Pork chops. Hotel restaurants. In my world, those things usually haven’t been great. Every time I’ve ordered pork chops, they’ve been dry and overcooked. Hotel restaurants have been overpriced and mediocre. Then again, it’s just my experience, so maybe I’m cursed.
This hex was broken at the Grand Del Mar’s Amaya. Amaya shares real estate with Addison, one of San Diego’s premier fine-dining destinations; however, Amaya is a great destination in its own right. Set in the gorgeous hotel, Amaya shares the luxuriously opulent décor. Yet, despite the formal setting, it has a relaxed air about it. It’s fit for families or girls’ nights out and has a cozy intimacy that’s perfect for a date night.
The food is excellent. Starters include a beautiful butternut squash soup that’s sweet without being cloying, rich with fall spices without being overdone; the squash’s flavor has been enhanced rather than covered. The crispy branzini and seared sea bass are outstanding fish dishes, while the duck breast is moist and flavorful on a bed of red rice risotto.
While I have yet to encounter a bad dish at Amaya, all of the great dishes I’ve had are outdone by the center-cut rotisserie pork chop. One thick slice is bone-in, a layer of perfectly seared fat circling halfway around, and served with a bit of potato hash. Knives sink into the pork like it’s made of butter. Cut a piece from the slice, put a little potato hash on it and dunk it in the accompanying sauce for a little bite of perfection.
The desserts are also first-rate, but like the pork chop, perfection is found in the lemon meringue ice-cream pie—lemon curd ice cream served on a classic graham-cracker crust and topped with toasted meringue. Served with a huckleberry reduction and sticks of crispy meringue, it’s sunshine on a plate.
Gone are my days of bad pork chops and hotel restaurants. Apparently, curses can be broken.