Restaurant Week Preview:
Come Take a Rendezvous With Us.
It’s Friday night and Del Mar is bustling with people ready to get their weekend started. I had just fought traffic from the 5 and then went to battle in the parking garage at the Del Mar Plaza. Though I am feeling rushed, as I walk into Del Mar Rendezvous, the atmosphere is calm but full with diners. I am promptly greeted and shown to my table. Looking over the wine list, I think, “I am at a Chinese, restaurant, right? Because this wine and beer list is impressive.” There are more than 20 local, import, and craft beers and an award-winning list of 80+ wines (offered at half price by the bottle on select days, by the way). I settle on a glass of the 2010 Mud House Sauv Blanc and begin perusing the menu while I wait for my friends (and fellow Savor contributors) to arrive. Joining me that evening was Megan, our photographer; Matt, one of our co-founders; and Kamian, his lovely wife and my friend.
Savor San Diego was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of Rendezvous’ Restaurant Week menu and we were all so excited to check this place out. We decided that two of us would order from the Restaurant Week menu, while the other two would order from the regular menu to give us a good sampling of what this place has to offer.
So let’s talk about the food, shall we?
Our appetizer choices were both from the Restaurant Week menu and we decide on the Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi, and of course, the predictable choice of Chicken Lettuce Wraps. You can’t go to a modern Chinese restaurant these days and not order lettuce wraps, right?
The seared ahi was delicate and delicious. I do have to say, the sesame crust was just that, a crust. The flavors of the sesame really didn’t shine through for me but it did add a nice texture to the dish. The ahi was served over a bed of greens, dressed in a light and tangy vinaigrette, and drizzled with a wasabi aioli. The wasabi aioli is strong, but the delicateness of the salad provided a nice balance. Though the ahi was a solid start and a good appetizer, I am not sure I would order it again, only because the menu offered so many other appetizers that looked well deserving of a try.
When most people think of lettuce wraps, PF Chang’s version comes to mind. However, I think the lettuce wraps at Rendezvous would give them a run for their money. Three out of the four of us preferred these wraps over the mega chain’s. I loved the tender chicken, crisp lettuce, and the hoison sauce. Oh…hoison sauce. I could drizzle that dark, plumy sauce over anything and love it. In fact, I did. I took it and drizzled it over my leftover piece of ahi and it was delectable.
The sesame crusted seared ahi and the lettuce wraps were a great start and good choices for the Restaurant Week menu and whetted our appetites for the dishes to come. The third appetizer available on the Restaurant Week menu was boiled shrimp and chive dumplings. Given the showing of the other two dishes, I am sure this app would be a good one to try also.
For our main courses, we ordered the Kung Pao Pork Tenderloin over Snow Peas (you can’t go to a Chinese restaurant and not order “Kung Pao” anything) and the Walnut Shrimp off of the Restaurant Week menu. We asked our server, Britt (who loves photography and food so he was a perfect match for us), for his recommendations for the other two dishes. Based on that, we also ordered the Shangri-La Filet Mignon and the Chilean Sea Bass.
People. I am telling you. Get the Walnut Shrimp. This is a MUST try if you go to this restaurant. I repeat, a MUST try. And don’t make the same mistake I did and miss the caramelized walnuts in my first bite. At first I tasted the shrimp and thought, “this is good.” Then, I had a bite of the shrimp with walnuts and thought,”this is amazing.” There is nothing more to say except, get the walnut shrimp.
Next up was the Kung Pao Pork Tenderloin over a bed of Snow Peas. This dish had all the typical flavors of the Chinese dish and the tenderloin was, well, tender. I personally prefer my kung pao a little spicier but that’s not anything a little chili sauce can’t fix. While the Walnut Shrimp is not a Restaurant Week exclusive dish, this one is so you won’t find it on the menu if you don’t try it during Restaurant Week.
The Chilean Sea Bass was our third dish and it over-shadowed the Kung Pao Pork for sure. This dish is not on the Restaurant Week menu, but a great contender if you get a chance to visit Rendezvous another time. The crispy sea bass swims (get it? swims?) in a garlic ginger sauce served over perfectly cooked baby bok choy. The fish simply melts in your mouth and is toothsome. It was a little sweet for my preference, but I was the only one at the table that seemed to mind, or even notice.
The last and final dish of the evening was the Shangri-La Filet Mignon served with a teriyaki glaze over green beans and topped with grilled onions and peppers. We ordered the filet to be cooked medium and I was disappointed because it came out pretty much medium well/well. Luckily, it was a filet and it was sliced thin so it was still tender, but this did count as a strike. However, it was the only strike for the evening. Because of this and the fact that I am not a huge teriyaki-flavor fan, this was my least favorite dish of the evening. My fellow patrons did not seem to mind and preferred this dish over the Kung Pao Pork.
To round out our evening, we ordered a French press and accompanied it with a mud pie and the Xango dessert, both of which are options on the Restaurant Week menu as well as the regular menu. The mud pie was your typical mud pie. Mocha almond ice cream. Cookie crust. There you have it. But this Xango dessert….oh my. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I like bananas but not bananas in my food. For example, bananas in a fruit salad? Why do that? So anyway, I would typically never order a banana dessert but I am so glad we did. The Xango is a creamy banana cheesecake wrapped in cinnamon pastry goodness, topped with warm chocolate and caramel sauce with whipped cream on the side. Days later and I am still thinking about it and I could probably have it for breakfast. Kamian and I did agree though, as delicious as this was, it could have used some sort of alcohol; banana liquor, brandy, anything, something. But maybe it was a good thing it didn’t have alcohol in it because how would we have it for breakfast? This dessert was a pleasant surprise and is another must try.
Del Mar Rendezvous is a great place to enjoy some modern Chinese cuisine and we would recommend it over that other big modern Chinese restaurant chain any day. Don’t shy away from it just because it’s “modern” Chinese. Not only are all the chefs Chinese, but Tony, the Taiwanese head chef, helped create the famous Dumpling Inn on Convoy Street (so you know he’s legitimate). Tony brings his talent to Del Mar Rendezvous and his patrons are all lucky he did.
Photo Credits: Megan Ann Photography