Sunday, July 03, 2005

Soleil @ the K - Gas Lamp - San Diego - CA

Archive Alert! On this day in 2004 Fred and Sam were in England: Read about the wonderful dinner they were treated to at historical Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire

Soleil @ K San Diego Marriott Gaslamp, 660 K Street San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 446-6088

photograph picture of the San Diego Skyline. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil@K
Below is a picture of the dining room at Soleil @ the K in the Marriot Hotel on a quiet Sunday evening. Eating here was the biggest mistake of our recent trip down South and I am still kicking myself that I didn't do more research into where we should have dinner on our second evening in town, instead of trusting the opinons of a couple of strangers we met at the bar of our hotel.
photograph picture of the dining room. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil @ the K
When Soleil was being so enthusiastically recommended to us I didn't cotton on to the fact it was a Hotel restaurant, otherwise I probably would not have jumped at the suggestion so eagerly. We arrived in the large, cavernous space that had very few customers and zero atmosphere. We should have turned round and run, but we didn't, we were slightly lost in an unfamiliar town, so we soldiered on.
photograph picture of the bread with parmesan and roasted garlic cloves. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil @  K They started by bringing us the most gimicky bread order I think I have ever seen. The bread, was served warm in a little paper bag emblazoned with the restaurant's logo. For some reason, I couldn't get Airline food out of my head. Maybe that has something to do with a great (for airline food) warm panini breakfast sandwich which was served in a similar bag, that I encountered on a transatlantic United flight several years ago. Or maybe it was because of the little compartmentalized tray of roasted garlic cloves and oil-dribbled parmesan cheese that was plonked down by its side. Nothing too wrong with the taste except it didn't taste like it had been made with love. How do you quantify that?
photograph picture of the foie gras. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil@K Fred has been going through a little foie gras phase recently (and there is much more to come, believe me) so I am happiest when he pays for dinner. Foie gras terrine, Caramelized Apples, Zinfandel Syrup, Toasted Brioche, $18. The pate was tasteless and too fatty (is it a misnomer to accuse it of that?). The apples and the sauce were good. Unfortunately, there was not enough toast to support the ample slice of foie gras.
photograph picture of the wood-fired salami pizza. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil @ the K The Wood Fired Salami Pizza with roasted sweet peppers, chilli oil, oregano and parmesan $12 was delicious. The base was incredibly thin, possibly the thinnest crust of all time, it was more like a cracker. The pizza, served on a wooden paddle, tasted fresh, earthy and fragrant with the scattering of green herb leaves. Oh, how I wish I could have turned back the clock and revised my order to have a pizza too.
photograph picture of the wood-fired salami pizza. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil @ the K But no, instead of sticking with a nice simple pizza, I had to go and get the Grilled Main Lobster, corn pudding, grilled aspapragus, warm lemon, m.p. [Market price on this occasion turned out to be $35]. By this stage I should tell you about Michelle, our slightly scatty, but very likeable waitress, who had assured me that the lobster was wonderful. Across the other side of the room I could see the lone wood-burning-oven chef preparing those dishes that needed fire. From my vantage point it looked like she had a pile of already-cooked lobster. She would pick a few pieces out for the plate and then shove them in the oven for that wood-fired effect. So I was eating my lobster and I wasn't really happy. The lobster flesh was as tough as an old boot, I was having trouble chewing it. I put this down to it not being freshly cooked and to it having been cooked for too long. Anyway - I struggled on - deciding not to make a fuss when Michelle bounded over to ask how everything was. But I guess my expression gave me away, I couldn't fake any love for this particular lobster, so Michelle asked what was wrong. I told her - it is tough and overcooked. Before I could stop her (I called after her to please not to), she had gone to fetch the person in charge.
The miserable manageress was a fierce, young matron in a dangerous red suit and spikey-heeled shoes that clicked ominously against the hard stone floor. The crescendo of her approaching footsteps pierced terror into my being before they stopped abruptly at my table. "You have a problem", she barked at me. I explained that the lobster was overcooked. "I'll get you another one then". It's ok, I said, I don't care for another one. (I was thinking, the last thing I need, is even more of this crap. As far as I could the lobsters were all precooked so the problem couldn't be solved that easily) She really didn't know how to handle the situation at all - she didn't know what to say - so she just walked off without a word and someone came to take away my half finished plate and Fred cheered me up by feeding me scraps of his pizza.
Michelle hinted that they were going to bring us free dessert. We implored of her not to. Please, we explained, we rarely eat dessert, even less so when it is chosen on our behalf, plus we had a sour taste in our mouths after the manageress's stern and unfriendly handling of the situation. (It wasn't like we had demanded to see the manager, that was a decision made by our waitress without our approval.) We just wanted to get out of there asap so we asked for the check. I don't know what you think, I expected to be comped something. After all they had taken away my unfinished plate. When we saw the bill and they had charged full price I asked the waiter (Michelle had mysteriously disappeared by this stage), if they were not going to do anything about the lobster problem.(A problem that they, afterall, had created.)
He went off for a while and then came back with a new check showing that the price of the lobster had been reduced by half. But the most interesting thing of all, the thing that made me laugh,was that they had actually entered a reason for the price reduction on the receipt:
"DID NOT LIKE LOBSTE" was their exclamation, when really the only way they could have redeemed themselves would have been by saying something like "WE ARE VERY SORRY, PLEASE ACCEPT OUR APOLOGIES FOR SERVING YOU SUCH BADLY PREPARED LOBSTER" So - they made it look like the whole problem was my fault when they should have accepted responsibility for the situation themselves and apologized accordingly. The idiot in charge probably couldn't manage her way out of a paper bag if she tried.
photograph picture of the check/bill. Filed under Restaurant Review, San Diego, Soleil @ the K

After dinner we tried out the open-air roof-top bar on a high-up floor of the hotel. The views were amazing but the atmosphere was lacking so we only stayed for one drink.

photograph picture of Chive logo in San Diego photograph picture of Tartine logo in San Diego photograph picture of Rice logo in San Diego

PS. This review was a

All My San Diego Reviews:
  • Rice at the W Hotel
  • Cafe Bassam, Gas Lamp
  • Chive, Gas Lamp
  • Tartine, Coronado
  • Cafe 222, Marina District
  • Soleil @ the K
  • The Living Room & The Beach at the W

  • Other San Diego Food Bloggers:
    The local's guide to San Diego eats

    tagged with and and and
    Soleil @ the K - Gas Lamp - San Diego - CA


    • At 3/7/05 17:45, Blogger eat stuff said…

      It is always amazes me when we get such horrible service, and food like this. I mean come on who recooks lobster like that? *shudder*

    • At 3/7/05 18:29, Blogger Guy said…

      Well, if you'd like to take the Biggles Road and come up from San Diego a few minutes to Encinitas and visit Big Jim's Southern Barbecue. It was so refreshing to sit down near the beaches and have a nice meal.
      This is a FAR cry from what you're used to. They have picnic benches for tables, that kind of stuff. I usually get the pork rib or chicken dinner with a Dixie Beer. The fried chicken wasn't that special, okay but not special. Don't wear pumps, get out the tennies and smile. A little ways up is Bamboo You and Tiki II (or something along those lines). I was able to get world class Hawaiian shirts for 16 dollars versus the ones in Carlsbad for 80 or 120.
      Love the area.


    • At 3/7/05 18:52, Blogger Civic Center said…

      That's a funny story, particularly since it's so self-deprecating. "Why the hell did we go to a hotel restaurant, why didn't I order something simple, why did I put with a crazy manager(ess) who belongs in a mental ward?"

      Remember the two words "Taco Shop" if you're ever in San Diego again. What used to be fast-food, Foster Freeze kind of hamburger joints have all been turned into cheap Mexican joints that provide serious soul food.

    • At 4/7/05 01:56, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      They served recooked lobster and charged $35, bad bad. Stuff like this happens, maybe you were too disorientated in a new environment. My sympathies.

    • At 4/7/05 02:45, Blogger Rose said…


      I have found ordering lobster to be tricky. After a couple of experiences like the one you describe, I decided that unless they were known for their lobster dishes (i.e. reviews or word of mouth) I would hold back from ordering it.

      That said, it's really upsetting to see how the staff were not just rude but tried to be "unaccountable" by putting it IN WRITING.

      I'm always amazed that even if I've eaten incredible food at a top restaurant, it quickly turns all "sour" in my mouth if the service is horrid (especially if its managerial staff--it's their job to manage and keep the customer happy, NOT piss them off)

    • At 4/7/05 10:51, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

      Oh dear, oh dear... I graduated from UC San Diego a million years ago, and to this day I don't think of it as dining town. Maybe Mexican at Las Cuatro Milpas, and the ribs at Kansas City BBQ (where that scene from "Top Gun" was filmed).
      My parents live in Escondido, and the only places they like to go are what my beloved husband and co-cook calls "plastic fork restaurants." Y'know: Thai, fish tacos, cheap Greek...

    • At 4/7/05 11:36, Blogger Sam said…

      Thanks everyone for all your comments. Hopefully, between us we can save another reader from San Diego and badly prepared lobster. If just one person googles "Soleil @ K" and then gives it a miss, deciding to buy a cheap hawaiian shirt, fish tacos or Dixie beer instead, then collectively we would have achieved something!

    • At 6/7/05 12:55, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      sorry ~ san diego

      foie gras good at greystone!!!!

    • At 9/7/05 09:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      sam, i don't know if you'll want to do this, but i'd write a letter to the president of the company/restaurant and tell him/her exactly what happened there. at prices like that you shouldn't have to put up with bad food OR bad service. i've done this with hotels and restaurants and they've always tried to make it up to me -- my letters are very polite but to the point. it's not the money you're after, it's the principle; restaurants are there to SERVE the people that patronize them, not take advantage of them.

    • At 9/7/05 12:30, Blogger Sam said…

      Hi Stef - you know I have thought about that in the past - but I never got around to doing it. I suppose I consider my blog to be an open letter to all the restaurants I visit, though I am not sure how many of them do 'vanity googles'. SOme do - and I have had responses from some chefs to revisit at their expense. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to take any of them up on their offers yet.


    • At 4/7/06 12:14, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said…

      I am sorry to hear this - but unfortunately it's not an uncommon problem in SD restaurants. Even the ones that are good are spotty. The big problem is consistency - you might get a great meal once, but you can't count on getting one again. I do have a couple of recs for you if you do come back - there are a handfull of places that are interesting, and a couple of local specialities you should try. If Biggles recommends Big Jim's BBQ (and that's the second recommendation I've seen) I definitely have to try it!

    • At 7/4/07 12:01, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I was thinking about eating here since the Chef is from Hells Kitchen. I was just wondering if you had returned since he started to see if anything was different.

      Although with a experience like the one you had I wouldnt expect that you had.

      They have got great reviews in just about every thing els I have read online.

    • At 4/7/07 00:07, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said…

      fyi - Big Jim's Old South BBQ has closed, for anyone who might have been interested. Sadly, I never did make it up there.

    • At 20/7/07 00:28, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Just a few notes. The 'did not like lobster' entrance is a selection from others like 'wrong order' or 'changed mind'. It has nothing to do with the customer... it has to be entered in for accounting. Your complaint went directly to accounting. If it was Scott Liebfried he would have taken that complaint and made sure the lobster was done properly in the future. I am very familiar with Soleil @ K, and I suggest you give it another try. The food there is fantastic, and that might have been a one-off. I also know Michelle, she has served me before, and she is a great waitress.

    • At 9/8/07 00:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      2 years too late...Michelle.

    • At 4/9/07 19:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I have recently dined there 8/4/07 and it was amazing. The menu didnt even have lobster. the chef was new. He is acually on the show hells kitchen. So i recomend any one to go there.

    • At 4/1/08 12:51, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I don't understand why people from Europe and UK would go all the way to San Diego and eat primarily European and Mediterranean food. If you did your homework, you would have eaten some of the local, world-class home-style Mexican food that can't be beaten. Also, most locals know that the better resteraunts are really in La Jolla, Encinitas. La Costa or Carlsbad.

    • At 4/1/08 13:50, Blogger Sam said…

      Ysnaft - there are a number of factors:

      1 - At the time of the visit 2.5 years ago I tried to reserach my visit to San Diego using Chowhound. At that time I could not really find any San Diego food blogs or other information. Neither did I have a lap top for checking out recommendations whilst at the hotel.
      I made a mistake and I admitted it and in doing so got many great Mexican recommendations from readers.
      Also I have travelled extensively in Mexico and I live in SF which is also quite Mexican friendly, so it's not like I am a stranger to authentic to Mexican food. I don't feel the need to have to eat the San Diego version when I have already eaten the real thing.


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