Taking a bite out of dinner under the dome
Igloo-style Dinner with a View event at Liberty Station is Instagram-worthy, but for the price, the food needs a boost
This week, San Diego’s latest experiential dining event rolled into Liberty Station with the debut of Dinner with a View, which runs through March 8.
Parties of up to six diners are served a three-course blind menu inside rows of 36 bubble-like Plexiglass-style domes lined with potted plants and glowing globe lights. Launched last winter in Toronto, Dinner With a View is in the midst of its first North American tour with events now under way in San Diego and Vancouver and another planned in Chicago in April.
For those who love social dining experiences and Instagram-worthy luxury events, Dinner with a View is a looker. But what’s it really like dining under the domes? We took a taste on preview night, and here are our observations.
All of the marketing photos for Dinner with a View depict a dazzling winter wonderland scene with the glowing domes surrounded by a carpet of new-fallen snow. It’s not quite as romantic at Liberty Station, with the domes set up on a concrete patio behind the NTC Command Center building. But the surrounding palm trees are beautifully decorated with blue lights, and there’s a quality outdoor sound system playing contemporary pop music. An outdoor bar takes the SoCal chill off the evening with no-host pre-dinner cocktails. And free parking and indoor bathrooms are happily close. It’s definitely an Instagram story dream come true.
It takes the Montreal-based company’s team two weeks to set up the dining pods, because each dome is hand-assembled from dozens of Plexiglass-style hexagons. Diners enter the domes via a zippered transparent plastic doorway. NBA players may have trouble standing up inside, but for most folks, it’s a comfortable and intimate environment. Despite their design, they’re not stuffy or cold inside, since each one has its own space heater and the zippered doorway allows in a bit of fresh air. Nonetheless, cold-weather clothing and shoes make the experience much more comfortable.
Walk among the domes and you’ll notice that no two are decorated exactly alike. They have different styles of chairs, tables, centerpieces, linens and china. Some have benches with faux fur upholstery. Some have padded armchairs. Each dome is assigned, so you get what you get. All of the domes are lined with plants in braided rope baskets. Unfortunately, the plants are artificial. There are also small glowing lights on the floor, which add a magical glow.
Celebrated San Diego chef Claudette Zepeda was recruited to design the “blind” three-course menu, where diners have a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian entree but no details on what will be served. Zepeda’s flair for Mexican flavors, complex sauces and creative pastry all turn up in the dinner, but overall it’s a disappointment for the $109 price. The appetizer, at least on our evening, was a bland cold garbanzo bean salad with shaved fennel. The meat entree was a smallish but tasty roast chicken breast with grain and spicy sauce and the fish was a pink bass filet with a creamy pesto-like sauce and pasta. The dessert was a hit-and-miss bowl of panna cotta and crisp honeycomb with a fruit puree. Service on preview night was slow, running well over two hours. With seatings planned every two hours, they’ll need to step up their game to move diners through quickly.
The final word
Dinner with a View is a clever concept that will appeal to diners looking for great selfies and a fun and different way to celebrate Valentine’s Day or a memorable outing with friends. With a better meal service, it could be a great experience. That being said, it’s better than Diner en Blanc, where diners have to bring their own table, chairs and dinner and pay for the privilege.
Dinner with a View
When: 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Through March 8
Where: Great Lawn behind the NTC Command Center, Liberty Station, 2640 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego
Dinner cost: $109.99, plus dome rental of $199.99 per party (up to six guests). A $99 dome rental deal is being offered online now for visitors who sign up for the event’s mailing list. Beverages, including optional wine pairings, are not included.
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