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Island Prime & C Level

May 13, 2014

Several weeks back, as we were really in the doldrums of tax season, and work was starting to burn both myself and my husband out, my husband suggested that when it was all said and done, we take a quick weekend getaway trip down to San Diego over Easter weekend.  At first, I was hesitant because in only 2 short weeks after Easter weekend we would be headed out on vacation.  After a bit of back and forth, my husband convinced me that this weekend trip would do us both good.  Once that was decided upon, all we need to do was figure out what we would do during our weekend away in San Diego.  One day, while I was at work, my husband texted me and told me to check out a place called Island Prime & C Level.  A quick perusal through their website and I knew I wanted to give it a try, and the beautiful thing is that the restaurant was just down the street from our hotel.  Score!  We made reservations for dinner on Friday night when we arrived in San Diego.


Island Prime & C Level calls itself “Metro Steaks & Seafood”.  A beautiful restaurant and bar that rests on stilts atop San Diego Bay on Harbor Island, the restaurant holds a prime viewing spot over the bay and looking out towards downtown San Diego and Coronado Island.  Featuring a dining room that has floor-to-ceiling windows and tables that face out towards the gorgeous, pristine San Diego bay, this restaurant is the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion or have a romantic dinner for two.  Owned and operated by the Cohn Restaurant Group which owns and operates 21 restaurants in San Diego and Maui, the restaurant has become synonymous with great food and great service in an amazing setting.


Due to the fact that we didn’t leave Los Angeles until late afternoon, it was well into the evening by the time we arrived in San Diego.  We knew we wouldn’t be here until late in the evening, so we purposely made our dinner reservations for late in the evening.  We had requested a window seat so that we could enjoy the San Diego skyline as we dined.  What we didn’t expect was to be treated to a fireworks show as well off the deck of the USS Midway which is docked near downtown San Diego.  What a way to start off our weekend getaway with a bang!


We kept the good times rolling by ordering a couple of drinks.  My husband had intended to order the same drink that I ordered, until he looked over the restaurant’s alcoholic drinks and found something that really caught his eye, the scallywag.  Made with lemongrass extract, Plymouth gin,  fresh lime and some soda, the drink was a fancy gin & tonic.  My husband said that as far as mixed drinks go, this was one of the better mixed drinks he’s ever had.  I think it was the lemongrass extract that really caught my husband’s eye, and he loved the flavor of the lemongrass in the drink.


For my drink, I ordered a non-alcoholic ginger garden made with ginger syrup, basil, mint, lime and ginger ale.  The drink actually came with whole basil and mint leaves in the drink.  My husband thought that the drink was too sweet, but I actually really liked it.  You could taste the ginger, but it wasn’t so strong as to be spicy.  The mint was refreshing, and you could just get an essence of the basil and the lime wedge added in the drink gave it the right amount of tang.  A nice, refreshing, thirst quenching drink.


Before dinner even arrived, I knew this would be a unique experience as our traditional bread and butter, was completely untraditional.  First off, the bread was a perfectly cooked popover.  And a huge popover at that.  This may be the first place in California that I’ve ever seen a popover served as the bread for dinner.  And instead of butter, we were given a japaleno jelly butter.  The combination of the hot popover with the delicious jalapeno jelly butter was fantastic.  The jalapeno jelly was just enough to add flavor and spice to the butter, but not even close to being spicy, which is exactly the way I like it.  It was so unique and different, and yet fantastic.

As it was late into the night and neither my husband nor I had eaten anything all day, we went to town on dinner.  We each decided we wanted to order our own appetizer.  Believe me, we studied the menu prior to coming to the restaurant, so we knew exactly what we wanted by the time we sat down.


For my appetizer, I debated between two different appetizers on their menu, but ultimately, I chose my appetizer based on wanting something different from what I was getting for dinner, so I went with the pan roasted blue crab cake.  The crab cake was served artistically on a plate with Dijon aioli and chile azucar pork belly over a salad with blackberry vinaigrette.  By the time the plate arrived at the table, I had forgotten that there was supposed to be pork belly, so when I saw the plate, I thought that the greens had croutons atop them.  Imagine my surprise when I picked one up and realized it was pork belly and not a crouton!  Two completely different items.  Let’s start with the crab cake.  The pan roasting of the crab cake was phenomenal.  The crust on the outside was nice and golden brown and crispy, and the cake was packed with sweet blue crab meat and very little fillers other than some herbs.  A small single crab cake worked well this appetizer since it also featured the pork belly as well as the crab cake.  The salad with the blackberry vinaigrette was terrific.  A combination of peppery arugula as well as spinach was a perfect vessel to show off the sweet, and tangy, blackberry vinaigrette.  But let’s talk about the chile azucar pork belly.  Oh my, it was terrifically prepared and amazingly flavorful and incredibly delicious.  I actually think that the pork belly was the star of this dish.


For his appetizer, my husband went with Deborah’s nut crusted brie.  Deborah is the executive chef of Island Prime and this appetizer is her creation.  The brie was served with a garlic puree and jalapeno jelly over a green salad with julienned Granny Smith apples and some toast points.  I’d never seen a wedge of brie so covered in nuts, it was crazy.  Every square centimeter of the brie wedge was covered in a variety of different nuts, and my husband found the entire dish delightful.  He enjoyed the tartness of the Granny Smith applies along with the green salad that he just ate that with the brie instead of the toast points as they would just be too filling.  When I asked my husband what he thought of the dish, he loved it.  But then again, he’s never going to say that cheese isn’t a good thing.

For our dinner, my husband and I both went with steak, and like any good steakhouse, the sides are served separately.  So let’s start with the sides as my husband and I both chose separate sides.


One of the things I love about a good steak house is that they offer creamed corn as their side.  I absolutely love creamed corn, and though I know I could make it at home, I’ve never done so.  Besides, my husband isn’t counted in the group of people who love creamed corn like I do.  At Island Prime, the creamed corn is served with pancetta, parmesan and fresh herbs.  The side dish is large, and definitely more than one person can finish, but that’s ok, that means I get to take the leftovers home to eat.  I love the cheesy parmesan crust on the creamed corn and the saltiness that the parmesan gives to the creamed corn.  The addition of pancetta is nice.  I’ve had creamed corn with bacon before, but I think I prefer the meatiness and chunkiness of the pancetta over bacon.  So, this creamed corn was definitely a winner in my book.


My husband, not surprisingly due to his love of cheese, chose to order the sharp cheddar mac ‘n cheese served with candied slab bacon and chili-fried onions.  I personally liked the flavor of the sharp cheddar that coated the penne noodles.  I also liked this mac ‘n cheese wasn’t pasta sitting in a cheese sauce but rather sharp cheddar cheese that had melted and adhered itself to the pasta creating a “dry” mac ‘n cheese.  This is very much how I prefer it.  My husband was surprised to find the slab bacon in the mac ‘n cheese, but ultimately loved it.  We ended up taking home both of our side dishes as we just couldn’t finish it.


For my entrée, I chose the “CAB” 16oz center cut New York steak.  I’m a huge steak lover, and when I saw the selection of steaks on Island Prime’s menu, I knew I’d be going steak rather than seafood, which is why I took a seafood appetizer.  I debated between a filet mignon and the New York steak for dinner, but ultimately decided I wanted the more flavorful New York steak and would sacrifice the tenderness of the filet.  And the filet came in smaller portions and I wanted the 16oz New York steak.  In the end, I wasn’t disappointed.  I ordered my steak medium rare and it came out a beautiful medium rare.  An incredibly flavorful crust and a warm pink center.  And although this wasn’t a filet mignon, the New York steak was incredibly tender, almost to the point where I didn’t even need the steak knife.  Definitely one of the better steaks I’ve ever had.


My husband couldn’t decide between surf and turf for his dinner and decided to splurge a bit and go surf and turf.  He knew right away that for his turf he’d order the “CAB” 18oz prime bone-in ribeye.  And for his surf, he opted to add an 8oz cold water lobster tail.  The presentation of the meal to the table brought a “wow!” out of my mouth.  This gorgeous bone-in ribeye topped with an incredibly delectable lobster tail.  That was a sight to behold.  My husband and I had actually agreed that he would split the lobster tail so that we could both have it.  Later, my husband said that he wished that we hadn’t decided to split it as it was so good and he wanted it to himself.  Dip that bad boy in the clarified butter they provided and the lobster melted in your mouth.  It was so incredibly flavorful and tender and delicate and just perfect.  Perhaps the best lobster I’ve ever had.  As far as the ribeye, I never even got a chance to try it because a) I was too busy eating my New York steak and b) because my husband devoured this ribeye.  I’m going to say that my husband must have thought it was pretty darn good because he ate every last bit of it.  I know he said he loved the flavor of the bone-in ribeye.  I think he would agree that this was probably one of the best steaks ever, and my husband isn’t the lover of steak the way that I am.

If you thought that perhaps with all this food we would be skipping dessert, you’d be wrong.  There’s a reason I had parts of both sides and half of my steak boxed to go, that’s because I wanted to save room for dessert.  Our waitress had warned us that the desserts were quite large and they were big enough to share, but we decided not to listen to her and each order our own dessert so that we could share with each other.  We knew we’d probably gone overboard, but hey, you only live once and we were celebrating!


For dessert, my husband ordered the potted brownie banana split.  Described by the restaurant as homemade peanut butter ice cream over a warm brownie with butterscotch, fudge and bruleed bananas, this dessert was quite a sight.  The brownie was baked in a ramekin over which a heaping scoop of homemade peanut butter ice cream was served, topped by whipped cream, some crushed nuts and a maraschino cherry.  The plate was decorated with butterscotch and fudge and there were 2 bruleed bananas on the side.  In essence, a bit of a deconstructed banana split.  My husband enjoyed his dessert.  The peanut butter ice cream was perfect as you could clearly taste the peanut butter flavor, but they didn’t add sugar into it, so the ice cream wasn’t too sweet.  That balanced out the sweetness of the brownie and the butterscotch and fudge.  The bruleed bananas were incredible, though I don’t expect bruleed bananas to be anything less.  My husband, with a tiny bit of help from me, finished off most of this dessert except for part of the brownie.


When my dessert came to the table, I couldn’t believe it at all because it was the biggest dessert I’ve ever seen!  I ordered the Retro Island Prime mud pie.  The menu described the dessert as mountains of ice cream over chocolate ganache and homemade fudge.  The whole mud pie was topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts and a maraschino cherry.  I couldn’t believe the size of the mud pie.  I knew there was no way I was going to finish it.  Even with my husband’s help, we probably left a quarter of the slice unfinished.  But darn was it good!  The coffee ice cream was superb and the layer of chocolate cookie crumble in the middle of the mud pie was fantastic.  My husband loved the chocolate ganache and he couldn’t help but continue to scoop it up.  If only I hadn’t had such a big dinner, I might have been able to put a bigger dent into the mud pie.

My husband and I couldn’t stop raving over Island Prime restaurant.  As we sat and enjoyed our dinner, we marveled at the quality of the food, the attentiveness of the wait staff, the amazing view and ambiance.  There wasn’t one thing about the restaurant that we didn’t love.  We definitely agreed that this would be a restaurant we would come back to again in the future on a return trip to San Diego.  This is the perfect restaurant for a romantic dinner out with a loved one or friends and family.  Island Prime certainly is near the top of my list when it comes to all around great restaurants in terms of view, ambiance, and food.  If you’re ever in San Diego, you should give this restaurant a try.


retro island prime mud pie with mountains of coffee ice cream over a chocolate ganache, homemade fudge

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 25, 2014 12:39 pm

    What comes to mind is the old commercial, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. That was one incredible meal. 🙂

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