Island Prime – At The Point

| April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments
Salmon is prepared and served on a plank for extra flavor.

Salmon is prepared and served on a plank for extra flavor.

Starbucks is practically ubiquitous. It seems that wherever I travel, there’s bound to be a location nearby. Well, David Cohn doesn’t have quite the same reach but here in San Diego, a David Cohn restaurant is seemingly within a short drive. At my last count, nineteen of his 21 operations are within San Diego County. Another is in Long Beach, the last in Hawaii.

What’s different about Cohn’s organization, though, is that they are not all cut from the same cloth. Many have different themes, cuisine and interiors. Blue Point, a seafood restaurant, is quite different from Draft Republic, a sports bar, from Corvette Diner, a “gamers garage” that is great for family dinners and kids parties. Cohn accomplishes this diversity by working deals with chef-partners, whose creativity help him to flesh out the concepts.

To my knowledge, Cohn is not a chef. But he understands that use of funds and finance to make a restaurant become a reality and stay in business. And, like President Trump, he has his wonderful family at his side in the boardroom. Finally, like a good businessman, Cohn also knows when, occasionally, to restructure or close a restaurant.

Because of his history, reputation and financial strength, Cohn was able to obtain the rights to develop one of the most-choice locations for restaurants in our city, the end point of Harbor Island. Old timers here may remember the low, long building that housed Reubens and where the Mississippi-like paddleboat Reuben E. Lee restaurant stood for many years. Both of these died of old age and stood empty for years, until Cohn came along to redevelop them.

The boat was the second to go. The paddleboat was consigned to “Mississippi heaven” and a new building now houses Coasterra, serving Mexican cuisine. Where Reuben’s once stood, Cohn created a new property that houses — not one but two restaurants — C Level (sea level, get it?) and Island Prime.

What makes the location so special? First, it is right on the water’s edge of the bay. Second, it has the most amazing view of the action on the water and, behind that, the structures and lights of downtown, Coronado and the bridge.

To get to the restaurant, one has to go towards the airport, then turn onto Harbor Island, which is across the street. Then one has to navigate a few semi-roundabouts and drive a short stretch of coastline before entering a large parking lot. It is easiest to drive up to the parking valet and just leave the car.

The door to the restaurants is huge and heavy but swings easily to welcome guests. Then, although the two restaurants share a building, it is easy to know which is which. Turn left for C Level. Turn right for Island Prime. C Level is mostly located on an outdoor deck and is more casual. Island Prime is interior and more “formal,” although little is really formal in San Diego dining.
Cohn developed these restaurants with chef-partner Deborah Scott, with whom he worked since the old “Indigo Grill” days and perhaps earlier.

Island Prime is a steakhouse, as the name implies. “Prime” meat is a superior grade with amazing tenderness, juiciness, flavor and fine texture. It has the highest degree of fat marbling and is derived from the younger beef. That’s why Prime is generally featured at the most exclusive upscale steakhouse restaurants. In other words, it is delicious.

My favorite starter is the lobster bisque, with sherry, cream and lobster. How can one go wrong with that combination. Other starters include seared ahi steak, with avocado, papaya-mango salsa and caviar. Or, try pepita and sesame crusted Brie, created by Chef Scott. Or try a simple BLT wedge.

The steaks are described by cut and place of origin. For example, the filet comes from Nebraska and the bone in rib eye comes from Arizona. Several cuts of Wagyu beef come from Australia even though the breed originates in Japan. My companion ordered the 32-ounce Nebraska porterhouse that filled the plate and was at least two inches high. He surprised me by making a significant dent into it, although he told me later that he had food for three days.

“Any Turf Can Surf” lists all the seafood that can accompany the beef – prawns, lobster and crab legs. Sides include incredible mushrooms and sharp mac n’cheese, along with fries, prosciutto wrapped asparagus and more.

“Deborah’s (Scott) Compositions” round out the menu with seafood, chicken, pork and lamb dishes. These range from a savory macadamia crusted mahi mahi to a braised volcano cut lamb shank. And, if all else fails, there is pomegranate glazed tofu.

On the alcohol side, there is a large list of specialty cocktails and, of course, an amazing wine list. The list of “wines by the glass” is also very impressive, offering a variety of tastes to augment the flavors of the food preparations.

Island Prime and its “sister” restaurants have become very popular, for good reason — location, location and location. Add good food and drinks and easy parking and you’ve got winners. But, along with quality comes price. Those at Island Prime are on the high side but only marginally so. The ambiance makes up for it.

Island Prime is located at the point of Harbor Island. Call (619) 698-6802 for information and reservations.

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