By Judi Curry / OB Rag
Kona Kai Resort & Spa – Vessel Restaurant
1551 Shelter Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
Reservations – 800-566-2524
Last month when I did a restaurant review with Deb, we agreed that we would try to do one more before the year was out. One day this week was that day and we decided to try the lunch at “Vessels” at the Kona Kai Resort. I am so glad that we did.
But, of course, it didn’t start out the way we hoped it would. I had made a reservation using “Open Table” for 12:15pm. The parking is somewhat difficult, and the lot is to the right of the hotel. One must take a ticket to remember to have validated before trying to retrieve your car.
(Yes, we remembered, but there was a glitch when we put the validated ticket into the machine and it told us we owed $24 for parking. There was an emergency button that we pushed and a nice voice apologized for the error and lifted the gate for us. But that wasn’t the problem.)
When we walked into the beautiful dining room – and it is truly beautiful – I gave my name to the Maitre D. There were three other booths occupied, and he tried to seat us at a table that was, in our estimation, the least desirable of all the tables in the room. Since we had a reservation, and since they were not busy, we asked for a booth, which they then had to clean up for us. But there was no problem in waiting for it and that was the only difficulty we had while we were there. It should have been ready for us upon arrival.
We were asked if we wanted anything to drink and at the time all we ordered was water. I did not know about this next factor and maybe you do know about it but just in case. Deb had heard that if you go to Yelp and find the restaurant and check in, you will be given a free glass of wine with your meal. After some playing with our iPhones, we figured it out and she ordered a glass of red wine; I ordered a glass of rose. It took the Maitre D to approve the wine as our waiter did not know how to do it, and he did so gracefully.
There was a live poinsettia in a pot on every table and the Maitre D said ours didn’t look good so he replaced it!
The lunch menu does not have a lot of offerings, but what they have is interesting. The “Small Plates” section is a group of appetizers, beginning with three items for $5. Kona beef slider or pulled pork slider, or a Reuben slider. But there are 8 other offerings going up to $14 and something for everyone. We had both read about the “lobster mac’n’ cheese” ($12) and thought it would be fun to share an order.
There are 5 salads listed, beginning at $9 for field greens going up to $13 for their “noble garden”, which includes red quinoa, barley, watermelon radish, garden vegetables, marcona almond, avocado and served with a lime dressing. Deb was tempted to order that one, but didn’t in the long run. If you want to add a flat iron steak, chicken, shrimp or salmon to any of the salads it was an additional $6.
There are only 4 items listed under Sandwiches including a Kona burger and grilled fish tacos for $17 – I have trouble thinking of fish taco’s as a sandwich – a grilled chicken Panini ($16) and a Kona club sandwich for $14.
There is also a listing of “Large Plates”, which included a flat iron “steak frites” for $26; Atlantic salmon for $22; Linguine Bolognese for $18 and both fish and chips and a chicken quesadilla for $17.
There are six sides listed, all $6 with the exception of truffle fries which is $9.
It should be noted there is nothing “gluten-free” specific, but I was told that the kitchen could accommodate people that had this requirement.
There are “Hand Crafted Cocktails” listed at $12 each; Sweets at $9; three coffees for $9 and zoka coffee and assorted hot teas for $4.
Our waiter, Francisco, was delightful. We had a lot of questions about what was on the menu – and what wasn’t on the menu – and he answered them with humor and accuracy.
For example, I wanted to know what came with the Kona burger for $17. He said it came with fries and your choice of fruit or salad. This is not indicated on the menu.
There is one television at the bar and we wanted to know if, during games, the game was turned on. He said it was not. It was showing lovely scenic pictures and subdued Christmas music was playing. We could hear each other without any difficulty, but I am wondering if that is the case when there is live music playing. Perhaps because it is around the music, is muted.
Deb had read about the calamari and how tasty it was, but it was not on the menu. We asked Francisco if it as available and he answered in the affirmative. After a long discussion, we decided to order it and share it also. We had no idea how it would be served nor did we ask the price. (It turned out to be $14.)
When the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese was served, hot and with evidence of large pieces of lobster on the top, Deb looked around for salt and pepper. There was none – on any of the tables. ( Francisco later told us, jokingly, that “it’s better for you without it.” ) The macaroni was cooked well; the sauce was not a cheesy sauce; very light and tasty. I wish that bread had been served with it to sop up the remaining sauce, but it was not a part of the order. It was a nice order to share.
The calamari was excellent. Although fried in strips, it was not greasy; it was hot; not chewy as so many are. I suspect it was dipped in Panko crumbs, but am not sure. The accompanying sauce was also very tasty.
By the time we had finished with the two orders, we were sated, and decided not to order a salad or a dessert.
One of the things that I noticed during the 1 ½ hours we were there was the continual sweeping of the floor. When the waiters were not busy they grabbed a broom and swept. I even saw the Maitre D do the same thing, and the floor did not look like it needed sweeping.
Daniel, the bus boy was in a little hurry to clear our plates, and we had to tell him we were not quite finished, but he, too, had a sense of humor and “allowed us” to complete our meal.
Over all, we were greatly satisfied. The total bill came to $28.08, and we had two free glasses of wine with it. (We tipped as if we paid for the wine.)
As an aside – I took the menus from breakfast and Brunch (served only on Saturday and Sunday) and the most expensive item on the brunch menu was $24 for steak and eggs. Most of the items ranged from $13-16, although some were higher. There is, for $15, a bottomless Bloody Mary bar as well as a bottomless “bubbles” or mimosas. I do not think that the brunch is a buffet; rather you order off a different menu than the breakfast menu.
The breakfast prices are from $7-$14, and there are more items on that menu than on the lunch menu.
And one more thing – there are “Vessel Nightly Happening” every night of the week. You might want to check that out too.
Would Deb and I go back? Without a doubt. It was very tasty; the view is beautiful, and our service was superb.