Central to a new food and beverage experience at the scenic San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina is Marina Kitchen—a restaurant that serves up quintessential Southern California fare with distinctive “modern comfort food” flair. Located on the hotel’s South Tower lobby level, this eatery offers a delightful dining experience founded on fresh, seasonally available ingredients coupled with an impressive West coast-oriented wine program.
Contemporary in design and cozy, even considering its expansive 19,000 square feet of space, Marina Kitchen’s lounge atmosphere, gorgeous panoramic views of the bay, and multitude of private seating arrangements make it perfectly suited for an intimate meal with friends or loved ones, a business dinner, or a large group celebration.
The restaurant’s culinary team boasts over 100 years of combined experience. Commanding the kitchen is Executive Chef Aron Schwartz who trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Chef Schwartz has worked in restaurants around the country, including serving as a Sous Chef for Lutece at The Venetian in Las Vegas and as Chef for Bernard’O Restaurant in San Diego. Rounding out the team is Beverage Director Joshua Orr who holds an Advanced Sommeliers certification and General Manager Michael Miller who has opened and operated some of California’s premier restaurant concepts California. Together, they have created a stellar Southern California dining experience.
The menu at Marina Kitchen is a well-conceived homage to home cooking that, given its spectacular marina locale, aptly integrates succulent seafood options. The seasonal farm fresh fare includes everything from sharable appetizers, dinner-sized salads, and a nicely-balanced range of entrées to numerous small plates that are also available to those seated at the expansive and equally eye catching bar area. At this restaurant, elevated comfort food reigns supreme from the Chicken Noodle Soup with roasted pulled chicken and house made lavosh ($7); Black Bean Chili with shaved Fiscalini cheddar, scallion and avocado ($7); and Grilled Carlsbad Oyster Casino with chopped pecan wood smoked back and green onions ($12) to the Turkey Pot Pie with roasted root vegetables and rich chicken velouté ($21) and Lightly Smoked Rib Eye Steak with scalloped potatoes, roasted bone marrow, and sauce bordelaise ($36).
Having eaten at Marina Kitchen, I can personally vouch for the cross section of starters I sampled: Carlsbad Aqua Farm Black Mussels with white wine and fine herbs with a side of fries and garlic aioli ($12); Short Rib Crostini’s with red onion marmalade and Shaft blue cheese ($12); Lobster Salad with pea tendrils, caviar, and local citrus segments; and the Roasted Beet Salad with Coach Farm goat cheese, aged sherry vinegar, and sea salt ($13). From the entrée selections, while the “daily fish” scallop dish (MKT) was decidedly fresh and flavorful, it was the Brandt Beef New York Steak with truffle mac and cheese and Au Poivre sauce, served with a side of Brussels sprouts, which definitely stole the show. The evening of my visit the Lobster Salad and the Steak entrée were options on the restaurant’s popular, ever-changing three course Prix Fixe menu priced at $45 per person or $70 if you want to include a per course wine pairing. Also well worth a mention is the Chef’s painstaking artful plating—each of the dishes served was a feast for the eyes as well.
As would be expected, the home spun sensibility at Marina Kitchen also extends to the dessert menu. The Makers Mark Milkshake with bourbon and ice cream ($10) is a frontrunner favorite as is the Seasonal Fruit Clafuti—a warm baked fruit “pudding” with cream anglaise ($8). Of course, you won’t go wrong with New York Style Cheesecake with raspberry sauce ($8) made fresh daily or, my favorite, the Pear Cobbler with vanilla ice cream, which was also on that evening’s Prix Fixe menu.
“It’s all about creating relationships in our local community and making partnerships with local farmers, fishermen, and butchers,” Chef Aron explains. “Our focus is using great, seasonally fresh ingredients with minimal preparation allowing our craft to speak for itself. When you walk through the door, we want you to forget the demands of the day. We want you to enjoy the food, the comfort and the atmosphere.”
At Marina Kitchen, wine is an experience unto itself with options including exclusive sampling of soon-to-be-released wines direct from winery barrels. A nicely structured wine menu allows patrons to choose based on varietal, flavor profile, or theme. Other adult beverage options include craft beer selections and artisan spirits.
With Marina Kitchen, the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina has broken the mold of typical on-site hotel restaurants and proffers an epicurean experience that’s modern and unexpected. Indeed, this eatery has enough palate-pleasing panache that’s made it a draw all its own.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***