At times I like to think of my life captured on a movie reel, so let me start this by setting the scene for any of my welcoming readers:

The author with her birthday
Martini at the Blue Point.

Dusk — May 24th — my 30th birthday — 65 degrees San Diego weather — ocean breeze shifting through the palms — Padre game taking place in nearby Petco Park  and I just flew into San Diego that morning.

We checked in to our hotel, the Tower 23 in Pacific Beach and prepare for dinner.  Since it was my birthday, I tried (without making it look like I tried) to look like a fabulous birthday girl.  This always takes longer than expected.  Because of the parking situation in downtown San Diego, i.e., expensive and hard to find, that we decided to pay the extra tariff and take a taxi.  At 7:00 p.m, sharp the familiar yellow cab awaits out front.   It is always fun to get into conversations with taxi drivers and if you are one of the types that just sits in the backseat texting and blackberrying away,  I highly suggest that you strike up a conversation.  Depending on your cab driver, you may have to sift through some of their broken English and you can find out fantastic life stories, tips on the city, or back roads that can be of useful service at a later time.

The San Diego Gaslamp District is one of the finest places to dine, shop, and entertain yourself when you are out on the town.  The area that is now the Gaslamp began at the base of Market Street in 1850 by a San Franciscan named William Heath Davis.   Davis was attempting to establish a town on San Diego’s beautiful water front.  He built a home for his family but an economic depression caused his idea to fail; his town became known as “Rabbitville” since rabbits were the only ones living there.  Alonzo Horton had better luck developing this area beginning in about 1867 by purchasing 800 acres of land for the construction of theaters, banks, and other businesses.  This was the start of the Historic Gaslamp area.

Locals and tourist alike love this part of San Diego and it seems to just keep getting better and better.  I remember when I was a kid in the eighties downtown San Diego was kind of considered a slum by the locals.  Little by little, block by block downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp district turned into this beautiful Mecca of well-known shops and restaurants, independent boutiques and cafes, condos and living spaces, large resorts and boutique hotels, and of course the infamous Petco Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Padres!

Cool nautical decor.

We arrive for my birthday dinner at the Blue Point Coastal Cuisine restaurant on 5th and Market.  I am impressed with the chic outside entrance.  There is a patio on the “Market” side that is great for enjoying that beautiful San Diego weather.  The hostesses at the front desk were prompt, friendly, and both had fantastic smiles.  They sat us at one of the booths on the side of the restaurant that was very open with large windows that looked right out on Market Street

This restaurant is another of the Cohn Restaurant Group’s fine dining establishments.  The Cohn’s own approximately 12 dining venues throughout the San Diego area.  Each of their restaurants has a different theme and a different vibe.  David and Leslie Cohn  create unique and wonderful venues with new cuisine conceptulations for us to all enjoy.

Now, let’s get down to business and tell you about this birthday dinner.

Mouth watering Martinis.

Topic #1: Libations.

The drink menu consisted of some mouth watering martinis so my dining companion and I decided to get this party started.  “A Gingerjack Martini and a Mandarin Margarita Martini coming right up!”, states our server.  A lovely added touch when our server returned was an amuse bouche that consisted of ahi tuna tartare cubed as small as a breath mint with truffle oil and some other secrets I am unsure of.  It was served on mini spoons; after tasting this little morsel of goodness, my palate was tempted and teased for more. 

The martinis were refreshing!  I bet you can figure out what the Gingerjack consisted of-ginger syrup and Jack Daniels.  There was also the added Southern Comfort “spiked cherries”.  My Mandarin Martini consisted of Absolute Mandarin vodka, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and a splash of sour.  I always love little signature touches that establishments put into place as the norm for their clientele and here at the Blue Point they serve Dean Martin-style double martinis.  They bring them out in average size stemmed martini glasses and then they put an additional second part of your martini in a little glass jar and put it in a bowl of ice.  That’s a swanky touch! 

After the Amuse Bouché I am ready for fine dining. 

Topic #2: good eats! 

Shrimp and lobster potstickers, above.

Warm spinach salad, below.

Shrimp and lobster potstickers served with a lemongrass ponzu glaze were ordered for our appetizer.  The ponzu glaze was unique and addicting.  Out came a warm spinach salad enhanced with candied pecans and shaft blue cheese as well as their “famous” lobster bisque.  What makes this lobster bisque unique is the port wine and hint of rosemary.  They were both delicious.

The general manager, Edmund Burke, came over to speak with us.  You could sense his professionalism and kindness as genuine.  He gave us the history on the restaurant.  I was surprised to learn that the Blue Point has been here for about 12 years and that the Cohn’s took a shot with the space and location before the downtown started to boom.

Now, with the huge expansion of the “East Village” which is where Petco Park is located, they are indeed sitting on prime real estate.  This restaurant is frequented by locals looking for that San Diego coastal dish as well as many of the tourists and conventioneers that are visiting “America’s Finest City”.

A nautical seafood house indeed.

The décor is kind of a nautical 1940s seafood house meets American supper club.  There is lots of warm cherry wood tones and of course the classic oceanic colors consisting of multiple tints and shades of azure blues and greens.  There was the most interesting painting on the main wall of the lounge area near the bar.  It must have been 15 ft high by 8 feet wide.  It is a beautiful seascape of three fisherman working relentlessly at the edge of a fishing village.  I could almost feel this same hard work and dedication with every employee of the Blue Point.   I asked the general manager, Edmund Burke, about the history of the painting and the artist.  Although he did not have the exact name of the artist, he informed me that David Cohn, was searching for the perfect piece of artwork for the space when they were opening the establishment.  He found this painting and then realized that the artist was based out of San Diego with a studio not too far from where the restaurant is located.  The painting was hand carried down the street from the artist’s studio to the restaurant.

“Two more martini’s please!” we insisted; the first two tasted marvelous.  I have heard a saying about martinis that goes something like, “One martini is all right and two are too many”.  I think that should apply as a disclaimer. 

Executive Chef, Jonathan Hale.

Executive Chef, Jonathan Hale, has been at the Blue Point Coastal Cuisine since 2001.  He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has worked in Aspen, Kauai, and Maui.  In 2004, Hale and his team won the Gaslamp Quarter Association award for Favorite Places to dine and Best Seafood. 

We sampled his beautifully plated entrées such as the server recommended Ahi Duo., consisted of pan seared yellowfin tuna stuffed with locally grown asparagus and a ginger port butter sauce accompanied by a basil and nori wrapped yellowfin spring roll. 

I enjoyed the pan seared tuna immensely, the nori wrapped yellowfin was not bad, just not my favorite.  My birthday date went out on a limb for one of their steaks which are all U.S.D.A. Prime aged beef.  He ordered the 14 oz. rib eye medium rare which always scares me, as it seems as if that poor defenseless little cow is still partly alive.   It was served with the most delicious garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.  Tasting a bite of his rib eye, I must say that it was in the Top 3 of steaks that I have ever tasted and you know I have tasted a lot of steaks.  I think it was the combination of quality meats cooked to perfection in my favorite, a red wine reduction.  Speaking of wine, if you enjoy it, I would recommend for you to look at the Blue Point’s extensive wine list.  Their servers are happy to make a recommendation on a great pairing with your dinner, so be sure to utilize their knowledge.

The scene for Coastal Cuisine!

I was so satiated after my entrée that dessert was seriously out of the question or I was going to have to go to the Urban Outfitters down the street and buy a new baggy outfit to get me back home!  If I was able to actually eat dessert, I would have ordered the Harlequin Chocolate Soufflé.  This is one of those desserts that if you want it, it is best to give your waiter at least a 30 minute notice to prepare it for you.  Some how the restaurant knew it was my birthday.  As I was sipping my martini, I looked up to see a lighted candle on a white plate.  I was bugged-eyed.  They had plated a delicious smaller version of their chocolate soufflé.  I am a fan of chocolate, what girl isn’t right?  After making a wish, blowing out the candle, and tasting one bite, I had to go back for another, of the warm, moist, rich and perfect sweetness.

Blue Point
Coastal Cuisine
565 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA
We chatted with the server for awhile longer and then took care of the bill and were on our way.  I am completely appreciative of the hospitality that everyone in the restaurant showcased and am glad to have had such a wonderful birthday experience. 

Walking out of the Blue Point, there was such a buzz in the air.  The Padres just lost to the Cubs and many families, couples and friends were off gallivanting to their next spot. 

At this point I was certainly glad that we were cabbing it - parking was a nightmare.

— Feature by Michelle Schoser, Jetsetters Magazine Las Vegas Correspondent. Read Michelle's Jetsetters Magazine feature about Cohn's Prado Restaurant in Balboa Park.

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