When Jeff Rossman moved his Terra American Bistro from Hillcrest to El Cajon Boulevard and 70th Street in 2011, you would have thought he transported the pioneering farm-to-table restaurant to El Centro.
Where is he going?
Isn't that - gasp! - in La Mesa?
Such was the reaction from local foodies, that same dining crowd that loves to celebrate the independent, neighborhood restaurant - as long as the neighborhood is North Park or Hillcrest or Bankers Hill.
Terra chef/owner Rossman was taking a big risk, they said, asking who'd be willing to make such a pilgrimage to the nether-reaches of San Diego.
Three years later, Rossman can only have two words for the culinary naysayers: Ka-Ching.
On a recent Saturday night, Terra was packed. At 6 p.m., Aztecs fans chowed down before the game and families luxuriated in the kid-friendly time slot. As the night wore on, tables were turned and gussied-up couples on a triple date were seated. Groups of guys came in. Older couples. Friends. More families.
Where was everyone from? Who cares. The dining room buzzed with the energy of a restaurant providing well thought-out, flavorful, simply prepared, but elegant food.
The cabrilla fish special and half-roasted Mary's chicken were each perfectly cooked, tender and moist and properly seasoned. Accompanying starches and vegetables were artfully balanced side-dishes: straight from-the-farm meets restrained saucing.
Roasted Brussels were not as excessively dressed as you see elsewhere around town; as leftovers, they actually benefited from a splash of balsamico the next day.
Desserts were decadent, none more than the chocolate "cigar," a welcome holdover from Hillcrest. Slice into delicate, flaky phyllo to unleash a flow of warm chocolate. Fluffy whipped cream "ashes" rest in the playful ashtray-like plate.
The wine list offers varietal flights, something that, regrettably, you see less of these days.
Rossman works the dining room floor like a pro, warmly chatting up customers and treating first-timers like regulars.
I mistakenly left my scarf that night and had to go back the next day, a Sunday, to retrieve it. I got there at 2 p.m., just when brunch service was ending. Yet, the place was crowded.
If Rossman gambled by moving - to a neighborhood where parking is more plentiful, mind you - it looks like he hit the jackpot.
Read the full story at utsandiego.com
Terra American Bistro
Where: 7091 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego
Phone: (619) 293-7088