Chez Loma Bistro: French Fare With a Mexican Accent
With an abundance of dining choices on San Diego’s Coronado Island, Chez Loma Bistro is not to be missed whenever you’re in the area and well worth the drive from any distance. Chef Alejandro (“Alex”) Martinez grew up in Southern California but spent considerable time in his native Uruguay and has lived in Mexico as well. Trained in the art of preparing French cuisine, Chef Martinez introduces a tangy south-of-the-border flair to his unique European-style culinary creations.
The newly renovated restaurant is a Coronado Island historical landmark, the Carez Hizar House, originally built around 1889. Since it is within walking distance of the Hotel Del Coronado and other top island hotels, many overnight guests will want to take an evening stroll to the bistro for dinner, or indulge in a morning walk if brunch is in mind. First floor seating is wheelchair accessible. The second floor private dining room can be reserved for groups up to 35 (for dining) and up to 70 for cocktail receptions.
The popular restaurant was beginning to fill up as we arrived for our 7 p.m. reservation. We were quickly seated by an open window, where we enjoyed the evening sea air during our dining experience. Freshly-baked multi-grain rolls and butter were brought to our table by our server, Justin, who performed his duties with aplomb throughout the evening. Justin not only explained the preparation and ingredients for the various menu items, but occasionally offered suggestions, pointing out a few of his favorite items as well.
Of the six items on the “Starters” list, we began with two choices: the Escargot and Tartare of Beef. As we awaited our appetizers, we scanned the wine list for Chardonnays. Justin brought out two glasses of “The Calling,” from Dutton Ranch in Sonoma (2012), “the best wine in the house,” he said. It was remarkable, with subtly fine notes of apple and pineapple, neither tart nor sweet, but crisp and refreshing. The Tartare arrived first: A hand cut of finely chopped filet mignon, shallots, horseradish, parsley and crostini. Soon after came the hot escargot plate with mushrooms, calf sweetbreads, shaved asparagus and garlic butter. Both appetizers required the accompaniment of thinly-sliced fresh, multi-grain rolls. For us, these starters rivaled the forthcoming entrées as the most memorable selections of the evening. Had we more time for a second visit, we’d be much-tempted to try any and all of the remaining items on the appetizer menu: Ceviche “Verde,” consisting of rockfish, tomatillo sauce and avocado; Shrimp Cocktail with tomato, citrus, horseradish, pico de gallo and avocado; Mussels a la Mariniere, with shallots, white wine, parsley and pomme frites; and Country Pâté, with green peppercorns, mustard, and cornichons.
Under the Soups and Salads category, another six choices were offered. Had it been a wintry day, I would have chosen the Onion Soup of house beef broth and gruyere. However the weather was warm and balmy, leaving me the decision to choose among the remaining five items, all salads. Three Chef Martinez features included a Caesar salad with romaine, anchovies and parmigiano reggiano, a Frisee Salad with Point Reyes Blue, citrus segments, walnuts and apples, and Spinach Arugula salad, with almonds, Manchego, shallots, and caper/raisin dressing. We opted for the two remaining choices on the menu: Heirloom Tomato salad with marinated melon, Manchego, pimento-kalamata salsa, and basil and the Three Beets salad, consisting of yellow, striped and red beets, thyme vinaigrette and Bucheron goat cheese. Once again, these choices were superb but left us wondering what other fine delicacies we might be missing!
Choosing an entrée—there were so many choices!—was almost stressful. When we asked both our server and Chef for assistance, the consensus of opinion from them was “they’re all good.” Bouillabaisse looked tempting: shrimp, sea scallops, sea bass, mussels and saffron. Three more seafood items were listed: Scottish Salmon with asparagus, potato puree, and vermouth Beurre blanc; Sea Scallops with crab and confit potato hash, pickled vegetables, and asparagus puree; and, third, Chilean Sea Bass. I chose the latter, served with ajo blanco (a white sauce) tarragon salsa verde, asparagus and almonds. This selection was immensely satisfying, tender, moist and delicately flakey. The freshly-caught fish from Catalina Island was seared on one side, then baked to perfection. Although I may have offended some wine aficionados who insist on white wines with seafood, I threw caution to the winds and ordered a glass of Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley (2012), a selection I thoroughly enjoyed.
My wife, who graciously shares her entrees with me (therefore giving justification for my red wine choice!) ordered the Peppered Filet Mignon. It arrived with a black pepper crust, accompanied by brandy sauce, roasted potatoes, and haricot vert (green beans). Since this was a French restaurant, she was careful to opt for a medium temperature to her filet, which meant it arrived in what some would consider medium-rare condition—cooked to perfection, actually. The filet was certainly one of the finest selections of the evening. She also chose a glass of red wine, “Eruption,” a blend from High Valley (2012) which turned out to be a little spicy, leaving one with a slight tannin “pucker” at the end–though not unpleasant–as a full-bodied wine was preferred with the peppery filet. Overall, it was a decent choice.
For dessert, when available, we both enjoy crème brulée, and one was promptly ordered. Three slivers of fresh strawberry topped the perfectly caramelized sugar surface of the French custard. Our server asked if he could bring–for our second selection–his personal favorite, and we gave approval, if for no other reason than all previous offerings proved to be winners. He returned with the house Gingerbread, served with orange-caramel sauce and mascarpone—an autumn-like spicy treat for an October evening. Three other possibilities included the Chocolate Pot de Crème with Sambuca cream, Red Wine Pears featuring orange mascarpone and caramelized almonds, and Meringue, soft baked, with crème anglaise and berry coulis.
By now we were thoroughly satiated and very pleased we dined in this lovely establishment. Nearby, a couple was also finishing their dinner, commenting that they lived an hour’s drive away and considered this place a favorite. Once dining here, no matter what other tempting choices might be nearby, it would be difficult indeed to pass up repeated opportunities to enjoy Chef Alex’s superb, imaginatively international creations.
1132 Loma Avenue
Coronado CA 92118
Tel: (619) 435-0661
Brunch: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 9:30-2:00
Dinner: Sunday – Wednesday 5:00-8:30 Thursday – Saturday 5:00-9:00