Having been a chef for the last 15 years and living in Alpine for the past three, it has been a struggle finding places to eat without having to drive 20 or more miles into La Mesa, San Diego or any of the beach communities. That being said I have begun searching and scouring the East County to satisfy my needs as a chef as well as really discover what East County has to offer. It’s time to do some homework.
Having been to the recently (early 2013) renovated Viejas Resort and Casino, which is far better than the previous version, I wondered if the restaurants had also undergone such changes. I had heard mixed reviews about The Grove Steakhouse at Viejas but wanted to venture out into my own backyard and like I said before, “Do some homework.” I made a reservation for two.
Taking a short drive to Viejas we valeted the car and walked to The Grove Steakhouse through the beautifully decorated hotel lobby, chic and modern. Hand blown glass feathers adorned the walls, chandeliers hung from the ceilings, and earth toned colors throughout with rich wood accents. We proceeded on through the casino to the entrance of The Grove Steakhouse.
We were promptly greeted by the evening’s hostess and escorted to our cozy booth. The interior of the restaurant was incredible, iridescent blue, green and white glass tiles on some walls, deep blue embossed paisley wallpaper on the others. Rich fabric covered the cushions and chairs, and the final touch were the large, white, floor to ceiling trees that ran down the center of the restaurant.
After getting settled our server welcomed us, introduced himself and presented us with the wine list and dinner menus. He thoroughly explained the wine list and dinner menu as well as informed us of the evening’s special, which was Cioppino, an Italian-American fish stew that originated in San Francisco. After taking a few minutes to peruse the menu we ordered. (The server was very knowledgeable about the menu. Along with our drinks was delivered an Amuse-bouche (a small bite sized Hors d’oeuvre). Puff pastry filled with herbed goat cheese and a thinly sliced cucumber. Always a pleasant surprise, and gives a touch of class.
First course; Fennel and Coriander Crusted Day Boat Scallop. Beautifully seared and nestled on a bed of sautéed, shaved brussel sprouts, beurre blanc and cilantro oil. The scallop was huge, buttery, flavorful and light. You wouldn’t think that brussel sprouts would be served with scallops however when sautéed it provides just the right amount of piquant to cut through the richness of the dish and allowing the scallop to remain the star.
Second course; Maple Glazed Pork Belly served with a salad of fennel, radish, frisee, duck confit and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. The Pork Belly melted in your mouth as soon as you bit into it, the crispy sweet, salty flavors hit on just about every taste bud, and then came the Meyer lemon vinaigrette, which finished off the last taste bud.
Second Course; Roasted Duck Breast with pea shoots, potato, apples sautéed in truffle honey, and blackberries. The duck breast was cooked as you would expect, with a perfectly executed crispy golden brown skin. The pea shoots gave the dish a touch of Spring, bright green in color and full of flavor, the potatoes provided substance but fell short in flavor, however the apples made up for what the potatoes lacked. They were coated in a thin sweet coating that mimicked a thin candy shell, blackberries were sliced and strategically placed around the duck to complete the plate.
Steak! Oh yeah, the main reason why we are here. Viejas uses Sterling Silver Premium Beef which consists of only Prime and top tier Choice grain-fed beef cattle, rich in marbling and aged for a minimum of 21 days to maximize the steaks flavor and tenderness.
I am a sucker for a good Rib eye so it was a no brainer. I ordered the Bone-In Rib eye. My wife ordered the Special, Cioppino.
The Cioppino was amazing, name a seafood; it was in there. Mussels, clams, shrimp, sea bass, salmon, scallops served in a rich herb scented tomato broth. The seafood was fresh, delicious, and abundant. The broth coated your tongue like velvet and then was gone just as fast, so much flavor. If you’re a seafood lover this is a must.
My Rib eye was served as requested, medium rare. Lightly dressed greens, half a tomato, and fried onions garnished the plate. Traditional, simple and not over complicated. Grill marks formed perfectly charred diamonds on the steak, the meat was well seasoned, tender and juicy with just the right amount of marbling and fat. It was full of flavor, cut like butter, and melted in my mouth.
Our plates were cleared and our server recommended the Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert. The cake was served with Crème Anglaise, Chantilly Cream, and fresh raspberries. It was decadent, the raspberries were sweet and tart, enough to cut through the richness of the cake and get you ready for the next bite. Well done!
It had been a wonderful evening of great food and conversation. The restaurant was beautiful, service was impeccable, the Chef’s attention to detail in the dishes being served was apparent. If you have not been to The Grove Steakhouse I recommend it.
Oh yeah, as we were getting up to leave the Lobster Mac and Cheese was being delivered to the table next to us, the one dish we missed out on. It won’t be long before we’re back.