I had been in contact with a PR person for quite awhile before I requested a date to come down to Old Town to visit the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant. They were waiting for a new chef to come in and ramp up the menu before I came in for a hosted dinner. Thanks to Delle for setting up this dinner and night out at the Cosmopolitan!
Now, it’s known that we San Diegans tend to avoid going to Old Town for anything. The thought of trying to park there or even drop by on the weekend is a thought immediately shrugged off by anyone who lives here. The words “Tourist Trap” come to mind when you think of Old Town. The Cosmo is hoping to help turn around that trend and idea with a revamped menu and offerings, tempting locals to re-visit Old Town again for dining and entertainment. It’s not just for the tourists, after all!
I picked a Tuesday night to go. A very typical May Gray Tuesday that thoughtfully cleared up enough for Stacey and I to sit outdoors for our dinner.
Upon our arrival though, we peeked into this cool bar area while our hostess set up a table for us. The Cosmopolitan has quite a lot of history behind it. It was built in the early 1800’s by Juan Lorenzo Bandini, one of San Diego’s pioneers who settled here in the 1800s.
“He constructed and designed his grand residence, the largest in Old Town at the time, between 1827 and 1829. The single-story home was built around False Bay, which became Mission Bay circa 1944. Bandini’s goal for the home was to make sure his wife and two daughters were most comfortable. The home had seven rooms, an entrance hall, an enclosed courtyard, a corral, and several sheds and barns. It was designed with Spanish Colonial architectural features such as thick adobe walls, muslin ceilings, pane-glass windows, and a brick-lined patio.”
The Cosmopolitan has changed ownership, been partially burned and was once a canning facility for an olive factory before becoming a tourist hotel in the 1950’s before the property was sold to the state. The building was carefully restored (with 80% of the original building in tact) to how it is today. There’s even extensive history and details about the restoration on the state’s website.
The building itself is quite impressive. It turned out to be a lovely evening to sit outside and have dinner in their large outdoor area. I loved how the exterior and interior retained the olden days feel and even got a kick out of the distressed looking menus (one held on with an old nail).
This photo was taken by Stacey later in the evening, where we sat outside next to the fire pit. It was really nice because we’d get the cool breeze which was blowing the warmth from the fire our way.
We started off the evening with a few drinks. Stacey got a Margarita and I got – what else! – a Cosmopolitan. This cosmo was a little different from others I’ve had – it’s made with Grey Goose L’Orange, pressed orange and lime juice and cranberry juice. I really enjoyed the extra flavor of the orange in the drink – it gave the drink extra flavor and brightness – and didn’t taste at all like alcohol. So dangerous. And delicious.
The chef, Joseph Melluso, came out and introduced himself to us and told us a bit about his background before asking us what we wanted to eat. He told us about a few items before I started expressing interest. He said two magical words to us: “calamari” and “cheese”. Ooohhh.
Stacey is one of my non-seafood eating friends, so I happily had the Calamari to myself. Not that I could eat all of it by myself, but I was quite happy to munch away until more food showed up. To her credit though, Stacey did eat one piece of calamari and said, “Usually the texture and the taste are disgusting to me, but only the taste is this time.” Hah! The calamari here aren’t too heavily breaded and have a nice tenderness to them without that weird rubbery texture. It was a slight crisp (I can always complain things aren’t crispy enough for me, but this was fine) and the tartar sauce on the side gave the calamari a nice compliment. Cocktail sauce always goes untouched around me though.
Our second appetizer was this beautiful Cheese Plate. I only for sure remember what one item is, and that’s the top right – Gorgonzola! Underneath that we had a Spanish cheese with a rind that the chef encouraged us to taste (he told us a story about it that I sadly forgot, I should have taken notes), in the bottom left a cheese from France that has volcanic ashes in it and in the top left my favorite of the four and naturally I don’t remember a thing about where it comes from. This also came with some salami, an olive tapenade that I avoided and Stacey loved and then a pear compote. Stacey tried to get me to try the olive thing but I just gave her a funny look and continued eating delicious cheese, sans olive stuff.
The cheese plate was served with these tasty pieces of grilled toast. Stacey and I tried many combinations of cheese – pairing them together, alone, with some of the fruit or some of the meat. We were basically in cheese heaven. My favorite cheese was a softer cheese – almost the texture of a soft, creamy brie. I probably could have just eaten cheese and toast and have been a very happy girl. All of the cheeses were excellent!
The chef then started bringing out some dishes for us. I basically kind of told him what I wanted to try to eat and he spoiled us with all of these dishes! He put this Chile Relleno in front of Stacey. Stacey liked that the chile was still firm on the inside and not mushy – it held up to cooking. I had a little bite of it and I thought it was quite tasty. It was firm with a crisp outside and a nice amount of cheese stuffing inside.
I got this combination of Pollo Asada and Carne Asada with some beans tucked in on the side for good measure. I really enjoyed the pollo asada – it was tender but not overdone with a ton of flavor packed into the breast meat. I felt like I could taste individual flavorings within the meat. The carne asada I wasn’t as excited about – I thought it was a little overcooked, but maybe I just like my beef on the medium-medium rare side. The flavors were still quite good though and Stacey thought the carne asada was also very flavorful.
Next up – I got some Enchiladas! I got one cheese enchilada and one shrimp – I dug right into the shrimp enchilada and was quite happy to find large shrimps tucked away inside. I hate when you get a shrimp dish and it had tiny “I-can’t-taste-the-shrimp” shrimp inside. Not a problem here. Big, juicy shrimp gave the enchilada a really good taste experience in my happy mouth.
Stacey got the Pork Cheeks and I was kinda jealous, though getting too full to complain much about it. Stacey got a knife to cut into these little pork gems but quickly found out she didn’t need the knife – the pork cheeks came apart like butter with a simple cut from a fork. These things are packed with flavor – it was tender, melt-in-your-mouth with a touch of sweetness that wasn’t overpowering or overdone. I had some of these for my lunch the next day! Thank goodness Stacey shared the leftovers with me.
This is our table. Full of dishes.
The chef boxed up our leftovers and split them between us for sharing and then asked if we wanted dessert. No hesitation there. Yes, I surely do want dessert! He told us about a few of the desserts they had and let us pick two. Okay, I picked, but Stacey doesn’t care what I pick. But she perked up after hearing about the apple crisp which had freshly ground cloves in it. She is crazy for the cloves.
My camera got lame on me in the dimly lit courtyard so Stacey took this photo. This probably just look like a drink with a cookie in it, but it’s actually a Butterscotch Pot de Creme with a hazelnut shortbread cookie. The butterscotch creme was so smooth and rich. It had a wonderful butterscotch flavor. While it was quite rich, it wasn’t super sweet – just rich and decadent. I ate spoonfuls of it with pieces of the hazelnut cookie and it became the perfect bite: a blend of smooth, creamy sweetness from the butterscotch and a bit of crunch with a hint of saltiness in the cookie. If I could marry this dessert, I would.
Our last dessert and last item of the day was this Apple Crisp, freshly made that morning with freshly ground cloves and other spices. It wasn’t just apples, either, there were some other fruits in there but we failed to ask what they were. Probably because we were so full and happy with the desserts that we just plum forgot. This is a “mostly goo” kind of crisp with not a lot of the crunchy stuff that I usually like on crisps. If you like the goo part, you’ll love this. I wanted more crunchy stuff though so I kept to eating the butterscotch thing + cookie and let Stacey have most of this. It was a fair trade-off – I think she liked this one more since whenever she got an especially good mouthful of clove flavor, she would just stop talking and reveal in the flavors.
I would seriously come here and just eat cheese and butterscotch pot de creme. That’s a healthy dinner, right?
The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant
2660 Calhoun Street
San Diego, CA 92110