Terra Restaurant – A Star on El Cajon Boulevard

| January 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

Time sure flies by quickly. I felt as if I hadn’t seen Jeff Rossman for about a year. It turns out to have been almost four years. Of course, I ran into him occasionally at events that he catered. But I had not dined at his restaurant for such a long time, too long.

Don’t recognize the name “Jeff Rossman”? If you’re a foodie, you should. He deserves recognition as a self-made man, a self-taught chef who has mastered his art so well that he is one of our city’s “star” chefs. Several years ago, his restaurant Terra was voted Best Kept Secret by The San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine. Now you’re in on the secret.

Rossman started his career at the very bottom, as a dishwasher, humble beginnings from which he worked his way up through perseverance, experimentation and study. It was a long learning process. Seventeen years later, he opened Terra Restaurant & Bar.
Terra is a family affair. One can often find Rossman’s mother and father in the restaurant, a personable couple who often greet diners by name.

“Terra” means “land” in Latin. The restaurant is well named because the menu emphasizes farm to table dining. The vegetables in one’s salad may have rested in the ground that morning.

The first restaurant location was in Hillcrest. Then Rossman moved his restaurant to El Cajon Boulevard, close to SDSU and the 70th Street exit off Highway 8. The décor is comfortable, good not gaudy. On-site parking is available. The restaurant is perhaps the best in the area.

The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Tuesday through Sunday and Sunday brunch. It is closed for dinner on Mondays.

The dinner menu starts with “Stuff to Share.” If you’ve ever passed on Brussel sprouts, wait until you try Rossman’s roasted Brussel sprouts with garlic and shallots. They are delectable. Ginger chicken potstickers and salty peppery calamari are two other choices that are sure to set up diners for amazing dining experiences. Portions are large so sharing appetizers won’t leave anyone feeling deprived.

The wedge salad, among the salad choices, comes with a creamy buttermilk dressing rather than the traditional blue cheese dressing. The taste is different, mellow, not as sharp as that of the cheese. But, with the bacon and gorgonzola, it is very enjoyable.

Flatbreads have become very popular, a pizza variation on a different dough but also with a broad variety of toppings. They are large enough to be filling for a meal but small enough not to cause guilt at finishing the whole thing. Rossman offers three flatbreads. I sampled the salami flatbread, with gorgonzola and mushrooms. It was delicious.

Entrees are labeled “large plates.” The turkey osso buco needed a large plate. The dish included a turkey leg so large I believed Rossman shopped for it in Jurassic Park. It must have weighed three pounds of delicious, perfectly prepared meat. I actually took much of it home, something I do rarely. It came with a squash puree that brought flavors of the fall season.

Miso glazed fish and lobster mac & cheese are offered to seafood lovers. Skirt steak and amber lager braised pot roast are offered to diners who are looking for more of a comfort food.

As a “farm to table” restaurant, menus change seasonally to reflect what is then available out of the ground. But the more popular meat and fish dishes are always listed.

Terra features an extensive wine list that is sufficient impressive to have garnered a Wine Spectator award. Among the pinot noir listing, the “Morgan 12 Clones” is an excellent full bodied wine that can enhance any menu choice. For diners who prefer to bring their own wines, corkage is free on Wednesdays.

Desserts arrived on a lovely clay tablet and included delightful crème brulee and a decadent flavorful chocolate cake.

As a true entrepreneur, Rossman has broadened into catering and has even established a kosher catering service to bring quality dining to kosher adherents.

Terra Restaurant has a kids menu, even one for Sunday brunch. The price points are moderate and the food is delicious. Rossman is one good chef!

The restaurant is located at 7091 El Cajon Boulevard. Call (619) 293-7088 for reservations, information and directions.

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