Cohn restaurant manager saves the evening

Eating Island Prime food without being there

The Harbor Island view
  • The Harbor Island view

“Where’s the best steak in San Diego with a view?” My friend Vicki from Las Vegas asked me. “I’m in the mood for meat.”

Island Prime

880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island

My husband and I tossed out some ideas of some of San Diego’s fanciest establishments for carnivores, but we kept coming back to the Cohn Restaurant Group Island Prime. I had been there for drinks and eaten at Coastera, but had never hit up Island Prime due to a writer’s budget, but Vicki was paying. I made online reservations for 5:30 that night.

Eye of Ribeye ($56) with green beans ($12) and potato gratin ($12).

Eye of Ribeye ($56) with green beans ($12) and potato gratin ($12).

Or did I?

“You made reservations for tomorrow night, not tonight,” the hostess told me. “There isn’t a table all night.”

My heart fell. Vicki had been going through a terrible divorce and was rejuvenating in San Diego with us. She would be back in Vegas on Sunday. I think I blabbed that information and way too much more to the hostess, but there were no tables. It was my fault.

Mud pie

Mud pie

My face must have shown more disappointment than the thought of not enjoying a juicy piece of meat, because the manager who had been standing next to the hostess ran after me.

“Let’s see what I can do,” he said smiling.

Ten minutes later our party of three was sitting at a window seat on the patio of the Cohn’s adjoining restaurant—C Level—which does not take reservations, and does not serve the high-end beef that comes from as far away as Australia.

We perused the Island Prime menu they gave us, while others around us ate hamburgers and salads. A basket of fresh popovers with Jalapeño butter arrived and we dove into them, trying not to alert the other diners of our special treat.

Vicki ordered the Cedar River Farms Prime Rib (12 oz for $30) from Tolleson AZ and Ralph and I chose the Snake River Farms "Eye of the Ribeye" (12 oz for $56) with blue cheese sauce to share.

The main courses don’t come with sides, but our server suggested we only order two because the portions are large. We decided on the “Locally Grown Fresh Green Beans” ($12) cooked in brown butter with toasted pecans and the “Yukon Gold Potato Gratin” with four cheese blend and fresh herbs ($12).

Our meat was cooked medium rare with juice and sauce commingling; my only complaint was that I gave my husband that larger piece of rib eye. The beans should have been served as a dessert they were so sweet, and the potatoes, gooey and sharp and mild at the same time. Vicki ate every bite of her prime rib and happily paid the bill.

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Comments

Been a regular customer at Island Prime and C-Level for years. The food is always delicious, prepared just to our liking and thoughtfully designed with new and interesting favor combinations. Their homemade “PopOvers” and jalapeño butter are, as you say, a special treat, and maybe unique as well. But when you think of both restaurants it’s the staff and management that make the meal so much more enjoyable. From the “busboys”, wait staff all the way to the Executive Chef/Partner they truly are caring folks who bend-over-backwards to make you feel welcome and your time with them will be memorable.

The Cohn group doesn't pull off that level of service or caring at some of its other operations. Vintana in Escondido has popovers, and they are great; sometimes they are the best part of the meal. 333 Pacific in Oceanside just doesn't get it together. We have dined there three times, and I should have known better than to go there the third time. In short, they totally blew the whole thing in the kitchen and the dining room. I won't be back there again.

I have not visited those restaurants as they are too far to justify the drive. Hopefully Cohn ownership read your post and will act to improve the product at both stores. All I can add is it’s the people who care that make the restaurant.

RE: "the people who care" Yes, that's so true with both high-price or moderate-price eateries. How do you feel during/after the experience? That decides whether you go back again, or recommend the establishment to others.

It was hit and miss with 333 Pacific with me as well.

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