Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gulf Coast Grill, San Diego, CA

The Place, Gulf Coast Grill. The time, Friday night, date night. It was go time. In an (continual) effort to keep my relationship fresh and fun, I grabbed the nearest Groupon for this little place off Park a mile or two north of Balboa. Despite getting out of work early, I was pretty much exhausted so I didn't quite dress to the nines, more around the sixes, seven and a half tops. My girlfriend, as usual looked much nicer than me, and with a nod and smile I went outside and knocked on the front door. Date night had begun.
I'm sure you're familiar with the idea of taking a lady out to a classy joint and wooing her back to your place. Well this was similar, only my place was her place, and the lady in question had already been wooed. Still sometimes it pays to liven up a relationship, so I'd thought I'd give it another go. After all, what's the worse that could happen? At this point I had already fallen asleep on the couch once or twice, and both times had been watching a movie.
Keeping in the tradition of returning to old haunts I decided to go back to the Gulf Coast Grill, not our first date, technically I cooked for her on that on one, and technically not the most romantic, that would be Buon Appetito in Little Italy for her birthday. No, this was simply a place that we had gone to before, and that the food had been better than average, at least for me. The first time we'd gone there had been because she'd overheard me going on and on about how I loved Cajun food, and that had coincided with a conveniently advertised Groupon. Actually I loved any spicy, flavorful food that was often a concoction of seemingly random things thrown together for taste. As long as the gumbo is flavorful and the jambalaya has got a kick, I will probably enjoy it. Still I'd missed out on a family trip to New Orleans, and have never had the real thing. Hey, someone had to take care of the dog! So when reading this review keep in mind I am making no claim that this place is the best thing outside of the bayou. I can't say that, all I can say is that it is good, really good.
We showed up at the restaurant ten minutes later than I'd made the reservation for, but they still had a table waiting for me. A nice little wooden table, with very strait backed chairs in the corner, affording a decent view of Park street. The place was packed. Three or four people at the bar, watching "the game", and almost every table, inside and out had a couple or group at it. Everyone of them looking happy, which I took for a good omen. Our waiter showed up in almost no time, and my girlfriend ordered a cocktail, something with the words Cajun or Bayou. I ordered some ice tea and a water and perused the menu, even though I already knew what I was going to order, the Cajun Combo with jambalaya, seafood gumbo, and hushpuppies. My girlfriend pondered a couple of low priced choices until I reminded her that I had a Groupon for the place, then she ordered the second most expensive item on the menu, the Blackened New York Strip Steak. I made my order and passed the time asking first date questions that I already knew the answer to. Still she found it funny so I didn't feel like a complete idiot doing it.

Thankfully I also ordered some Gulf Coast Chowder, which came almost immediately. The Gulf Coast Chowder had clams, potatoes, bacon, tomatoes, and cream, so it was basically a New England Clam Chowder, but with more kick. I think it was that extra bit of Cajun spice that pushed it beyond your average chowder. Each bite had a hint of fire that not even the addition of hot sauce or "exciter" as my girlfriends father would say, could have added. Finally I wiped up the last bits of chowder with a bit of sourdough and leaned back contently. I wouldn't have long to wait though as our entrees came out soon after that.
I'd had the Cajun Combo before, but the hushpuppies had been a bit dry that time. This time everything was perfect. The jambalaya had shrimp, spicy andouille sausage (so andouille sausage), smoked chicken, and a crawfish on top. My first bite reminded me of why I'd liked it so much last time. The shrimp is cooked perfectly, something I am a bit particular about. The andouille sausage had just the right amount of kick. The smoked chicken, my God, it brought me back to the first time I'd eaten there and I remembered just how much a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of chicken can taste. The rice was just right, not too mushy and not too dry. The crawfish, which daunts most eaters of Cajun cuisine, sat atop it, staring at me with its black soulless eyes. I paused half a second and then remembered my aunt teaching me to eat crawfish at a Mexican place (don't know why they had it there, but it wasn't bad). I separated the tail from the head with a twist and dined upon the somewhat spicy and salty meat within. Next I ate the gumbo, with more shrimp, scallops, fish (my guess was chunks of salmon), and a variety of other sea food, in a heavenly brownish fish broth. In between I would take a bite of the hushpuppies, with a somewhat spicy sauce, chipotle-related I'm guessing, dribbled on them. They were great, which was a surprise as I usually am not a big fan of said puppies, usually finding them too dry. This time they were perfectly cooked.

Not to be outdone I had a bite of my girlfriend's dish. The New York steak was cooked a little more than I usually like, but my girlfriend prefers her steaks medium. Despite that it was great. Especially the blue cheese chipotle cream sauce. Though I must admit it was a bit more chipotle than blue cheese, the combination brought out an amazing flavor in the meat. The veggies and mashed potatoes were a nice addition, but nothing to write home about.
Filled to the brim with great tasting Cajun food, we exited the Gulf Coast Grill. Dinner was followed by a movie, and... well the rest is none of your business.

Gulf Coast Grill
4130 Park Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295-2244