Top of the Market | Approachable Elegance and Some of the Freshest Seafood in Town

December 13, 2012

San Diego’s Top of the Market has long been beckoning me to its lofty perch overlooking San Diego's Big Bay, boasting what is known among San Diegans as one of the finest seafood destinations our city has to offer.  Fine dining is what was expected and received - white linens, polished black tie service, knowledgeable sommeliers, and exquisite cuisine.  What was not expected, however, was the total lack of pretentiousness and the completely laid back yet lively vibes exuded from everyone from the hostess to the smiling servers to the chefs to the patrons.  Everyone was there to enjoy good food without the fuss and sometimes intimidating nature of ‘fine dining’ establishments, and for that we were immediately appreciative.

Comparable to the galley on the Titanic, rich wood paneling brings warmth to the sprawling dining room of Top of the Market.   Accentuated by a narrow exhibition kitchen and a corner bar, and encased with huge panel windows which separate the interior from the outside patio that encircles, the restaurant offers beautiful views throughout.  An outdoor dining area is available for a unique dining experience, or large parties, and more casual dining is available at the downstairs Fish Market.  We took it all in, sat back, relaxed, and let the wining and dining commence.

We tickled our palates with the chef's amuse-bouche of Israeli couscous lightly and perfectly seasoned with sweet curry, poppy seeds, coffee beans, and small delectable bits of chistorra sausage – an element reminiscent of high-quality salami that we’d again enjoy within the seabass dish.  We washed this bite down with my newfound favorite aperitif, concocted by the delightful sommelier, Anne Estrada: a perfect blend of a creamy French white wine, St. Germain, a splash of Prosecco and lemon zest, making for the most refreshingly crisp, clean, and bubbly palate cleanser and revitalizer.

For starters we had the light, sweet and crispy blue crab “jumbo lump” crabcake dressed lightly with yellow curry mustard, topped with panko, and served with micro herbs and a smearing of caper remoulade ($16), as well as the oysters Rockefeller: huge beautiful oysters smothered with bacon, slightly pungent baby spinach, garlic and Pernod cheese ($11).  Both appetizers were absolutely fantastic, with the crab cakes being one of the most beautiful and succulent we've had and the oysters Rockefeller being unforgettably delicious.  Anne paired our starters with Sonoma’s 2008 Saxon Brown Semillon with baked green apple and honey notes, which really emphasized the amazing flavors of the seafood with a creamy, nutty finish.  I’ll be returning often for another glass of that wine and those oysters for a hearty and sumptuous afternoon snack.

Next we enjoyed the mache and spoon spinach salad with sweet candied pecans, Parmesan reggiano, a light and flavorful shallot vinaigrette, and the star of the plate, Burgundy poached pears ($10).  The pears were clove-y and cinnamon-y, reminiscent of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and perfect for the season.  This refreshing dish was paired with a 2009 Foxen Chenin Blanc.

The local farmed striped seabass was moist and meaty on the inside and crispy and salty on the outside, served atop al dente chick peas, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, cured black olives, and pan sauce made from that delectable Chistorra sausage I raved about earlier ($27).  Main courses were complimented by a bold Ramazzetti Sangiovese.

The linguini….ahhhhhh.  The chefs prepared locally made linguine, house died with squid ink, doused with a super creamy parmesan sauce and mixed with bits of crispy pancetta, baby shiitake mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, spinach, sea scallops and jumbo prawns ($29) to create what is now my absolute favorite pasta dish to date.

The prime pork chop, a ginormous and succulent 12-ounce center cut, was pan-seared to a gloriously golden perfection, bursting with flavors, and served atop a sautéed mix of mustard, turnip and Swiss chard greens and a savory brioche bread pudding, all doused in sage jus ($28).  Though the chop was inarguably the centerpiece, the sweet and savory super-moist bread pudding was akin to a deconstructed Thanksgiving dressing with golden raisins, pine nuts and of course, garlic…mmmmmmm, it was so delicious!

As if we could intake anymore, we indulged in two decadent desserts: a warm, eggnog bread pudding topped with pumpkin pie gelato, and swimming in a pool of eggnog crème anglaise; and a coffee and chocolate ganache, layered with graham cracker crust and coated in gooey toasted marshmallows.  Paired with my ‘Southern Afternoon,’ a Maker’s Mark cocktail with vanilla beans, rhubarb bitters and a hint of citrus, the desserts were warm, comforting, and definitely to be shared.

Top of the Market’s approachable elegance and tasteful intuition is an experience not to be missed.  If you would like to sample the fare before committing (you WILL commit), the newly introduced Social Hour is a lovely avenue by which to enjoy the offerings during sunset Monday through Friday from 4 – 6 p.m. while specialty cocktails and wines are $6, draft beers are $4.25, oysters are $1.50, and chef specialties including calamari, red crab nachos, and mini burgers are $6.

For more information on Top of the Market, visit the website, and call (619) 232-3474 for reservations.

750 North Harbor Drive, Downtown
(619) 232-3474


Lunch Monday - Sunday 11:00 am 4:00 pm
Dinner Sunday - Thursday 4:00 pm 9:30 pm
Dinner Friday - Saturday 4:00 pm 10:00 pm
Closed Thanksgiving
Closed Christmas Day

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