(Photo: Sam Wells/San Diego Magazine)
I’m the restaurant critic for San Diego Magazine. For August’s issue, I ate in a brochure. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like when you walk through the Lexus “super-dealership” to get to Vintana in Escondido. David and Leslie Cohn, two of the most successful restaurateurs in San Diego (Corvette Diner, Indigo Grill, Bo Beau, The Prado, Melting Pot, 333 Pacific, etc), often take a slagging. Big dogs have big heels, and all the little purse dogs of the city’s dining scene are nippy little bastards.
You can read my review of Vintana here.
The accusation against the Cohns? Middle of the road food, high price, unexciting concepts.
Until a few years ago, I agreed with that estimation. Everyone gets a little soft sometimes. It’s the professional version of sitting on your couch for a week or so, eating ice cream and beer in your boxers while the mail goes unchecked (a recurring personal daydream). That’s not to say The Cohns weren’t trying (nor Rocky Roading excessively in leisurewear). Risk-taking just didn’t seem to be their M.O. But now… I think they’ve been motivated. Bo Beau in Ocean Beach was their last concept, a collaboration with Franco-ambiance specialist, Philippe Beltran (who designed Vagabond and Blue Boheme). Dude makes restaurants look like sex.
And now, Vintana. A restaurant atop a car dealership. I was expecting something grossly capitalistic. Something tragically middle of the road, where the seats were made to resemble Lexus bucket seats or some such nonsense. A “new car smell” petit four or something.
The Cohns proved me wrong a second time. It’s a pretty stunning place, especially in Escondido—a part of the city near where I grew up, always known for a certain “parking lot hell” aesthetic. I’m getting some faith back in the titans. They just opened 100 Wines in Hillcrest, a damn pretty joint and their second collaboration with Beltran (and Bo Beau chef, Katherine Humphus).