SAN DIEGO -- Words cannot describe the dinner I experienced this evening. We visited Candelas on Third Avenue. And I say visited, because it was so much more than just a place to eat; it was an all-encompassing environment with an amazing atmosphere, above-par staff and cuisine that was out of this world.
Our party decided on a collection of appetizers and one entree to share, because making a decision was so difficult. We all giggled a bit when our server, Tony, went over his recommendations on the menu. He said everything was "amazing" but suggested the duck, poblano soup and the avocado salad. We thought he was just angling for a good tip -- until we were presented with the incredible dishes we ordered.
The Carpaccio Franco ($12) had fan of paper-thin raw ahi drizzled with a lemon-cilantro mustard sauce served around a salad of marinated bell peppers, baby greens and tequila-marinated pear. The ahi was so tender that it melted on my tongue, but I would have liked a little more of the sauce to enhance its flavor.
Taking Tony's suggestions to heart, we ordered the Estructura de Aguacate ($11.50), which was a stacked salad of avocado, scallops, crap, shrimp, parsely and mild jalapeno with a light drizzle of mango-basil vinaigrette. The presentation was awe-inspiring. The salad was molded into a cylinder in the center of the plate with ribbons of dressing poured around the edges. It had a delicate flavor, with each ingredient complementing one another instead of competing for attention.
The Crema Fabiola ($14.50) is a stellar puree of poblano chile and cream with a half of a lobster tail poised in the center. The color contrast between the pink and white lobster and the sage-green soup was eye-catching but nothing prepared me for the taste of the soup. It was an explosion of flavor that led a few of us to consider licking the bowl when we were finished.
The only entree we ordered, the Pechuga de Pato Lucrecia ($25.50) was another sight to behold. The duck breast was cooked in its own juices until medium rare and then fanned around vegetables and mashed potato with a light passionfruit sauce. The duck barely required a knife to cut and its buttery texture dissolved easily on the tongue. Our only regret was that our pouches forced us to leave one succulent piece on the plate along with the potato. Even Tony remarked it was a crime.
We had planned to pass on dessert until Tony mentioned crepes covered in a goats milk caramel that sounded heavenly. The presentation was simple, two crepes swimming in thick, rich caramel with pecans sprinkled over the top. We each took only one bite, knowing that a second would leave us sick all night. But that one bite was all that was needed for an instant trip to nirvana. It was the type of dessert that makes you not want to put anything else in your mouth so you can savor the flavor as long as humanly possible and then burst into tears once it diminishes.
I could not even imagine a better way to end the most hectic day of the convention.