolate lava cake on the menu, and we are going to have to go with that.”
“Noooo, noooo. You are getting the butterscotch pudding or you can just kiss our friendship good-bye!” and she left. OK, so she didn’t say those exact words, but she certainly meant business. So I ordered both for the table. (When it comes to dessert, it should never be one or the other.) See, now that I was three rolls deep plus dinner and of course, those delicious and “healthy” (not even a little) side vegetables, there was no stopping me. Us actually, Tracy was right there with me burning in caloric hell.
I was not really excited about the butterscotch pudding. Ever since Blue Ribbon Pizza opened with theirs, it seems that everyone is doing it! And although quite delicious, I find it just way too sweet. Until I tried it here. This pudding itself is rich and creamy but not overly sweet, it lets the caramel do that job. And let’s not dismiss those shortbread cookies that accompany it. To. Die. For. No matter how big they make this dessert, it will never be enough. Order many for your table, trust me on this one. After this little pot of goodness was passed around, I took the next 15 minutes trying to scrape every last droplet of flavor from the jar with my spoon. Ryan told me I need one of those “scrapey things”. It’s called a spatula Ryan. Cook much, do ya? How BRILLIANT would it be for them to serve each pot of pudding with a wee-sized silicone spatula? Bri- call me. I have tons more ideas to help you out.
The lava cake came to our table as just a plain dome of cake. Then they added the creme anglaise, rich chocolate sauce and gelato table-side. Nice touch. It was very dark chocolate, even a little bitter, with the other creamy elements giving it the sweetness. This is very advanced chocolate eating. Do I even have to tell you how good it was?
When the lava cake was down to just a messy pool of chocolate smudge at the end, I looked longingly at it.
“You know what would be perfect right now to get into that chocolate mess?” I whispered to Tracy.
“A roll?” she guessed.
Hell yes a roll! I love my Hubby, but Tracy…completes me.
At the end of our meal, executive chef Sara Harris came to our table where she received a standing ovation from our very satisfied group.
We left Herb & Sea at almost 11pm. That’s usually my 5th or 6th REM cycle of sleep, not my just-getting-home-from-dinner time. Oh well, one evening of late night food debauchery won’t kill me. I walked out with a smile on my face, clutching my food baby. Worth it? Absolutely!
Encinitas needs a place like Herb & Sea. We already have plenty of coffee, beer, tacos and vegan food. Herb & Sea fills a void. Come here for your mom night’s out, your celebratory occasions or your romantic evenings. Sure, our food came out pretty slow this night, but this is Herb & Sea’s opening week and delays were expected. I’m sure the kinks will be ironed out in no time.
The staff and servers were extremely friendly and surprisingly knowledgeable. We were told by ours that they have been doing nothing for the last three days except eating and drinking everything to get an intimate knowledge of their entire menu. They all got paid for a three day bender? Folks, that’s not called work. That’s called heaven.
We loved literally everything we ordered, but my absolute personal favorites were the Wood Fired Portabello Mushrooms, Branzino (whole roasted sea bass) and Butterscotch Pudding. Were there any other favorites? Hmmm. Ah yes, the Parker House Rolls!
Next blog will be Sunday, November 17th. Just need to figure out where….check back soon!