summer tasting menu at vessel restaurant

Earlier this month I was invited to another media event for the Vessel Restaurant over at the Kona Kai resort hotel in Shelter Island. Jake finally got to be my date this time around! Vessel Restaurant was featuring dishes from their new summer menu and each course was paired with a local craft beer.


Hence everyone had tons of beers surrounding their place setting at the table.


I don’t usually drink this much and honestly I’m not a huge beer fan (sad, I know, living in the mecca of San Diego craft beer) so I’ll only be talking about the food here. What a surprise, eh?


We got to drool in advance, looking over the tasting menu and seeing what was to come!


Our first course featured this luscious looking hunk of 48 Hour Pork Belly.


Look at this glistening piece of deliciousness! The top crust of the pork belly was seared to give it a little crunch of top and the pork belly itself was tender and moist. It was served with some delightfully tasty sweet potato spaetzle. Spaetzle are like little dumplings or pasta – akin to gnocchi in my mind. They tasted great with the pork belly. That little smear of stuff on the plate is a dark chocolate mole that I surprisingly enjoyed very much with the pork. I loved this dish! 


Our second course was a sweet and salty dish with a roasted pear, a creamy stinky blue cheese (it was not Roquefort as stated on the menu, but I don’t remember what the substitute was), edible flowers, and a caramelized black pepper vinaigrette. The blue cheese was indeed very strong but I liked it paired with the sweet, soft, roasted pear. I could only do a tiny bit though as the cheese was extra super duper strong. The black pepper vinaigrette was not my favorite – it was too peppery for my tastes, giving everything a little bit of a bitter note. I don’t like bitter tasting things.   


The third course was a seafood course featuring corn dusted albacore tuna. I requested no seafood for Jake so he got the same dish but it was prepared with slices of pork belly instead of albacore tuna. I actually got the tuna dish, but I don’t like tuna in any way, shape, or form so I tried some of Jake’s dish. The pork belly here was a bit drier and not quite as moist as the first course so I didn’t really feel like it was a winner. But that stuff in the jar… that stuff was good! 


The tasting menu stated this was a serrano custard. I referred to it as that “weird corn custard thing”. It had bits of dried corn that were chewy and soft along with creamy sweet custard on top which gave it a very interesting and very different texture. I wasn’t really sure if I liked it at first but it grew on me and I gobbled the whole thing up. I liked the sweetness of it and how it tasted just like eating corn – but with completely oddball textures! 


Fourth course! POPCORN! What! 

Yes, the fourth course was listed as a dry aged prime rib with blue cheese popcorn! I was surprised and excited to see popcorn on our plates for dinner and I’m sure I was the only one but I liked the popcorn more than the prime rib… shhh….


The prime rib wasn’t bad or anything. It had this big old pat of foie gras butter on top but the prime rib still tasted a bit underseasoned to me. Maybe I’m just nuts, I don’t know. But boy did I love that blue cheese popcorn! It was tangy and crunchy and I loved it! Jake actually asked for more popcorn for me so I could take it home because he knew I loved it so much (and I kind of wondered aloud about that). He is awesome. 


We’re not done yet! This isn’t even the last course! This is the fifth (!) course and it had this little itty bitty confit game hen. I mean look at this thing! It’s adorable in a carnivorous kind of way. It looks all glazed and glistening because it has a quince lacquer all over it (makes it sound like it was a wooden deck, doesn’t it). I only remember nibbling at this one since I was getting full, I was talking to Local Wally sitting next to me, and I was trying to save myself for dessert. I do remember it was incredibly tender and on the sweeter side.   


For our sixth and final course the chef presented crema catalana with almond semolina biscotti. If you’re thinking “that looks like creme brulee” then you’re pretty close! It does have the burnt sugar crust on top but this like the Spanish version of that same dessert. You can see that the crispy top doesn’t go all the way to the edges. That’s due to using an iron broiler to sear the top. Check out this post on how to make Crema Catalana to see what I mean! The top had a nice crunch from the crust and the creamy custard was a little more loose than I’m used to, but it was a very good dessert. The biscotti tasted wonderful when you dipped it into the creamy dessert. 

Overall it was a really fun evening! I’d come back just for second rounds of pork belly myself. I was also able to see Jinxi & S again as well! You can see Jinxi’s take on the evening right here. Michael from San Diego Food was also in attendance and wrote about the evening as well as Chez Shinae, Danielle from, and Gwen and Steve from San Diego Dining Dish

Vessel Restaurant
1551 Shelter Island Drive
San Diego , CA  92106

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine on behalf of the Vessel Restaurant. Our meal was complimentary. All opinions and content are my own and do not reflect the opinions of the Vessel Restaurant or Kona Kai Resort.

2 thoughts on “summer tasting menu at vessel restaurant

  1. Everything you had looks good, especially that pork belly (crispy skin!) but without the blue cheese stuff. I remember when the Kona Kai looked liked it was straight out of tiki heaven. It’s changed since they remodeled in the mid 90’s and even more recently so,

    1. I don’t remember the tiki vibe, but I never really went to Shelter Island all the much. The pork belly was so so so good! That little bit of mole went so well with the pork.

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