Have you ever had a good and bad dining experience at the same place? It catches you off guard, like a 70-degree day in the middle of January. You can’t help but wonder what went wrong and if it was the dish you ordered or if the chef was just having an off-day?
This was the recent experience I had at the new Eden Restaurant in Hillcrest. I want to preface this by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Eden for it’s food and ambiance (they’ve catered a few events for my company in the past and I loved the food). I went out for brunch and I didn’t like the particular breakfast item I ordered, which is not to say their other items aren’t great because they all sounded ah-may-zing, but I was looking for something healthiful that day (yes, I totally made up that word). Now I’m rambling but it’s only because I really do care and love this company as a whole, and I don’t want my review to negatively reflect them in any way. But, I disgress… let’s get to the food!
I recently went out for San Diego Restaurant Week, an entire week where restaurants in San Diego create a prix fix 3-course menu. It’s a great way to get out and try new restaurants in San Diego at an affordable price. In fact, I went to two dinners that week. My second dinner was at Eden in Hillcrest and consisted of a three course menu with several options for each course. I happened to choose the following:
Gumbo di Vinci
Bayou fare simmered with soul and served with a Dungeness Crab Hushpuppy.
House Ricotta Pasta Pillows, Porcini Browned Butter, Wild Rocket and Sun Dried Tomato.
Banana Cream Pie
Chef Scotty’s Favorite since Kindergarten…comforting, sweet and delicious.
Sadly, I didn’t get a photograph of the first dish. I was so hungry that I just dove into the food when I arrived and didn’t even think twice until after I had scarfed down the gumbo. I enjoyed the gumbo even though I am not a huge fan of spicy foods. I felt like this dish had a nice balance of heat and wasn’t over-powerful to the point that I wouldn’t be able to finish it.
The porcini pillows were amazing. That is a dish that I could eat over and over again. I never used to be a fan of mushrooms but in the last few years they have really grown on me, and this dish definitely reminds me of what I was missing out on all of those years! The wild rocket salad tasted like it had a hint of truffle oil, which sealed the deal for me. I also just discovered truffle oil last year and every time I see it on a menu I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
Last, I chose banana cream pie for dessert. It seemed like a strange thing to find on the menu of a gourmet restaurant in San Diego. For me, banana cream pie is reminiscent of Indiana and pot-lucks on a hot summer day. However, Eden’s executive chef, Scotty Wagner, is from Wisconsin so I could definitely see the connection.
Bananas are one of my favorite foods in the whole world. I know that seems like an exaggeration, but it’s true. I LOVE anything with bananas. Banana pudding, bananas in ice-cream, banana ice-cream, banana’s foster, banana bread—you name it. So when I ordered the banana cream pie, you have to know that going into it, I had HUGE expectations. Was the pie good? Yes. Was it the best pie I ever had? Not by far. I have a recipe for the BEST banana pudding you will have ever unleashed your tastebuds on, and there is no question that my banana pudding could have easily trumped this pie. It is a Paula Dean recipe, after all.
I did, however, get to try my friend’s dessert, which was their Pana Cota with Kefir Lime Dust, Fresh Pineapple & Kiwi-Lime Coulis. Three words: to die for. Looking back, I would have totally gone for that instead.
So, getting back to my original story about the good/bad restaurant experience, after Restaurant Week I returned to Eden to check out their brunch. I heard many good things, especially about their $10 bottomless mimosas which sounded too good to be true! My friend and I decided to check it out one morning after yoga. Unfortunately, I was not feeling the mimosas at the time since it was the morning after an evening of wine drinking. Also, the yoga before and some recent lifestyle changes towards a more health-conscious diet made me skip over all the really great sounding dishes, for something simple and healthy.
I tried their Omelet Caprese since it was the most healthy looking thing on the menu.
It was meh. Yes, official food blogger terminology—respect. Compared to my last breakfast at FARM, there was no comparison (pictures don’t lie). I wasn’t feeling the “three eggs with buffalo mozzarella, basil & sun-dried tomatoes.” The eggs were rubbery and flavorless—overall a huge disappointment. Had I ordered the menu items that truly captured by attention, like the crabcake benedict or their angel toast, a spin on the classic french toast using angel food cake soaked in frangelico (DROOL), it may have been a different story altogether. Note to self: splurge when going to brunch.
I guess the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in my case don’t judge a restaurant by one bad experience. Luckily I had the good experience first, which is why I came back. But I guess what I realize is that a particular dish should not be representative of all that a restaurant has to offer. That dish may not be the restaurant’s strong point. Maybe the dish is too simple, or maybe healthy-fare isn’t that establishment’s specialty. Whatever the case is, I think it’s important to give restaurants another shot before writing them off completely. You may be surprised what you find.