Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, it’s no secret that restaurants in San Diego have some of the freshest and tastiest raw bar offerings. So, in the middle of oyster season, we’ve brought together bartenders from some of San Diego’s most notable restaurants to share their favorite raw bar and restaurant-specific cocktail pairings.
Grass & Sea
Nestled in the seaside town of Encinitas in San Diego, you’ll find Grass & Seaa restaurant appreciated by its community and a welcoming place where all can share the benefits of the sea accompanied by a selection of refreshing and rich in ingredients, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails.
Summarizing all that the coastal lifestyle means and more, Herb & Sea offers a selection of simple and fresh raw dishes like raw oysters on the half shell, hard-hitting crudos, smoked fish and ceviche; all the dishes are reminiscent of a salty, summery and seaside getaway.
Bar chef Laz Jimenez suggests customers enjoy the Gin & Juice cocktail with the Hamachi Crudo, as the lemongrass and strawberry infused gin pairs well with the fresh citrus ingredients and white ponzu sauce of the Hamachi Crudo. . The Gin Martini pairs best with raw oysters on the half shell, as a classic stiff martini complements the briny flavor and buttery texture of an oyster, making it an incomparable pairing.
Located on the 101 in Leucadia, valentina is a favorite among locals for its European-style bistro offerings and extensive wine and bubble program.
Valentina’s intimate yet vibrant atmosphere offers a unique raw bar menu perfectly matched with its rotating list of world and natural wines and a wide selection of legendary, well-known and unique bubbles. Director of Operations and Sommelier Ricardo Zarate recommends ordering the Spanish sashimi which is best enjoyed with a bottle of Vincent Couche “Chloé” Brut Nature Champagne, very focused on its minerality and stone fruit notes to contrast beautifully with the richness of the fish.
Steak Tartare is a classic bistro staple enhanced by Chef Jonathon Freyberg’s seasonings and choice of premium steak paired perfectly with the carbonic SAMsARA Rancho Boa Vista Vineyard Syrah, available by the glass at Valentina. Boquerones will transport guests to a Spanish villa, as it is Spain’s quintessential tapa, best paired with Alfredo Egia’s Txakolina “Rebel Rebel” from northern Spain, bringing a rich nutty tone that harmonizes with the salinity of the Boquerones. No dining experience at Valentina is complete without an order of their delicious oysters, paired perfectly with OVUM’s “Rare Form: For Love Nor Money” Riesling.
Known for its breathtaking views of the San Diego skyline and bay, InterContinental San Diegorooftop restaurant, Garibaldi, takes its guests to southern Italy. Dedicated to serving only the highest quality, freshly caught seafood, Garibaldi is one of San Diego’s top destinations for seafood lovers, with a creative cocktail menu to match.
Restaurant and bar manager Megan Brown suggests pairing the whimsical color-changing Fiore di Farfella cocktail, a combination of Carbonadi vodka, Gusto di Amalfi Alloro, butterfly pea flower-infused Luxardo, lemon juice and Champagne Brut, with the Pesce Freddo, an impressive seafood platter served with a trio of sauces – reseda, cocktail and marie rose. The Alloro’s wild bay leaf and the cocktail’s bright lemon juice balance the saltiness of the oysters, while the Luxardo liqueur enhances the subtle sweetness of the tuna crudo and prawns. This cocktail and raw bar pairing is perfect for sharing and comes in two sizes to serve the whole table: ‘Piccolo’ or ‘Grande’.
Other recommended pairings include Spritz Estivo, a tangy and light appetizer, and Antipasti Di Pesce, with tuna tonnato, octopus salami, smoked swordfish carpaccio and assorted pickles. Garibaldi’s version of the classic Campari Spritz, Spritz Estivo’s fresh grapefruit juice and slight bitterness play on the rich tuna tonnato while complementing the savory swordfish carpaccio.
Located in Little Italy, one of San Diego’s oldest and most iconic maritime-themed historic neighborhoods Ironside Fish and Oyster Bar is a unique seafood dining experience that will make guests feel like they are about to board a 19th century ocean liner.
Known for her fresh raw oysters served with a balanced sweet-sour mignonette, as well as shrimp, rockfish, clams and lobster, Ironside’s lead bartender Tania Corenjo has a drink recommendation for a selection of the offerings. Ironside’s most popular raw bass.
It’s no secret that the oysters should be followed by a few bubbles, Tania recommends the popular South Pacific Spritz featuring tequila, vermouth, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice. Other recommendations include pairing the Kanpachi Crudo with the Venetian Spritz, or the shrimp and octopus cocktail with the Daisy Del Mar.
Ironside’s menu offers a wide variety of delicious seafood dishes and a selection of handcrafted cocktails that will make your dining experience even more memorable.
See you there, San Diego!