Yupples Restaurant Review
A. R. Valentien
We had been to A.R. Valentien once, more years ago than we can remember. We liked the restaurant, but were not overly impressed. This time, though, we loved it. We do not know if they changed chefs somewhere in the last five or so years, but we were thoroughly pleased with our meal this time around. We started dinner with some cocktails and had our wine decanted. We asked for the sommelier to decant the wine at our table, since we are always a little hesitant to have our wine opened and decanted out of our sight (I know, paranoid). But the sommelier was very happy to move his operation to our table, despite the inconvenience.
The amuse was well prepared, fresh tuna tartare in a garbanzo bean soup. The tuna was fresh, the puree maybe a little overpowering, but a nice way to start the night.
We started with the platter of three terrines, which consisted of a chicken liver pate, a short rib terrine and a duck and pistachio pate. The short rib terrine and the duck and pistachio really stole the show. Each pate/terrine was served with its own accoutrements that we used to varying degrees. All of the options were flavorful and rich and good representations of different styles of pates/terrines that expressed their origins uniquely from one another and very well. We were extremely happy with the plate.
For our appetizers we ordered the Sweet Green Chili Soup and the Pappardelle. Both were amazing. The soup was full of unexpected flavor combinations. The avocado and potato added nicely to the texture and made the soup that much more interesting. We would order the soup again.
The pappardelle was equally as good. It was not the most inventive pasta, with mushrooms and pancetta, but was it delicious! The pasta was rich, so be prepared for that, but it is bursting with flavors. The pancetta added fantastic saltiness and crunch, the pasta was nicely cooked, the sauce rich and the mushrooms flavorful and of great texture. Overall this pasta proved to be a great starter.
For our entrees we ordered the Strip Steak and the Rack of Lamb. The lamb was cooked to order, a perfect medium. The preparation was unique and surprising. The feta, pine nuts and vegetables added unique and refreshing flavor combinations. The dish is rich but extremely satisfying, with the flavors complimenting one another and making every bite exciting and rewarding. My only complaint is that there was not a traditional carb. The dish probably did not need it, but I missed my potato, couscous, or whatever else that would have complimented the dish.
The steak was also just as good as the lamb. The steak tasted of good quality and very fresh. The spinach was one of the stars of the show, well prepared, nicely seasoned and an overall good representation of what spinach can do. This dish was worth finishing.
The desserts looked fantastic, and I am sure they would be, based upon how the ice creams tasted. Instead of a dessert pastry, we ordered six small scoops of fresh, homemade ice cream. We ordered banana, chocolate (2 scoops), white chocolate, herb and vanilla. The herb really stood out as something different and well done, retaining a nice herb flavor palate but not over the top. The white chocolate and chocolate were quite nice due especially to the chocolate shavings embedded in the ice creams. The banana was rich and had a perfect flavor of banana, and the vanilla was very good (though was somewhat overshadowed by the other flavors). I think based on how good everything else was, we will order off the dessert menu next time, but there is nothing we would change about our meal.
Lastly, I was very impressed with A.R. Valentien’s wine list. The list focuses solely on U.S. wines, which is rarer to find than one would think. It is a bold move that I think works very well for the restaurant.
The dining room at A.R. Valentien is split into two sections, and I can really only speak to the division of the dining room that we were in, as I did not venture into the other section. Our room was quite nice. It was longish and narrow, but did not feel cramped or claustrophobic because of the wall of windows looking outside onto the patio. We were placed in a private booth in a corner and could see the whole room, which really did not seem to have a bad table in it (except of course maybe by the door dividing the two rooms). The room is cozy; it does not feel like the room of a modern restaurant, but rather a somewhat rustic yet upscale lodge, which fits The Torrey Pines Lodge. Overall, we were very comfortable in our room and have no complaints.
Our server was very good. She was quite young, very friendly and easy to talk with, yet knowledgeable and precise. All questions about the menu were answered, and when we requested ice cream for dessert rather than the desserts offered, she went to the Chef to see what had been made for the evening. Our server was great, but the bussers were maybe a little over eager to clear our plates, coming around numerous times during the amuse to see if we were done; that continued a bit throughout the meal. That said, like the room we were sitting in, service was more than pleasant, comfortable and as before, no real complaints.
We were extremely pleased with A.R. Valentien and will return again. The crowd is a little older, so be prepared for that, but everyone that we could see seemed to be having lively dinner conversations and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Our service was impeccable and the food matched. The whole meal was worth a much anticipated second visit.