Donovan’s Prime Seafood – A Worthy Successor

| April 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

When it comes to beef, the word “prime” is a word of art. It is a grade of meat. It refers to select cuts that are found on only the best animals.  Terms like flavorful, tender and well marbled, are applied to these cuts of meat, reflecting their high quality and appeal.

Donovan’s Prime Steakhouse serves prime steaks in its La Jolla and Gaslamp locations. Here the term informs diners of the fine cuts they will enjoy.

Shea used the word “prime” in the restaurant’s name. Here, the word is used not as a grading level for seafood but in its ultimate meaning, “superlative.” The quality of the seafood is “best of catch,” the ambiance is delightful.


The steakhouse locations are both “clubby” and “woody,” with booths to create intimacy and privacy. They have the feel of a private club. Perhaps, in a prior era, clouds of heavy cigar smoke would permeate the air. By contrast, the seafood location is light and airy.

Kemar Durfield is the accomplished chef who worked at the prestigious Addison restaurant prior to joining Donovan’s.  He is a strong adherent of sustainability for seafood. His menus feature fish that are not considered endangered or overfished. San Diego is an ideal location that offers him the ability to purchase directly from fishermen for the freshest seafood and directly from local farmers for the freshest produce.

A server brings a loaf of hot, oven fresh bread to the table once diners are seated. That’s to get the salivary juices flowing.  Of course, one could start earlier at the bar, where drinks, cocktails and selections from the fresh oyster bar can certainly get things moving.  Arrive between 4 pm and 6 pm and one could enjoy “happy hour” featuring special prices for many drinks and a chance to enjoy complimentary (as in “free”) fish tacos and fish wraps.

Salads or seafood appetizers are tempting beginnings. Among salads, Cesar salad, with anchovies and heart of palm salad, with bacon, both have very tasty dressings. The seafood appetizers are really excellent. Seafood chowder, using seasonal fish, comes in a bread bowl that lets one eat the dish. The jumbo shrimp cocktail are really “jumbo.” It is hard to imagine where such large members of the species grow. Four huge shrimp circle a deep bowl in which a tangy tomato sauce resides. One could make a meal of these alone.


For entrees, a good list of seafood selections are listed.  These include halibut, ahi, scallops and salmon. Of course, lobster and crab legs are offered. The difference lies in the quality of the seafood and in the preparation. The salmon, for example, was wild, rather than farmed (better because of firmer flesh, greater flavor, and more omega 3s) and accompanied by a lentil dish that accentuated the taste. The Chilean sea bass (now sustainable) was light, white, flaky and wonderful.

For diners who must absolutely have a meat fix, the menu includes osso buco, chicken, and rib eye, among other items. They use the same meat as do the steakhouse locations, prepared the same way.

Chocolate pot de’ crème (the name says it all) is one of the more popular desserts, as is the panna cota (yummy cream, milk, sugar and gelatin that has set) with wild berries.  Or, one can be a purist with just seasonal fruit.

Donovan’s  has an award winning wine list and occasionally participates in special wine tasting dinners in conjunction with select wineries. Recently, the restaurant sponsored such a dinner to benefit the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and raised a lot of money for it. That’s a great way to give back to the community.

Prices at Donovan’s Prime Seafood are moderate to expensive. Valet parking is available. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is located at 333 Fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego. Call 619-906-4850 for information and directions.

Category: Entertainment

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