(The bell tower at Balboa park)
The best dining experience by far was at Mistral, a French restaurant located at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures, but I felt it was the type of restaurant where you set the camera aside and allow the rest of your senses to indulge. (Though you can check out the restaurant's Web site for some nice shots.)
The first treat for the senses was for the eyes. The views were absolutely amazing. Over 1/2 of the restaurant features tall glass windows that manage to encompass views the bay between San Diego and Coronado, part of the city skyline and the ocean. We set our dinner time for 6 pm, hoping to catch the sunset and although the night turned a bit cloudy, it was still very pretty. We got to watch the sun fade behind clouds and create that characteristic red-orange glow, followed by watching the lights twinkling on in the city. At the end of the night, we even caught a glimpse of fireworks! (I told Mr. VW that was all my doing... but I don't think he believed me.)
As good as the view was, even better was the food. I started with a caprese salad, made with heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and tiny fried squash blossoms. Drizzled with a fruity olive oil and wonderfully balanced balsamic vinegar, it was divine. Mr. VW enjoyed a bowl of creamy pumpkin-orange soup with vanilla-poached prawns that was also a perfect way to perk up the appetite (and talk about some unexpected flavor combinations - they totally worked, though!).
For our main courses, I had an herb risotto with scallops, while Mr. VW had a bacon-wrapped lamb loin that came with squash stuffed with a vegetables confit. My dish was good - perfectly portioned and wonderfully creamy - but Mr. VW's dish stole the show. One look at his face after his first bite and I knew I had to suspend my usual disdain for lamb and give it a try. Oh my. It was melt-in-your mouth and had a wonderful flavor. The stuffed squash was no throw away side dish, either. It was bright and light, yet comforting at the same time.
Now when you've had an amazing meal like this, one could argue there's no need for dessert. I, however, would never argue that. So on to desserts we went! Mr. VW usually keeps things light for dessert and in keeping, he ordered the lemon verbena ice cream with rhubarb and strawberry consommé and the cutest little madeleines. It was creamy and slightly tart, but still sweet enough to be "the icing on the cake," so to speak. I went straight for the most decadent thing I could see on the menu, which was the bissou au chocolat. It was a rich chocolate cake with a praline crust, topped with a dark chocolate sorbet, drunken cherries and a perfectly placed flake of edible gold. It was a sight to behold - and to savor. The dark chocolate ice cream had just a hint of bitterness, which was actually perfect for cutting the richness of the chocolate cake.
Mistral Coronado was one of the best dining experiences I've ever had (so far, anyway) and I truly hope to have the opportunity to go back some day. If you ever find yourself in San Diego, I'd highly recommend taking a quick drive across the bridge to Coronado to check it out yourself!