Soleil @ K San Diego Marriott Gaslamp, 660 K Street San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 446-6088
Below is a picture of the dining room at Soleil @ the K in the Marriott 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 opinions of a couple of strangers we met at the bar of our hotel.
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.
They started by bringing us the most gimmicky 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?
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 paté 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.
The Wood Fired Salami Pizza with roasted sweet peppers, chili 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.
But no, instead of sticking with a nice simple pizza, I had to go and get the Grilled Main Lobster, corn pudding, grilled asparagus, 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 scattered, but very likable 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' 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, but 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, after all, 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 LOBSTER" 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.
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.