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We arrived at the bustling restaurant of Jake’s Del Mar in the pouring rain. Yet, even in such bad weather, business was booming. We were seated at two of the best seats in the house, with a beautiful view of the stormy ocean. Our waiter, Andrea, was very nice and knowledgeable on all of the dishes. While we waited, I had a delicious hot chocolate. It was mildly sweet with a rich milky flavor and sultry undertones of cocoa. The cold, sweet whipped cream and the warm chocolate warmed me as I watched the rain pelt the restaurant.
Then, the first dishes arrived: the Crispy Calamari and the Grilled Prawns. The calamari wasn’t like the usual crunchy rings, they were long strands of chewy, tender squid encrusted with crushed macadamia nuts. They tasted scrumptious when they were dipped in a tangy Polynesian sweet & sour sauce. Next, I tried the shrimp, which were wrapped in salty prosciutto. There was also arugula salad and sweet melon dipping sauce, simply delicious.
After the appetizers, we had Wild Mushroom Soup and salad. The Hearts of Palm Salad was refreshing, with nutty hazelnuts, crunchy butter lettuce, and sour but tender hearts of palm in a basil dressing. At first, I thought that hearts of palm were a part of a palm tree, but Andrea told me that it was the center of a type of lettuce. The seasonal soup was one of the highlights, and one of my favorites. It had the intoxicating aroma of white truffle oil and basil, and creamy, fragrant Shitake mushroom soup. The soup’s rich, earthy flavor combined with smoky, savory, and mildly sweet flavors to create a complex taste and texture.
As we finished the second course, suddenly the restaurant was illuminated with a purple flash, followed by the boom of thunder. The storm was approximately 30 miles out to sea, I calculated. Then, the entrees arrived at our table. Jake’s Del Mar had very fast service. The first entree was the Pepper Jack Burger, with smoky BBQ aoli, fried onion strings, flaky fries, and tart tomato. The burger was delicious, but it was a bit burnt even though I asked for medium-rare. By now, the storm was about 5 miles away. Then, we had the Seafood Trio, with nut crusted salmon, shrimp and scallop, forbidden black rice cake, and honey Wasabi sauce. I thought that the seafood was pretty good, but the Wasabi was still too bitter for my taste.
Finally, we had a creamy Hula Pie for dessert. By now, the storm was already upon us. The wind howled and the thunder exploded outside. Suddenly, the lock on one of the windows burst! Luckily, the window wasn’t next to us and it didn’t break. When I looked out the window, the Poseidon restaurant next door was being battered severely. The restaurant had tarp and plastic sheets for windows – not that great for handling a storm! Our Hula Pie arrived, and we ate some of it as it was a huge portion. It had thick, rich macadamia ice cream, fluffy whipped cream, powdery Oreo crust, and satisfying, sinful hot fudge. This is my mom’s favorite dessert, the menu says “This is what the sailors swam to shore for in Lahaina,” and we now know why!
I enjoyed meeting chef Dustin Anselm, who came by during dessert. When asked who are some of his admired local chefs, he mentioned chef Paul McCabe, whom we know well, who used to work at Kitchen 1540 nearby.
Two days later, mom and I came back for Sunday brunch. I had some tangy pineapple nature juice as a beverage, and we got the Apple Candied Walnut Salad. The sheep cheese in the salad added a slightly rich, sour flavor that had great contrast with the crispy apples, crunchy nuts, and sweet cranberry vinaigrette. As we enjoyed our next dish, Pacific Crab Omelet, I watched hang gliders glide outside with all sorts of bright colors. Our crab omelet was crunchy on the outside but soggy on the inside. The spicy sauce complemented the juicy, flaky crab, but I thought that the portion size was too large.
Then, we tried the delicious Banana French Toast. The soft, mushy toast was surrounded by cornflakes, syrup, and fruit, and the distinctive taste and texture of mashed bananas mixed with the tasty eggs in the toast. The next entree was Pecan Crusted Sea Bass, the best dish. I enjoyed the tart red pepper puree and the tender fish that contrasted with the crunchy pecans and the chewy couscous.
Lastly, we had the delicious Passion Fruit Cheesecake. The cake had raspberry and passion fruit coulis, and was creamy, rich, but not too dense. The presentation was absolutely stunning, like a work of art!
The friendly manager Nicole told me about the restaurant’s participation in San Diego Food Bank. Each month Jake’s employees volunteer at the Food Bank sorting and preparing food for those in need. I would love to see them in action in the near future.
Overall, I give Jake’s Del Mar 4.5 starfish, it’s “Perrific!” It has become one of my favorite restaurants in Del Mar. Almost everything in the restaurant was delicious. The service was fast and friendly. The only things I didn’t like were the bitter Wasabi and the burnt pepper jack burger. The serving size for the crab omelet was too big, but in a way, that was good because I had something to eat the next day! If you desire fantastic food while watching the ocean waves (with or without storm) by the gorgeous beachfront, there is no better place than Jake’s Del Mar. Make sure to ask for seats by the window for best view!
Note: Jake’s Del Mar is a participating restaurant for the San Diego Restaurant Week. Many items reviewed here are included in the Restaurant Week menu.
Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide. Perry and his family live in the community of Carmel Valley San Diego.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom.