It’s funny because my first D Bar experience wasn’t actually in San Diego. A year after they opened in San Diego in 2012 I was on a trip with Anh to Colorado. I received a lot of advice on Chowhound and one of the places we stopped by was the original D Bar in Denver. They have since relocated to a bigger space in Denver. I didn’t realize the D Bar in San Diego was under the same ownership as the D Bar in Denver until after we got back from our trip. Chef Gerhard and Chef Bailey have a good thing going, and I’m glad I got to finally experience the location in San Diego. We were invited to visit their restaurant in Hillcrest while they were in town.
Like me, you might have made a false assumption thinking D Bar only focuses on dessert. But the “D” in D Bar actually stands for drinks, dining, and dessert. It’s a fair assumption given Chef Gerhard and Chef Bailey’s long history of sweet accomplishments. Except that’s not all they are focused on as you will soon see.
Since Michael and I rarely drink I can’t help but think we’re at times missing out. This was not going to be one of those times. Michael was going try to even the score starting with the Vanilla Lemonade. He seemed to enjoy the first sip and said it was fairly sweet.
Everyone nowadays seems to have brussels sprouts on their menu. I don’t actually mind brussels sprouts, but I am starting to get tired of the oily, salt-filled bacon versions. D Bar’s version (flash fried brussels sprouts, sriracha honey glaze, toasted hazelnuts) gave us the perfect foundation to build upon our meal. It wasn’t salty or oily, and instead gave us a little heat along with sweetness. Typically brussels sprouts win the war of attrition, but we had it’s number this time and cleaned our plate.
Maybe because it was front and center on the menu that I gravitated towards the Bacon Mac & Cheese (4 cheese mac, aws bacon, cheese nips and panko crumbs). Adding tempura lobster is never a bad idea in case you were wondering. The first bite of this with the lobster might have been my one single favorite bite of the evening. I know, mac & cheese! But talk about elevating a dish. Rich, creamy, with texture for days. Those cheese nips and panko crumbs provided a welcomed crunch and even more cheesy goodness. Mind blown.
Both Michael and I ordered main courses from the “Things I Like to Eat” section. They change that portion of the menu regularly. We didn’t really have a strategy going in and just chose things that seemed to pop out to us. Okay our server did do a little coaxing, which may have led us to our ultimate decisions. Here we have the English Pea Risotto (sauteed shrimp, heirloom carrots, pea tendrils, cherry bomb peppers, purple cauliflower). Risotto can be a little mushy, but this was cooked nicely. There wasn’t much spice to it which was fine, but I do wish there were more shrimp. The dish didn’t weigh me down as much as I thought it would. I was happy with it, but I would probably try something different next time.
What a pleasant presentation! Michael ordered the Olive Oil Poached Grouper (pimento fettuccine, red wine buerre blanc, purple cauliflower, garlic bread sticks). He isn’t too fond of asparagus so they substituted it for cauliflower. This entree was probably his favorite savory dish of the evening. Flaky and moist, the fish was cooked just right. Chef’s Keegan and Bailey came out to say hello and this particular dish came up in our conversation. It sounded like the San Diego team sort of championed the idea behind the pasta. And it’s one of those things you either really rally behind or run the other way from. Michael was closer to holding up a sign praising the flavor combinations than I. The sweetness threw me off a bit, but that’s something I always wrestle with.
Sweet drink #2. Hot chocolate with a toasted marshmallow AND vanilla bean whipped cream!? What? I didn’t try the hot chocolate or marshmallow, but from reading Michael’s face I may have missed out. They don’t even hype it up on the menu and it just reads “Hot Chocolate.” I think they should!
You might think oh, it’s just hot chocolate. I laugh out loud at you. I’ve also made whipped cream before and this vanilla bean whipped cream is legit! Super super thick. I don’t even know how they get it that thick. It’s almost like the texture of a hard ice cream, without the frosty cold attributes.
They surprised us with this dessert teaser. It was only a few bites, but man was it packing a crisp, fruity punch. I don’t think they serve this on the menu so I could be off on what’s in it. From what I recall there were chopped up strawberries and kiwi, mango passion fruit sorbet, passion fruit curd, and shaved coconut. The curd underneath gave me the same sense as when I’m eating a parfait. This was up there with single best bite of the night. All of the flavors together hitting my senses at the same time caused instant gratification and me wanting more. It also made me ask myself what was I going to do when I finished it? “Slow it down D, let’s savor this for a minute.”
Ahh sweet drink #3 of the meal in the form of the Cake and Shake. Obviously this was the “shake” component but we turned it into a chocolate malt. You can choose vanilla, chocolate, or raspberry. We decided it was go big or go home and went all in with chocolate. The shake defines rich. My throat tingled after each sip. Yes it’s quite tasty, but you might hurt yourself if you aren’t careful.
The chocolate cake was almost lighter than the shake, although still rich and chocolatey in its own right. If you are a devout chocolate enthusiast, the cake and shake is the real deal. You might just shed a chocolate sprinkle tear afterwards.
The lighter dessert came in the form of a soufflé. But this was no ordinary soufflé, this was a Meyer Lemon Soufflé. That happened to also come with white chocolate chantilly, blueberry vanilla swirl ice cream, and lemon curd filled beignets. Here’s a shot of it before our server poked a hole and filled it up.
And then it was ready to eat. I couldn’t have been happier in my choice given the last desserts firm, sweet grip that never let go. In contrast this was warm, fluffy and light, but sweet enough to feel indulged.
The lemon curd beignets had to be my favorite on the plate. Having read meyer lemon on the menu put me in a position to only accept super lemony tartness, nothing more, nothing less. Although they were small, they burst open with the lemony goodness I was expecting. I was actually picturing the lemon component as part of the soufflé. Because of this and the fact I really enjoyed the bundle of joy beignets, I wanted more lemon. The blueberry vanilla swirl ice cream with crumble underneath gave you contrasting textures and temperatures. I appreciated it being separated from the other two warm items. Beautifully presented and well executed, I enjoyed every last bite. We were fuller than full at this point. But we made it to the finish line…so we thought.
Our server informed us we had one more thing coming. Ahem, liar! 10 little things to be exact. Wow. This combination is called “A Little Something Sweet.” The plate on the left contains items they might give you as part of their prix fixe. The other plate of course is a sample of their macaron’s. After we loosened our belts and took a few deep breaths, we were ready to attempt this “little something,” trying to erase from memory the big something we just consumed prior. I won’t touch on every single bite, but my favorites were the mango raspberry marshmallow and the mango coconut macaron. The marshmallow acted as a fruit infused pillow that melts in your mouth. I quite enjoyed the exterior shell of the macaron as well. So delicate, you almost don’t want to ruin it. But once you get into the middle you’ll never look back. The mango and coconut flavors come through so distinctly you almost forget what you’re biting into. I’ll admit, at this time we were stuffed so we may have enjoyed these a little more under different circumstances. Luckily we took some home and they kept well.
More pictures of the place so you get a feel for the environment. They also had a small dessert area in the front with chocolates and macarons you can purchase to go.
We missed the chance to take a picture with Chef Bailey but we did grab one with Chef Gerhard before we left. Thanks again for treating us to a special evening of drinks, dining, and dessert! We hope to be back to try some of the other delicious items on the menu!
3930 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
6 Comments on “D Bar (Hillcrest)”
I tried this place at the taste of hillcrest some months ago. I always forget that they have real food here (meaning non-dessert items). Do you have any suggestions for parking? That souffle looks wonderfully sinful.
Having “real food” is a plus so you don’t have to drive to two places for a complete meal! Michael got lucky and found a spot right around the block. Me? Not so much. But if I am in the walking mood or can’t find a space I usually try to find one near Scripps Mercy Hospital on 4th or 3rd Ave. That area has been fairly consistent for me.
I want those brussel sprouts! I went here for SD restaurant week last year and mostly remember the cake and the shake desserts. that last dessert platter though… *swoon* 🙂
Looking at the last dessert platter makes me smile. I love having tons of little bites to try. FUN!
D Bar is fantastic! Such a wonderful experience all around. Your pictures make the food look extra delicious. Good post!
Thanks! They’re great over there, aren’t they?