Plenty of over-rated restaurants in La Jolla. Nine-Ten isn't exactly one of them, though this is really up for debate. Here's a bargain $30 three-course lunch I was able to enjoy towards the end of July.
Very light and subtle dressing. Faint taste of shallots and maybe champagne vinegar. Well balanced acidity and sweetness. Most leaves were fresh and crisp (as they ought to be) but I found a few wilted ones in the mix. Wasn't so pleased about that. The hearty and robust olive oil drizzled on crostinis provided a bold contrast to this starter.
While the duck confit is impeccable, it is my opinion that the accompanying arugula salad steals the limelight. The combination of flavors and textures was just brilliant. One should expect no less from a restaurant of Nine-Ten's caliber. Pungent goat cheese is cut by puckering pickled onions whose acidity is dampened and smoothed out by delicately sweet plums. A well thought-out harmony of flavors. Texture runs the gamut from the soft cheese to the crispy nuts. Definitely an exciting salad. And needless to say, Nine-Ten's duck confit is prepared with the same high standard in mind. Use of a knife is wholly unnecessary for the meat needs only gentle encouragement from a fork to fall cleanly off the bone. It is seasoned precisely to my liking while holding back on the salt. Compared to 1500 Ocean (too salty) and Avenue 5 (slightly too heavy on seasonings), Nine-Ten strikes a medium between the two.
Epic is the word that comes to mind when shoveling down this behemoth. The light and airy ice cream gives your tongue a brief respite from the thick warm syrupy peaches underneath a layer of vanilla-scented granola. This is truly the epitome of comfort food. Sinfully good. I dare say it offers real stiff competition for my idol Mariah Swan's desserts. Easily makes my top five.
Nine-Ten has received much accolade over the years and it isn't hard to see why. However, I believe that the restaurant should improve upon several key issues. First, wilted greens in a salad is unacceptable. Second, service ranges from spotty to over attentive. Third, my water glass does not fill itself so any help is appreciated. Lastly, pacing needs significant work. I felt rushed when my duck confit arrived as I was finishing the last 40% of my salad. Despite these stumbles, lunch at Nine-Ten was a pleasurable and relaxing experience akin to a refreshing day at the spa. I want to give Nine-Ten the benefit of the doubt and say that it was an "off day" and that my server simply was not up to standard. Surely such great food does not get paired with questionable service! Only a second visit will tell, I suppose.
On a side note, I attempted to contact general manager Neal Wasserman for a digital copy of the menu I perused during my visit since the Nine-Ten website menu does not reflect the one I browsed. It would have been tremendously helpful in identifying ingredients and presenting additional dishes to 5-dS readers. Unfortunately, Neal completely brushed off my sincere, polite, and very flattering e-mail. What an insult. Even a simple "sorry I don't have time for amateurs like you" as a reply would have sufficed. Why on earth would management ignore a potentially loyal customer capable of generating favorable reviews to hook the general populace? Honestly, this experience makes me think twice about coming back.
910 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037