Location, location, locationEat This!, Latest Issue Thursday, May 11th, 2017
I’ll admit I’ve had a long love affair with Balboa Park, and adore its lushly landscaped grounds, numerous museums and secluded trails. It’s no surprise then that I found myself at The Prado one recent warm spring afternoon for a nosh and a cold beverage. The restaurant, a member of the Cohn Restaurant Group (CRG), is located in the National Historic Landmark House of Hospitality, a magnificent example of Spanish-Renaissance architecture with its beautiful centerpiece, Woman of Tehuantepec, created by acclaimed San Diego sculptor, Donal Hord (B: February 26, 1902, D: June 29, 1966).
I took a seat in the cool shady loggia and admired the graceful archways, colorful tile and dark wood details. Wendy greeted me with a broad friendly smile. She said she felt fortunate to work at The Prado, explaining the CRG was a great company, but she especially enjoyed working in the “heart of Balboa Park”.
“Location, location, location”, I replied.
Complimentary crackers were brought to the table. The homemade crackers, similar to a thin lavash, come in two varieties, cheese and wild seed, and are served with a portion of garlic chipotle hummus. The fennel and anise seeds provide a kiss of licorice which perfectly complimented the savory spread.
I sipped a Mission Brewery Blonde Ale ($6) while perusing the brief but well-balanced happy hour menu. The flaxen light-medium bodied beverage, five percent alcohol by volume, has floral and fruity notes on the nose, like apple and honeysuckle, a good amount of carbonation in the mouth, with a grassy, malty flavor on the tongue and a burst of flowery hops in the finish. Very refreshing.
Menu selections ranged from the Chicken Chopped Salad to a Three Cheese Flatbread, but I opted for the Crispy Green Beans ($5) and the Korean Beef Skewers ($5). “Excellent choices”, Wendy said.
Fresh green beans are dipped in a rice flour tempura batter, deep fried to a tawny brown and served with a mayonnaise and Point Reyes blue cheese dipping sauce. The result is a tender slightly sweet treat with a delicate crunch. So addicting! I could not stop putting them in my mouth.
The juicy beef skewers, grilled to medium-rare perfection with a lovely caramelization, are served with kimchi slaw and a cashew curry sauce. The slaw is a mélange of shredded cabbage, carrots, snap peas and spicy kimchi dressed with soy, ginger and fish sauce. The curry has the consistency of hummus, but with nutty sweet cashews as the main ingredient instead of garbanzo beans. The well-executed dish hits every note of the flavor profile. Delicious!
Dessert selections include Wendy’s favorite, the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Bar, and the most popular choice Tres Leches, made with soaked sponge cake, baked pistachio meringue, caramel bananas and vanilla bean ice cream. I instead chose from the list of “decadent additions” to satisfy my sweet tooth. The Lemon Meringue ($11) is a sweet blend of Hangar 1 vodka, Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur made with vanilla and citrus juices), fresh-squeezed lemon juice and whipped cream, shaken and served in a sugar-rimmed glass with a lemon rind twist. Heavenly!
The Prado at Balboa Park, open six days a week, is a great place to bring out-of-town guests, or to enjoy dinner before seeing a play at the Old Globe Theatre. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
The Prado at Balboa Park
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park
Open Tuesday-Sunday, hours vary
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