This has been a banner year for foodies along the Park Boulevard corridor. Within five weeks, two impressive new eateries opened within a mile of one another: TRUST Restaurant in Hillcrest and Madison on Park in University Heights. Here's a taste.
TRUST wasn't the first name general manager Steven Schwob and chef Brad Wise came up with for their new restaurant/bar in Hillcrest, but it well represents the faith they have in each other.
Before striking out on their own, the men - and several other TRUST staffers - worked together more than eight years with the local East.Drink.Sleep hospitality group. Now they hope diners will extend the same degree of trust in supporting their first, of a planned four, restaurant concepts.
TRUST opened Feb. 10 in the sunny ground-floor corner of Jonathan Segal's new Mr. Robinson apartment tower at Park and Robinson Avenue. Schwob and Wise hope it will become a neighborhood hangout, and, so far, their hopes have been realized.
Wise's menu is filled with playful and often surprising shareable plates that celebrate regional produce and proteins. Many ingredients are made in-house, like the yogurt dressing on the tangy beet and grapefruit salad, the sweet honey butter and two-week-cured ham on the finger-friendly hush puppies appetizer, and the bay leaf ice cream that tops the fresh-baked sticky buns served only at weekend brunch (only 20 are made each day, and they're usually gone by 11 a.m.).
Baja flavors add a pleasing twist to standard San Diego dishes like the Brussels sprouts, served with cilantro, house jalapeño vinaigrette, cotija cheese and tortilla strips, and the hamachi crudo, where cubes of raw fish are mixed in a creamy avocado mash and served with taro root chips.
Dishes are priced from $9 to $28 and portioned for sharing. Pick a bunch or let the chef choose, omakase-style. Cocktails are $9, beers are $7 to $9, and glasses of wines are $9 to $14. Bottles of wine top out at $80, with most in the $35-$50 range.
What to order: Wise's handmade ricotta agnolotti with black truffle is sigh-inducing, and his lamb meatballs, with house-pickled shallots and Fresno chiles, are like little flavor bombs.
3752 Park Blvd., Hillcrest. (619) 795-6901. trustrestaurantsd.com
Madison on Park
This new indoor-outdoor restaurant/bar is an architectural treat. The former Lei Lounge tiki garden at Park and Madison Avenue has been dramatically transformed with a classy street-facing bar and a dramatic restaurant in the back that's tucked under an open-ended, wood-paneled roof that resembles the huge overturned hull of a ship.
Madison, which opened Jan. 1, is owned by FLUXX nightclub impresario Jeffrey Fink and hospitality veteran Matthew Sieve. The menu - developed by Mario Cassineri, of BICE Ristorante and Buona Forchetta - is a mix of Mediterranean classics and Southern California-inspired healthy cuisine.
The space is beautiful, the service is warm and the vibe - though somewhat noisy - is fun and inviting. Starters and generously portioned entrees range from $9 to $19. The menu isn't huge, but it is diverse. Cocktails are $9, and wines by the glass start at $8 with the smooth Albarino white from Spain.
What to order: The tuna tartare, served with spikes of tempura shrimp, is a fun starter. The chopped salad is light and crunchy with the warm creaminess of a poached egg. And the sesame-crusted pork chop is big enough for two meals.
4622 Park Blvd., University Heights. (619) 269-6566. madisononpark.com