2864 Adams Avenue, University Heights
Hanna Tesfamichael has been cooking for San Diegans for over ten years via her catering company. It was three years ago that she opened a small storefront, and six months ago that she expanded the spot into a bona fide restaurant. But it was only this week that David and I finally discovered this jewel in University Heights.
Though on Yelp the restaurant is classified as “modern European,” the menu has more of a worldly flair. Classic French dishes such as Beef Bourguignon are listed beside South African’s classic Bobotie Curried Meatloaf and the Japanese-inspired mirin-glazed salmon with edamame and dashi broth.
The bar was set very high with our first bite of the fresh and flawlessly balanced terrine ($12), comprising beets, goat cheese, and butternut squash, served with arugula and citrus poppy seed dressing. The arugula was so fresh I would have bet money it had been in the ground that morning. The brightness of the citrus dressing was countered by the earthy beet and slightly sweeter squash, and the creamy richness of the goat cheese served as a binder for all of the flavors.
David ordered the Rosemary Chicken Sandwich ($10). Again, the greens on his side salad tasted garden-fresh. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the flavors of roasted pepper, provolone cheese, and pesto spread melded well. But unfortunately, the bread was stale and dry. David took apart his sandwich to eat only the inside, and left most of the bread on his plate.
I ordered the Moroccan Chicken Tagine. It is here that Hanna’s Ethiopian upbringing comes out, with the exotic and balanced coalescence of apricots, lemon, and green olives. I was prepared for the dish to have some sweetness, but, surprisingly, though I could detect the various familiar flavors of apricot and lemon, this sauce was all savory. And so flavorful I couldn’t keep David’s fork away.
There is no dessert menu, as the options are always changing, but on this day, there were, impressively, nearly a dozen of Hanna’s pastry creations in a display case to choose from. We settled on an almond cake with caramel cream and chocolate ganache. David, who spends a fair amount of time baking, couldn't figure out how she got the ganache so perfectly smooth and shiny. But I stopped thinking about the dessert’s appearance the moment I took my first bite: light, fluffy, more of a caramel mousse than a cream, it somehow cooled my mouth while warming me all over.
Brunch seems to be a big deal at Hanna’s. When I mentioned I’d been there with a photo of that terrine on Instagram, people came out of the woodwork to tell me it was their favorite breakfast spot. Even our server insisted we check out the brunch menu for future consideration. And it did indeed look interesting, boasting egg preparations from all over the world, including Africa (served with fava beans and yogurt sauce); Marrakesh (with cinnamon-scented ground lamb, red pepper and tomato sauce, baked eggs, feta and mint); Spain (classic potato omelet with Manchego cheese and Romesco sauce); and France (a reinvented Croque Madame with brie and tarragon).
Hanna herself, a gorgeous woman with a perpetual smile, stopped by to tell us about her monthly family-style dinners, each with a different theme. They are every third Thursday, for $35 per person (the next one is January 15, and is French themed). I imagine this will be fun, as from what I witnessed at lunch, Hanna's clientele seems friendly and devoted, and David and I enjoy the communal feel of family-style dining. There’s no doubt we’ll be back to Hanna’s sweet little spot on Adams Avenue soon.