By Kelley Carlson
The Del Mar racetrack isn’t the only place along Via de la Valle where the turf meets the surf. Pamplemousse Grille, named for the French term for grapefruit and located across the street from the oval, serves a range of entrees from land and sea, from the Kobe Beef Burger to Basil Roasted Chilean Sea Bass. Items are prepared using French, Mediterranean and Asian culinary techniques.
“Come with an open mind,” said chef/owner Jeffrey Strauss. “Try to be creative, although there are a few conservative things on the menu. Make the best of it.”
Signature dishes include Lobster Ravioli and Mixed Grille of Game, the latter consisting of Venison Chop Au Poivre, Lemon Thyme Marinated Quail and Smoked Breast of Duck. Strauss said he’s most proud of the Smoked Seafood Plate with Caviar Pepper Sauce.
There are lunch and dinner menus, and food is also offered during the weekday happy hour, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. There are well drinks and plenty of wine options — the restaurant has more than 2,000 bottles that can range from $30 to $3,000. Specialty cocktails include the Pamplemousse Martini and Trackside Lemonade, a nod to the racetrack crowd that frequents the restaurant during the summer.
Be sure to leave room for dessert: Choices include Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Passion Fruit Coulis and Chocolate Shavings, Warm Chocolate-Caramel Cake with Salted Caramel Anglaise and Vanilla Gelato, and a variety of artisan cheeses. Many of the baked goods are prepared in front of guests just inside the entrance.
Kids can choose from simpler menu items — there are pastas, chicken fingers, burgers and quesadillas. Strauss said he often teaches young visitors how to use a blowtorch to make crème brulee.
Reservations are recommended for the restaurant, which can seat up to 130 people. Figurative paintings featuring subjects such as pigs, chefs and cafe scenes adorn the walls, and much of the decor consists of wood and neutral colors. A small statue of a swine holding a wheelbarrow full of candy greets guests as they enter the establishment.
Along with the bar and main dining room, there are two private dining rooms. The “Wine Cellar” is available for groups of up to 12 people, and has a $1,000 minimum food and beverage requirement; guests can dine a la carte or create a custom limited menu with Strauss’ assistance. “The Cow Palace” accommodates up to 45 people and requires a $1,500 minimum food and beverage purchase; Strauss will help create a customized menu.
In regards to the restaurant’s dress code, “We require pockets to hold your wallet,” Strauss said with a smile.
If you don’t want to hold your gathering at the restaurant, Pamplemousse Grille offers catering for as few as 10 and as many as 1,000 people. The restaurant serves at venues throughout the county, and even travels around the country.
Several big wine dinners are held at Pamplemousse Grille throughout the year.
514 Via de la Valle, Suite 100, Solana Beach
Casual, Elegant, Fine Dining
Lobster Ravioli, Smoked Seafood Plate, Mixed Grille of Game
Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays; Dinner 5 p.m. to close daily
4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story. This week: Pamplemousse shares:
Lobster Ravioli with Seared Scallops, Asparagus and
Pear Tomatoes, Ginger Soy Buerre Blanc