La Gran Terraza (Restaurant Week Preview)
The second Restaurant Week preview! La Gran Terraza is located on the campus of University of San Diego. Who knew this nice venue was right up the hill at USD all this time? It looks like its been open since 2009 so maybe they just like to keep the gem hidden so it doesn’t get overcrowded.
As you can see the Restaurant Week menu online doesn’t list all the dishes available in person. Lucky us!
The restaurant features a wide open space with a cozy amount of room between tables. It felt like a grand ballroom in a fancy hotel, except a little more relaxed and casual since we were on campus after all. If you forget where you are at any point, you can reference the butter on the table.
The first starter we got was the shrimp wrapped in pancetta. After Anh and I cut into one of these succulent pieces we looked at each other and smiled. Each piece (3) was juicy, fresh, salty and sweet. We were hoping the rest of the meal lived up to the bar set straight from the starting gate.
The seafood starters continued with the crab cakes. Beautiful presentation and after a few pictures snapped, we were ready to taste. When crab cakes are on the menu there’s two kinds I picture. One has lumps of crab meat barely held together with breading while the other has bits and pieces of different vegetables mixed in and densely packed together. Both versions can be great if done properly. This version had a lot going on. There were carrots, celery, and onions along with the crab. The contrasting textures of the crunchy vegetables mixed with the smooth and soft crab meat was a delight. If these appetizers were suddenly offered as entrees no one would fill out a complaint card to ask them to revert back.
We were pretty seafood heavy thus far so why not introduce meat to our stomachs? Again, what a pleasant presentation to behold. The filet was unique because it featured a generous black pepper crust on top. From first glance I thought it would overpower the meat and there’s nothing the brandy mushroom sauce could do about it. But the pepper didn’t strangle your taste buds into submission at all. The mushroom sauce with sliced mushrooms complimented the meat and all was good.
And we’re back to seafood! The seafood cassoulet featuring shrimp, squid, scallops, tomatoes, carrots, white beans, napa, bacon, and saffron cream sauce. The stew was very rich and before we knew it we were quite full. The stew looks so innocent and delicate but it did creep up on us least suspecting eaters. Well that just meant we could enjoy it later for a midnight snack.
Desserts typically aren’t my thing. I enjoy them but don’t rave about them too often. However, there was a certain buzz going into these last two desserts that awoke my IDD (inner dessert desire). Anh and I took a trip to Julian for the first time this year and loved it so how could we turn down the apple tart with julian cider sorbet!? Pucker up folks and get ready for a sweet, sour, and tart explosion. That sorbet is out of this world. If not for the tart, my face might stay puckered up for days. But it’s all worth it.
Last dessert was the dark chocolate and lemon cream cake with Stone Levitation ice cream. Stone Levitation is following me everywhere and I just can’t do anything about it except order anything and everything flavored with Stone Levitation I stumble upon. The cake itself was soft and smooth, decadent and refined. When you get to the center, the sourness of the lemon cream screams for your attention. But then a scoop of the ice cream balances everything in your world once again. Heed the advice of our waitress I did not, and I tasted everything individually first before tasting them together. I enjoyed the ice cream by itself. But the cake was too sweet to eat by on its own and the ice cream helped cut through the sweet and sour notes.
Not only was the food a welcome to visit our tummies bite after bite, but the service was top notch. Our waitress and the entire staff were attentive and gracious. If you get a chance to sample these dishes I would suggest doing so during Restaurant Week. For the affordable price of $30 for dinner you can try so many different things. Hope everyone has a great Restaurant Week experience!
La Gran Terraza
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110