Island Prime Manages to Deliver an Authentic Fine Dining Experience With a Laid-Back SD Vibe

From www.justluxe.com by Nicolle Monico
Island Prime Manages to Deliver an Authentic Fine Dining Experience With a Laid-Back SD Vibe

In this city, actual, classic fine dining can seem non-existent at times. Not that San Diego doesn’t have its share of top-notch restaurants, but this southern California destination has always thrived on their chill, laid back, jeans-and-tee-shirts attitude. So it was nice surprise when Island Prime, a high-end restaurant on Harbor Island, flawlessly delivered the kind of elite service, food and atmosphere you’d expect from a fine dining establishment.

island primePhoto Credit: Island Prime

Overlooking downtown and across to Coronado, Island Prime’s building is actually home to two restaurants, the second being C Level, an upscale-yet-casual sister restaurant. Both owned by the Cohn Restaurant group, Island Prime is helmed by Partner/Executive Chef Deborah Scott and Mike Suttles, Chef de Cuisine. In 2005, Chef Scott became a full partner and opened both restaurants with the Cohn’s on July 4th weekend (almost 10 years ago today!).

Unlike C Level, Island Prime does offer reservations, so be sure to ask for a window seat if available; the view around sunset is incredible. Its interior is decorated with exposed wood beams, seafoam green booths, fresh flowers and warm, dim lighting. The restaurant includes an extensive wine list of over 400 bottles featuring Californian, French, Italian and Chilean labels. Because of this, after scanning through the drink menu via an iPad, we sought the advice of our server. While not a sommelier, he knew a great deal about the varietals and flavor profiles of all the wines we had questions about.

island primePhoto Credit: Nicolle Monico

Island Prime’s menu is a mix of seafood and steak with à la carte sides. Items such as Oysters Rockefeller, A Study in Lobster and a Seared Ahi Stack are included in the Appetizers From The Sea menu. We went with the Pan Roasted Blue Crab Cake with dijon aioli, chile azucar pork belly over frisée salad and blackberry vinaigrette, and Chef Deborah's Pepita & Sesame Crusted Brie from the land menu. If cheese is your thing (which it should be), this brie dish is a must.

One thing we noticed while dining, is that we never felt rushed. Between courses, we were given as much time as we wanted to savor our dishes before the next arrived (we may have nibbled on the brie for a while). In our over-eager, “now!” culture, it’s nice to pump the brakes and just enjoy the dining experience as it was meant to be: relaxed and unhurried.

island primePhoto Credit: Nicolle Monico

For our main course we opted for the Center Cut Filet Mignon and the Prime Bone-In Rib Eye, each paired with two garlic herb prawns for a surf ‘n turf option. It’s no wonder the restaurant is known for their steaks, both came out juicy and full of flavor. My companion even suggested that this was better, if not just as good, as his recent dinner at a certain Thomas Keller restaurant (high praise indeed).

Before heading home for the night, we concluded the evening with coffee and the Amaretto Cheesecake topped with brulee’d bananas, spiced almond brittle and a shot of amaretto. Please don’t visit Island Prime without saving room for this dessert. It’s large enough for two to share, and is rich, creamy and worthy of a slow clap. And those bananas, amazing!

island primePhoto Credit: Island Prime

Island Prime functions as a dance, with the staff quickly clearing tables, delivering food at the perfect time and instinctively topping off drinks, all while seemingly being invisible. This kind of service is exactly why people love fine dining, and Island Prime does it all well. If you’re in search of a date night spot, a spot to hold a chic business dinner, or are just in the mood for steak on a Tuesday night, this is your place. Island Prime is open nightly at 5 p.m.

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