Small Plates, Big Flavors

| August 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

I’ve just returned from a cruise in Alaska, where I’ve enjoyed seeing white glaciers, blue waters, green forests and occasional wildlife. During my journey, I’ve met people from all over our country. The first question usually is, “Where are you from?” When I replied that I lived in San Diego, I was usually told I was lucky to do so.

It is true. Residents of San Diego enjoy possibly the best weather. Now, while much of the nation is sweltering, we’re loving balmy sunshine and cool evenings. Many of us take advantage of our good fortune by enjoying evenings out for dinner, particularly at good restaurants with good ocean views. One of my favorite places to go is Humphreys by the Bay, where the food is excellent, the ambiance is wonderful and prices are reasonable.

There are two Humphrey’s locations. Humphrey’s by the Bay, is located on Shelter Island, next door to the well-known outdoor concerts venue that hosts big name entertainment during the summer months. The second is located in the Sheraton Hotel in La Jolla, with a lovely dining room that is convenient the UTC and the La Jolla Playhouse.

A great way to get good parking for a show at the concerts venue is to have dinner earlier at the restaurant. Then, one also can enjoy drinks later at the bar for more entertainment.

Humphrey’s by the Bay has a Polynesian-looking entrance off a large free parking lot that leads to a reception area reminiscent of a hotel lobby. A large bar lies straight ahead. This room is called the Back Stage Live and local bands perform nightly. When Monday Night Football or other major sports events occur, a huge projection TV screen gives viewers practically a seat on the field. Entertainment changes from day to day and includes rock and roll, blues, country, jazz, and reggae. A monthly schedule is available at the door and on the website.

The restaurant is divided into two sections – one meeting room faces the bay across the parking lot and a second, main dining room faces the marina and Point Loma. Diners have fabulous views of the marina during the day. The masts of the moored vessels pierce the sky like pickup sticks in front of the green hills of Point Loma and its cliff-hugging houses. Small craft come and go and the occasional bikini-clad deckhand can be seen folding sails or washing down the rigging. At night, the lights of the houses twinkle brightly. The room is soundproofed from the music of the lounge next door.

The cuisine created by Executive Chef Paul Murphy is perhaps the best reason to visit. Murphy has trained and worked with some of the best in the business, including Wolfgang Puck at Postrio in San Francisco and Tom Dowling at the local favorite, El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. He served in Belgium, the best country where to enjoy French cooking, and also in the prestigious Ritz Carlton chain in San Francisco and Phoenix. His emphasis is on seafood. Murphy uses the freshest of ingredients.

To celebrate this summer, Murphy has created a new menu, which features both small plates and large plates. Small plates are an ideal way to enjoy sharing a larger selection of tastes that one would enjoy by ordering just one dish. The combined price of several small plates may be about the same as that of a single conventional entrée but portions are often large enough to share satisfactorily. They are great conversation starters, as well.

Appetizers include a hearty Cajun shrimp and corn chowder and a very tasty iceberg wedge, covered with blue cheese and a tarragon dressing. It was served delightfully cold. Even when split, the wedge was quite large.

Small plates include seared George’s bank scallops, with garlic mashed potato. If one is a scallop lover, this is a must dish to try. Jumbo shrimp skewers were served with a spicy Creole sauce that burst with flavor. The lemon pepper calamari was outstanding.

Large plates include Creek Stone natural prime rib with garlic mashed potato, grilled barramundi, a tasty seabass type fish that is sustainable through aquaculture, and grilled king salmon. Having been in Alaska where the fish are running, I know this is the best time of year to enjoy it.

There is an extensive wine list, reasonably priced, with some choices available by the glass and half bottle. The dessert menu features an excellent crème brulee and a superb bread pudding that takes a few minutes to prepare. Artisan bread is not served automatically but must be ordered a la carte.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On Sundays, a brunch offers an amazing array of wonderful dishes in numerous serving stations, including prime rib, roast turkey, ham and other delights.

Humphrey’s by the Bay lived up to all my expectations. It was a charming place to spend a delightful evening at a cost that was very affordable. Humphrey’s by the Bay is located at 2241 Shelter Island Drive. Reservations are recommended. Call 619-224-3577 for reservations or information.

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