Saturday, January 5, 2013

It Might Have Been the Exercise

It might have been the salty breeze coming off San Diego Bay. Whatever it was, by the time we completed our walk around Seaport Village we were hungry.

The Village offers numerous food options. There are food court type places, casual sit-down restaurants, and three more upscale places with great bay views. After much deliberation we settled on one of the latter—Buster's Beach House Restaurant & Longboard Bar.

“Buster is a tall, barrel-chested bear of a man who spent his childhood in the waters of Southern California and his adult life traveling the globe surfing the best beaches…. Due to his gregarious nature and exceptional personality, Buster was granted friendships in many ports (and) became a legend in his own time not only as a famous waterman but for his ability to make people feel good. Buster's sense of humor and magic smile were the catalyst for many life experiences of which most of us can only dream. Buster's penchant for good times has always been transferred to all that have met him and his ‘on vacation’ lifestyle is one that we all aspire to” (

“San Diego has long been a center of surfing. Duke Kahanamoku, the ‘father of modern surfing,’ brought the sport in from Hawaii and set up an exhibition of surfing at the Del Mar Pier as long ago as 1916. The popularity of the sport spread quickly. By 1940, beaches from Oceanside to the border were popular places to surf. Surfing history and traditions are incorporated into the décor and ambiance of Buster's Beach House in Seaport Village…. Buster's Beach House looks like a Hawaiian plantation house, with wood exterior, palm trees and flowers crawling up the outside walls” (David Rottenberg at

The temperature was in the mid to high sixties, and the sky was blue and almost cloudless. So it was the perfect day to join other diners on Buster’s front deck where we had views of both the harbor and the cityscape.

We both started with small bowls of soup. For me it would be Baja Chicken Enchilada which was a rich and creamy soup, contained an array of chicken, green chilies, peppers, onions and black beans, and was topped with tortilla strips and drizzled with sour cream.
This was very good and hinted of cumin and a little red chile powder.

Chuck ordered the Half Moon Bay Cioppino, which was a seafood stew of selected fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams in a tomato garlic broth.
Cioppino is a “tomato-based fish stew that originated as a classic fisherman’s stew.... It has been said that cioppino can trace its origins to Genoa…the town of origin of many of the Italian fisherman who settled in San Francisco’s North Beach district…. Originally, cioppino was just a catch-of-the-day stew made on the boats out at sea. The ingredients going into a particular pot of the stew would be determined not by a recipe but by whatever was available. The ingredients for a Cioppino at port would be determined by an additional factor: what did not sell” (

The plan was to share two appetizers, so we considered the crab cakes, lettuce wraps, or Thai shrimp before settling on “The Short Board” that consisted of Jamaican voodoo chicken, fried calamari, onion rings, and tempura coconut shrimp.
The board came with a selection of six sauces (clockwise from the top)—cocktail, tartar, Creole, barbecue, orange marmalade, and coconut yogurt.

While the selection was creatively presented, the board held more misses than hits. And there was no bigger miss than the calamari. Not only were the rings and tentacles way larger than we prefer, they were very oily and unpleasant.
We only finished half of them and had them boxed for take-out. But upon returning home I couldn’t figure out a way to recycle them for another meal, so eventually I recycled them into the trash.

The coconut shrimp were good, if you like coconut shrimp. I am ambivalent. Don’t love them. Don’t hate them. And they were well prepared with a nice crust that included both coconut and panko and with a nice “snap” when bitten into.
But other than in a Mounds bar, I am not a big fan of coconut.

The voodoo chicken was Buster’s take on jerk chicken and tasted of all the jerk spices that can include allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, and salt along with Scotch bonnet peppers.
The seasoning wasn’t overwhelming nor was the heat from the Scotch bonnets (at 100,000–350,000 Scoville Units as compared to jalapeño peppers with a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000). If only they had not been served ice cold. Not lukewarm. Not room temperature. Ice cold.

But the Board was saved (or nearly so) by the onion rings. These were the style that we so enjoyed in the South—thin-cut and thin-battered. This was a mountainous tangled mess of crispy onion goodness and you didn’t want to hide the flavor with any one of the six sauces.

If I were judging only our soups and the onion rings, Buster’s would get 5.0 Addies. But unfortunately the 2.0 Addie Board brings the average rating down to 3.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

No comments: