5 out of 5 stars — Everything was perfect.
With a name like Allure, you’d expect your dining experience to be the embodiment of all things delicious and sexy. And Executive Chef Melissa Magallon, of Allure in San Diego, delivers just that. Starting with the intimate bistro tables-for-two along San Diego’s 4th Avenue sidewalk, Allure’s executive chef/owner and her team project a beautiful and romantic vision of what “dining out” and being “taken out” should be. The restaurant’s interior has an understated vibe that is relaxed, modern, and inviting, and the experience gets better from there.
Allure was, is, and I think will always be one of the best meals we’ve ever had in San Diego. Think small plates, rich without being heavy, and main entrées that make you moan. Add perfectly prepared drinks, that aforementioned relaxed atmosphere, and a wait staff who are engaging in and of themselves, and Allure is, well, just plan sexy.
We were started off with an amuse-bouche of watermelon, feta, and mint, with a clear balsamic reduction that was just out of this world and got us both in the mood for an upper-level dining experience.
The menu featured Chef Melissa’s wide range of experience, as she delivered, bar none, some of the most savory bites of food I’ve ever had. Yes, it was somewhat of a religious moment as our braised lamb shank was brought out as our shared main entrée. The lamb was not only perfectly succulent, but the moment was heightened as it created its own little stew-like bed once the lamb and jus combined with the rosemary polenta and the romanesco – tiny little broccoli-like flowerets that had a delicious little snap to them. Tangy gremolata completed the dish. That one first bite makes her not just talented, it made me instantly want to go back.
I hear that Chef Melissa was previously a sous chef for one of the Top Chef contenders – and I am here to tell you that the student is now a master and is not just a very talented chef, but has also been able to embody her own vision of what dining should be and project that to her team. An intention to take care of us does not even begin to describe how well Jefferson, our waiter, and the rest of her staff executed on that meal. With no distractions, great suggestions, and a passion for the food and drink, they were all about service. There was a humble sense of “you don’t know just how lucky you are” emanating from the entire place.
We started with shared appetizers: a cold salad of seared tuna, as well as the bone marrow on toast points. Both were perfectly balanced, featured the main ingredient in a classic way, and were each, unto themselves, yet another reason to let Chef Melissa “Allure” you and treat you to what is possible. See what I did there? Allure…? Name of the place…?
As I write this from Tucson, I know there are a lot of Tucsonans who travel back and forth to San Diego. As you can tell, I will not ever go to San Diego again without making my way over to Allure. Strongly suggest you do, too. And since she and her restaurant are new, do me and your friends a favor: get in touch with everyone you know who is ever in, around, or occasionally near the San Diego area, and send them this review.
We also ate at two other places while in San Diego, both of which bear honorable mentions.
- Took the team to Nobu San Diego. Nobu is another of those critically acclaimed restaurants with locations around the world. It was delicious. Not as pricy as I expected, and every single plate, while not always imaginative or the best I’ve ever had, was excellent. Overall impression is that I would return, even though the experience was a bit “over-waited-on” and the place is very noisy.
- Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant (San Diego Waterfront / Roy’s Pacific Rim Cuisine). I do understand that prime views and waterfront locations translate into higher prices. But if you are going to pop me for $60 bucks on a simple lunch for two, you are going to need to do better. It was, overall, good. The pork sandwich was sublime. The wait staff was adequate if not distracted. The prices, even for this non price-sensitive reviewer, were a bit of a gouge. I will say that having the little guy, who was policing the tables and keeping our waters fresh, call my wife “sir” was priceless. Guessing English was his second language. Still made us smile.