Sophisticated yet Casual
In my opinion, many upscale restaurants take themselves too seriously and come off too stern. Rice was not one of those restaurants. It's decor and menu was definitely chic but the atmosphere (especially the music) was casual and relaxing. The service was great. I normally am so-so about scallops but the scallop appetizer was so phenomenal that I would probably go back just for that. My boyfriend ordered the duck and I ordered the kobe beef short ribs. Both dishes were very good--the kobe beef was so tender and moist! The only thing I would say needs improvement is the Kahlua bread pudding could be more moist but considering everything else, it's still a 5 in my book. Definitely somewhere you could enjoy with friends or a nice date.
I was skeptical about returning to Rice after it languished for years without change under the last chef-and then no chef at all-but my dinner last week proved that there was no where to go but up for this out-of-the-way property located in the W Hotel downtown. The new chef, Rocío Varela, has created a delicious fusion of Latin, Asian, and international cuisines using her formally trained skills in old-world European technique. The Bacalao, (salted cod) appetizer was my favorite, with Pastelillos filled with savory chicken confit a close second. Halibut was cooked to perfection and tasty as one would expect from a gourmet chef. And for meat eaters-my dining companions raved about the Pork dish. Service was a little off timing-wise, but the staff was obviously proud of their new menu. They seemed to be trying to provide great service in order to live up to the new reputation this restaurant will be attaining once word gets out that they are back in business. One star off as they need a little room for growing pains in the serving department,(maybe recession has left them short a server as it was a busy night and it looked like the bartender was doubling as a second server to only one on the floor,) but other than that the food was superb. I will be returning until I have tasted everything on the menu. Kudos to Chef Varela and whomever hired her, it is just what the place needed. Out of the thousands of restaurants in San Diego this one stands out with the best of them. (The new location back in the smaller more intimate room at the corner of the building is a nice change as well, it used to feel like one was eating in the lobby) Bon Appetite!