A restaurant in a treehouseBottom Highlights, Eat This! Thursday, April 16th, 2015
If dining beside a waterfall cascading beneath a lush canopy of tall palm trees and swaying bamboo appeals to you, then you’ll adore Albert’s Restaurant in the world famous San Diego Zoo. Located in the Lost Forest, Albert’s has offered full-service dining since opening in 1992. Their menu features globally inspired cuisine with a variety of fresh seafood, chicken and beef entrées, as well as pasta, pizza and bountiful salads. I visited Albert’s one recent afternoon and even though the restaurant was extremely crowded (note to self: avoid the Zoo during spring break), was seated quickly on the restful patio.
I selected the sautéed Artichoke hearts as an appetizer and the three-cheese ravioli with shrimp as an entrée, then strolled around the Safari-themed dining room to admire the artfully displayed collection of carved tribal masks and colorful textiles. Albert’s has a full-service bar, too, with a variety of craft beers, specialty cocktails and fine wines. I chose the 2012 Pinot Gris to compliment my meal. The pale gold light-bodied wine from King Estate, Oregon, is crisp and refreshing with hints of green apple and a muted acidity.
Rolf, my hurried but unruffled server, said “enjoy” as he placed the small zebra-striped plate before me, and enjoy I did. The appetizer is a delicate balance of earthy roasted red peppers, mild pan-seared artichoke hearts and savory-sweet poached garlic cloves tossed in a light blend of olive oil and lemon juice. The soft chew of the vegetables contrasted nicely with the hearty crunch of the cheesy herbed crostini. So satisfying and gone too soon, I thought, dabbing my lips.
Dining at Albert’s is just one of the Zoo’s many highlights. I thought about how the 100-acre attraction, known for its naturalistic habitats set among 700,000+ botanicals, is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals from 660 species and subspecies! My contemplation was interrupted when Rolf delivered the main course.
The large spinach ravioli are filled with a velvety blend of romano, fontina and ricotta cheeses, and served in a rich tomato-tinged sauce of butter, cream, minced chives and chablis reduction. Six firm medium-sized pink shrimp nest atop the delightful green pasta. The presentation is completed by a drizzle of basil oil and shaved aged parmesan. Warm sourdough rolls, with a light airy texture and good thick crust, accompany the dish.
I did not order dessert, but instead requested a margarita “to go”. It’s a little known secret, but Zoo patrons can sip adult beverages, sans plastic straw, while viewing the plethora of plants and animals. The thirst quenching blend of crushed ice, organic tequila, sweet agave nectar and tart lime juice is hand-shaken and served on the rocks. The perfect brace for slogging through the chafing throngs of spring breakers.
Surrounded by tropical splendor, it’s easy to understand why USA Today named Albert’s Restaurant one of the best places to “dine amid outdoor beauty”, and a great venue for special events. They are presenting a Spring Winemaker Dinner April 25, featuring Merryvale Vineyards; a special Mother’s Day Brunch Sunday, May 10; and a Spirits Dinner featuring Ballast Point’s “Taco Series” Fugu Vodkas Saturday, June 6. Check the Web site for menus, prices and ticket availability, but hurry, these events sell out fast.
Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
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