While San Diego has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, in early 2015 a fresh face appeared on the region’s distinctive dining scene in the form of Oceana Coastal Kitchen. This airy bayside eatery dishes up chef-driven, seafood-centric California cuisine amid sweeping waterfront views that’ll keep you coming back for more.
At the helm of Oceana Coastal Kitchen, which is ensconced in the Catamaran Hotel and Spa situated on Mission Bay, is Executive Chef Steven Riemer—a prodigious, sustainability-oriented chef who boasts more than twenty-five years of culinary experience in San Diego and beyond.
My own visit to Oceana Coastal Kitchen was anything but ordinary. That dinner dining experience, coupled with my dialogue with Chef Riemer, revealed a multitude of reasons this alfresco eatery is sure to endure. Here are my top 7.
- Location, location, location. There’s just nothing like eating stellar seafood in an outdoor locale overlooking a picturesque waterfront vista. This Oceana Coastal Kitchen delivers in spades since it’s located mere steps from the sand of Mission Bay in Pacific Beach. It offers outdoor patio seating with a panoramic waterfront view befitting the fresh ocean victuals it offers. The restaurant is part of the iconic Polynesian-themed Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, located a mere 8 miles from San Diego International Airport. This property is known for its casual tropical elegance replete with palm trees, lush vegetation, tiki torches, koi ponds, waterfalls, and exotic birds. Either before or after dinner be sure to take a stroll around the grounds of this extraordinary property.
- Sea-worthy interior décor. While Oceana Coastal Kitchen makes great use of the outdoors by offering ample patio seating, its interior also captures San Diego’s upscale beach-casual lifestyle by framing the bay view through two giant windows that fold open and let cool breezes in. A focal point in the main dining room is a mesmerizing 800-gallon fluorescent jellyfish aquarium that captivates both adult and youth diners, alike (the eatery does offer a children’s menu with elevated versions of kid classics like PB&J). In addition, the 8,200 square foot indoor/outdoor restaurant combines ocean-inspired colors like calming blues and greens, textures, materials and fixtures like custom lighting and wall sconces that, all combined, create an authentic Southern California ambiance.
- Chef Riemer. While the bayside location, view and atmosphere are truly noteworthy, Chef Riemer and his cuisine are the heart and soul of the restaurant. Boasting over two decades in the gastronomic game, Chef Riemer has cooked at The Lodge at Torrey Pines and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel—two of Southern California’s most notable AAA Five-Diamond resort hotels. Now calling the shots at Oceana Coastal Kitchen, Chef Riemer describes his approach to California cuisine as “regional and seafood-centric,” highlighting the purity and flavors of local, sustainable components. The integrity of the seasonal, eco-conscious ingredients he uses, from proteins to produce, shines through in each dish.
- Locally-sourced libations. Not only does Oceana Coastal Kitchen feature California-sourced ingredients in its cuisine, but also regional wines and brews to accompany it. Its wine list promotes selections from Sonoma, Napa, Santa Barbara and the Russian River Valley, to name a few. In fact, the eatery offers more than 50 labels, including nearly 30 varietals by the glass. For beer lovers, there’s the eatery’s own Oceana pale ale in addition to craft drafts from popular area breweries, including Lost Abbey, Karl Strauss and Mike Hess. Of course, if spirits are more your style, the restaurant’s cocktail program proffers a dazzling array of drinks that’ll make you feel like you’re on vacation even if you aren’t, like Mexican sangria, a passion fruit margarita and the blackberry lavender lemonade. I’ll toast to that.
- The ceviche. While the menu offers a plethora of tempting starter options, the lime marinade-laden Shrimp or Sesame Sea Bass Ceviche themselves make a visit worthwhile. This is just one of nearly a dozen delectable options featured at the restaurant’s impressive twenty-five foot cold bar—quartz-topped and beautifully imbedded with mother of pearl and sea glass. While other cold bar notables include yellowtail crudo, king crab legs, fresh sushi, tuna carpaccio and oysters on the half shell, for its part Oceana Coastal Kitchen’s “signature” dish of sea bass ceviche is an apropos “nod to San Diego’s neighbors to the south.” The sweeter shrimp ceviche is accompanied by juicy cherry tomatoes and a tangy pineapple salsa while the spicier sea bass ceviche is paired with mango and serrano chile.
- Tasty turf. Complementing the restaurant’s copious stellar seafood selections like the Sea of Cortez Shrimp Pappardelle—precisely prepared sweet fresh crustaceans paired with wide flat ribbons of pasta tossed with olive-oil-braised broccolini, Mexican dried chile and house-made Meyer lemon ricotta—Oceana Coastal Kitchen’s menu also features an impressive assortment of dishes from the land. From this category, my top pick is the Cold Smoked Niman Ranch Pork Chop—a thick-cut bone-in chop that’s paired perfectly with super savory coarse (large particle size) goat cheese grits along with a crunchy spiced fresh apple and toasted almond slaw. This delightful dish is duly rivaled by the Roast Filet Mignon topped with red wine sauce and blue cheese butter that’s served with au gratin potatoes, white raisins and cumin roasted carrots (though the kitchen was happy to swap out the carrots for French fries to satiate my table’s collective craving). For the record, the menu also offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, such as the filet mignon, for those so inclined.
- The doughnuts. Even Chef Riemer himself has a penchant for this piquant pastry dish that’s become a staple on the dessert menu. Precisely fried dough is filled with a warm chocolate cream, and a velvety vanilla dipping sauce accompanies. The doughnuts are a suitably sweet foil to the lighter seafood fare leading up to it. This and all other dessert options here are conceived and executed by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate, Chef Trudy Coppin. While her doughnuts are certainly divine, die-hard chocolate lovers can also bask in Chef Trudy’s baked-to-order Skillet Brownie with vanilla ice cream that’s moist, decadent and simply to-die-for.
So there you have it. Seven bona fide reasons to have your own food and beverage-bent respite at Oceana Coastal Kitchen. It’s a hidden gastro gem in San Diego’s bustling beach community where fresh and frivolous plays on classic California cuisine reigns supreme.
“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com . Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList .
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***