Harbor views are typically hard to come by in December, when restaurants pack up their patios and move their business indoors. Thankfully, Dominic’s at the Harbor has perfected an alternative. From the Italian eatery’s heated patio, diners can watch sunlight glint off the water regardless of the season. The smell of salt that lingers on the outdoor breeze complements seafood entrees such as shrimp and mahi mahi sautéed with garlic and wine. If that sounds like too much ocean for you, try a thin-crust margarita pizza topped with fresh basil and sliced tomatoes or a white pizza with three cheeses and a drizzle of olive oil. Diners can round out any meal with a bottle of vintage cabernet sauvignon or a tall boot of chardonnay from the D’Vino wine bar, located within the restaurant.
At Wine Steals, a casual wine bar and market the bar?s barrels and shelves are filled with more than 40 international wines. The executive chef, a former US Navy galley cook, arranges artisanal meat and cheese boards and crafts wine-themed international flavor combinations that either spread onto pizzas or curl up into sandwiches. For example, the pinot noir combo mixes Italian flavors of prosciutto, asiago, mozzarella, and white truffle oil.
Servers suggest ideal pairings to novice and experienced oenophiles as they pass drinks and plates across a 14-seat stone bar topped with European-style zinc. Above the bar, a chalkboard framed by wine barrels lists 40 vintages available by the half glass, glass, or bottle. Throughout the space, plush couches and chairs gather around wine barrels with wooden tabletops for more intimate gatherings or heated staring-contest championships. Wine Steals? casual approach to wine and eclectic food has earned it the title of Best Wine Bar in the San Diego Union-Tribune's 2012 readers' poll.
At the helm of his urban winery in the heart of the Cedros Design District, winemaker Adam Carruth handcrafts award-winning wines, including the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best in Class Alexander Valley Cabernet, from grapes he fastidiously collects from all over California. His team handles the production of each varietal from crush to finish, aging juices in barrels that line the walls of the industrial-chic tasting room. The final products?which range from a crisp sauvignon blanc to a bordeaux-style Surfing Madonna?slosh into customized stemware for patrons? enjoyment seven days a week. Also in the tasting room, guests can peruse the exhibited work of local artists, break into crunchy baguettes from Bread & Cie or nibble on cheese.
A small flight of stairs leads guests down into a rustically decorated room, which evokes the ambiance of a subterranean wine cellar with its earthen arches, barrel-lined walls, and soft chandelier lighting. Designed by the artisans who created Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, the dining room appeals to a similarly nostalgic whimsy. However, the cooks slightly modernize the menu's historic European roots by introducing unexpected ingredients.
The chefs elevate simple grilled-cheese sandwiches by slipping in braised short ribs, caramelized shallots, and horseradish cream alongside the gruyere and monterey jack cheeses, and a splash of cognac adds even more richness to the silken lobster bisque. Thai barbecue-glazed tofu and basmati rice also help to distinguish the menu by lending it a distinctly international flare.
Staying true to its name, The Cellar proudly features a 1,400-bottle wine list, which, according to the staff, helped to garner the restaurant Wine Spectator's exclusive Grand Award. The selection includes familiar staples, boutique producers, and rare vintages from virtually every major wine-producing region except the Marianas Trench.
Culinary school wasn’t enough of a learning experience for Hany Fadda. During the summers between his classical training at the California Culinary Academy, Hany traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. These experiences heavily influence the cuisine that he creates as the head chef of Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar, although he also celebrates Orange County by featuring an extensive wine list that includes more than 40 different local wines by the glass.
These wines complement the contemporary bistro-style cuisine. Italian cuisine appears most prominently on the menus, and the chefs strive for authenticity by importing prosciutto and hand-making their own meatballs in-house. In addition to the assorted pasta dishes, the menus also feature a number of pizzas with toppings that include everything from sausage and roasted red peppers to roma tomatoes and sweet basil. Desserts such as traditional Sicilian cannoli or tiramisu provide a fitting coda to the casually refined meals.
The eatery’s dining room embraces a more classical elegance, with silver candelabras on several of the linen-draped tables. High ceilings and archways between rooms contribute to this vaguely regal setting, as do the thrones that surround each table.