Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: Brigantine Coronado

Pan-seared salmon at Brigantine
If there's a classic San Diego seafood restaurant, it's probably Brigantine. It's been around almost 50 years, and has since expanded to no less than seven locations sprinkled across the county. Amy and I tried out the Coronado location for our Saturdate night.

I got a raspberry mojito, which was sweet and very raspberry (both natural and artificial) with a hint of mint. Amy's paloma mule really was like two drinks in one, with the citrus up front followed by a sweet, gingery finish.

Our calamari strips were a mixed bag. Presentation was lacking; the nine or ten floppy strips barely filled a small plate. The thin breading also left a lot to be desired; these strips could have been an irresistible had they had a thick, crisp batter. The jalapeƱo white sauce was the saving grace of this dish. The dipping sauce is a signature of Miguel's, Brigantine's sister restaurant; it's rich, creamy and comfortable with a mild heat, like the best nacho cheese ever.

Lobster tacos at BrigantineMy pan-seared salmon light yet satisfying, cooked medium and tender. The butter avocado sauce had that browned, caramelized glow that amplified the natural butteriness of the fish. A bed of chorizo, roasted poblano and sweet corn served as a delightful complement, adding a dose of tanginess and salt. It was finished with sprouty, herby sprinkle of microgreens. In sum, a good dish that was more than the sum of its parts.

Amy's lobster tacos were the best part of dinner. I can best describe them as "lobster and chips" in taco form. Massive chunks of lobster were swathed in a thick layer of beer batter, combined in a taco with a fresh cucumber and jicama slaw and creamy cilantro sauce. It was delicious, at least as good as any fish 'n' chips I've ever had and probably better from light natural sweetness of the lobster. The fries had a prominent (but not too prominent) truffle taste and a sprinkle of parmesan, though they definitely should have been crisper and could have used a sauce.

Flourless chocolate cake at BrigantineWe ended the meal with a slice of flourless chocolate toffee cake. It was definitely tasty, with a rich dark chocolate flavor that topped with (what else?) a smooth chocolate ganache. The only issue here was that there was very little actual... toffee. Some shards of thick caramelized crunch would have really put this cake over the top, but instead we got a few small bits with almost no texture to them. The vanilla ice cream helped, but I couldn't help but feel let down just a bit.

Brigantine occupies a distinct niche in our restaurant ecosystem as the "default" seafood place: It's solid cuisine that you can find in locations from Imperial Beach to Poway. It's certainly true that there are better options in its category—Herringbone and The Marine Room come to mind. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Brigantine's upscale yet approachable atmosphere helps preserve its status as a San Diego mainstay for another 50 years to come.

Score: 7 out of 10 (Very Good)

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