Heat Bar and Kitchen
Park Boulevard has consistently been host to major social centers for more than a century. Many of us are fondly familiar with the space that Urban Grind anchored for quite a while. Numbers and The Crypt have helped to spice up our lonely evenings just a few paces north. Across the street, The Flame lit up the path of Hillcrest's hedonists decade after decade. Now, our hot little block welcomes a new source of scintillation. Heat Bar and Kitchen is the smokin' hotspot that promises to ignite the night with its flair and fare.
Upscale, chic, grown-up. These are words that accurately capture the current feel of the completely transformed space we once enjoyed as we caffeinated the words in our last-minute college essays. But as our lives evolve, so do our neighborhood purlieux. The subdued exterior, however tasteful it is, hardly does justice to the hip decor of the dining room. Walk into the warm, loungey foyer and you'll quickly be lulled into comfort by the softly backlit surfaces and thoughtfully appointed furniture. Squint your eyes and you'll swear you're relaxing in the plush dining room of a swanky resort. From the delicate Riedel stemware to the choice of sparkling and still (flat) water, there are subtle European nuances everywhere-a far cry from the former exposed concrete, severe lighting and the infamous "bathroom with a view." In fact, the restroom today boasts an elaborate pattern of reflective wall tile shards that can only be described as art. Overall the setup is a smart use of space, maximizing diner capacity without forcing us to feel cramped.
If the main dining room isn't your preferred ambiance in which to enjoy your meal, Park Boulevard provides a great urban sidewalk setting with streams of sunlight at any daytime hour. For a more intimate locale, opt for seating on the side patio. And look out for upcoming exterior improvements such as wrap-around fire pits, retractable awnings, wall planters for fragrant herbs and elegant charcoal tile.
As for this opulent venue's offerings, Owner Sam Khorish and Executive Chef Chris Walsh have assembled a clever set of seasonal menus that should appeal to a palate from every realm of hunger. Expertise in the liquor and wine department is unmatched, making for quite a bar experience. Taking full advantage of San Diego's burgeoning place as a microbrew capital of the coast, Heat offers more than a few local jewels of the craft.
The weekend brunch menu provides a complete array of elevated takes on breakfast favorites and of course, a generous bottomless mimosa deal that you'd be a fool to pass up. Vegetarians can rejoice as the menu items are flexible and many previously underrated grains are highlighted.
For dinner, the smartly-concise menu keeps the delectable selections priced generously below $20 and features such mouth-watering classics as Churasco Steak (with a brown butter mousseline, smoked maitake mushrooms, roasted carrots and an aromatic gremolata). Or for a fresher experience in gastronomic gratification, try the Carlsbad Mussels. Faithful to their community, the purveyors of this edible luxury look no farther than San Diego's own Carlsbad Aquafarm for their shellfish.
Farm-to-table dining is in Hillcrest to stay. Dessert is always on everyone's radar. While spartan, the selections at Heat offer supreme value. Ranging from Roasted Apples (fennel, spiced crumble, maple, bourbon cream) to seasonally-inspired flavors of Housemade Sorbet and Ice Cream, all desserts are prepared in-house. One that immediately caught my sugar-happy eye was the Smoked 70 Percent Dark Chocolate served with mallow fluff and graham crumble. I imagine that this is Smores' grownup, sophisticated and sexy cousin who I can't wait to meet for dinner.
On my first visit to Heat, the brunch offerings were fresh off the griddle and I couldn't
wait to taste the Cinnamon Raisin Brioche French Toast. It was accompanied by a kiwi-strawberry-pineapple-banana medley and a brightly tart raspberry sauce served in an adorable lionhead porcelain ramekin. The sauce was blessedly strained of any seeds and it was a refreshing alternative to the predictability of maple syrup that cut through the dish's richness quite nicely. The fennel garnish was divergent but endearing.
Joel, our editor, ordered the Country Chicken Fried Steak which was, of course, dizzyingly good- topped with a gravy that had, according to Joel, "the perfect consistency."
During our meal, I noticed the side of the bar displayed a small pastry case-surely a respectfully historic nod to Urban Grind's former claim to fame-inviting casual imbibers to indulge their nostalgia and pair a specialty cocktail with an equally sweet baked treat. The bar stood out inarguably as the focal point to this restaurant. A flow of good energy emanated toward our table in the form of laughter. The bartender on duty, Christina, is very vivacious, warm and inviting, much like her place of employment.
For the adventurous/voracious soul, I recommendthe Chef's Breakfast: two eggs resting atop a heaping bowl of house-made chile con carne swirled with melted cheddar. At first sight
of this sumptuous hunger-killer, I reassessed my ability to make room for more. Alas, more conservative heads prevailed and I resisted the beckoning aroma of the food...and the scrumptious allure of the pastry case. But not before mentally planning out my next few visits here for dinner and happy hour-and perhaps a quick stop now and then to fully appreciate the striking light at the bar. "The area needed a place like this," I overheard a patron say between bites. With a full stomach and a hankering to study the menus further, I agreed.
Heat Bar and Kitchen is located at 3797 Park Boulevard. For reservations and more information, call 619.546.4328 or visit heatbarandkitchen.com.