3924 West Point Loma Blvd.
Point Loma, CA 92110
I was very disappointed when one of my favorite restaurants in Point Loma – Embers – closed many months ago. For months, every time I drove by I looked to see if a new establishment was going to open in that spot. About six months ago I noticed that there were workmen inside rehabbing the building and could hardly wait to see what new cuisine would be offered.
Finally, yesterday I noticed a sign that said “Open” on the back of the building fronting Sports Arena Blvd. and quickly called Scot, a friend of mine who reviewed another restaurant with me in early 2012 (it is only a coincidence that Scot is a reporter for the Beacon -which seldom has restaurant reviews!) – and asked him if he wanted to join me in a “taste test.” He quickly said “yes” even though he had been there the week before, just 3 days after it opened. (It has been open for about a week and half.)
The restaurant, Las Olas, one of 3 owned by a Pt. Loma High School graduate – Dave Murphy – and Pete Johnson, a La Jolla High graduate. (The other two restaurants are located in Cardiff and Carlsbad.)
My first response after walking in to the restaurant was that it had not changed much since it was Embers. I was quickly told by the manager that it had changed a lot – in fact it had been gutted and rebuilt. Sorry, Mr. Manager – it still looked a lot like the old restaurant.
My second response, after looking at the menu was “Wow! These prices are pretty high for a Mexican Restaurant.” I have to hand it to Scot – even though he had been there before, he did not respond to my comments until we had finished our meal. He wanted me to make my own decisions and not be swayed by his remarks. The fact that he was willing to go with me after being there only a few days before led me to believe it must have been good.
There is an extensive margarita menu, along with wine and a full bar. However we both ordered ice tea – only to find out that the only ice tea was passion fruit, but without sugar. I asked if they had “raspberry ice tea and was originally told yes but when it was served the waiter told us he was wrong – it was passion fruit. He said if we didn’t like it he could change the order. He refilled our glasses several times.
After being served chips and salsa we had a chance to look closely at the menu. I did not care for the chips at all as they had a strange flavor, almost greasy, almost stale – and our waiter, Eddie, later told me they were fried in soy oil. And the salsa was nothing to speak about – although there was a “bite” to the salsa but it lacked texture.
I asked Eddie if there was an “ala carte” menu. He showed me a section called “Build Your Own Combination” that was like one. In included a “Group 1 Combination” that offered a Crispy Taco, or two shredded beef or chicken Taquitos, or a Shredded beef, Chicken, Carnitas, Cheese or Chile Verde Enchilada that came with two of three sides – beans, rice, or cabbage salad. One item was $6.50; two items were $9.50 and 3 items were $12.50.
The second “ala carte” combination was the same choice of sides, but the selections were different. There were “Baja –Style Fish Taco; Char-broiled Chicken Taco; Carne Asada Taco; Carnitas Taco; Traditional Chile Relleno or Char-broiled Chicken and Sour Cream Enchilada. The cost of 1 item was $8.50; 2 items were $11.50 and 3 items were $14.50.
Again, in my mind, quite steep for what was being offered. When I order ala carte, I frequently do not want the side dishes, but there was no option here.
The menu was extensive with Starters beginning at $4.75 for half an order of Guacamole ranging to $13.50 for both Nacho’s with Carne Asada and Smokin’ Quesadilla’s. There were 9 starters listed, but most offered several types of selections for the basic appetizer. (The Nachos de Salsa, for example, plain, were $8.50, but you could also have them with Carnitas, Char-broiled Chicken or Carne Asada at an additional cost.)
There are Soups and Salads, beginning at $5.50 and going up to $12.50 for a Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp. There are Seasonal Vegetable Platos, some with and some without sides, all for $10.50. There are Taco Platters where one can build their own taco because tortillas are served on the side, with salsa, guacamole, cilantro, cabbage and two sides that start at $12.50 for the Chile Verde and ranging up to $18.50 for Char-broiled Carne Asada.
Additionally, there are Seafood Specialties , starting at $13.50 for Sopa Del Mar and going to Shrimp Cortez for $21. There are several “Chile Relleno” plates – and the Chile Relleno Burrito began at $9 and went up to $15.50 for the Sauteed Shrimp, Scallops and market select Fish.
In addition to all of the above, there is also a selection of “Local Favorites”, all with the choice of 2 of the 3 sides, that began at $9.50 for the Classic Combo of Shredded Beef or Chicken Taco and Enchilada as well as the Cardiff combo consisting of two Chicken or Beef Taquitos with Guacamole, Salsa Tomate and choice of an Enchilada. The prices varied up to $14.50 for El Ranchero – Carne Asada Taco, Carnitas Taco and choice of Enchilada. And as if this wasn’t enough selection, also listed on the menu were 8 different kinds of Burritos – ranging from $9 to $14; Chimichangas – 5 of them ranging from $10.50 to $14; and Quesadillas – ranging from $10.50 to $14.50.
It should also be pointed out that they have a Breakfast selection that is served all day, and it starts with “Breakfast Americano – 2 eggs, any style – for $7.50. If you added bacon to the 2 eggs the cost would be $9. The other 5 items are in the $8-8.75 range. There are two Desserts listed also.
It turns out that when Scot was here the first time he had a Traditional Chili Relleno. When I asked him how it was he said he was disappointed. He said it was very flat – like they forgot to stuff it with cheese. It was more “pancake” than anything else.
He decided to try something else this time and ordered the Carnitas Burrito at $11.50. The description on the menu, besides the choice of 2 sides, said it was served with red or green sauce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa fresco. He asked if he could have both sauces and Eddie suggested that they be served on the side so Scot could taste both of them. He agreed. He ordered refried beans and the cabbage salad as his sides. He said, and I agreed, that the Burrito was very tasty; the sauces were good; the guacamole fresh and added to the meal.
Scot said that there was a “generous” amount of Carnitas in the burrito. The beans and salad were good but nothing to write about separately. He asked if he could have an additional service of “salsa fresca” –(pico de gallo) and Eddie brought him a generous serving.
Eddie had recommended the Sour Cream Enchilada’s and at $11.50 I took his suggestion. They were also tasty, and the black beans – with bacon – which could cause some cultural problems if one did not know there was bacon in them – and rice were a nice accompaniment.
While we were eating, the manager came and asked us how everything was. We told him we were satisfied. Scot meant to tell him that when he ordered plain ice tea he was told that they didn’t carry it – only flavored but did not mention it. I asked the manager if he had any idea of when Dave Murphy graduated from Pt. Loma High School. He said he didn’t think that he had graduated from that school. Scot informed him that that was said on the internet page. I asked him if he had an idea of how old Dave was – I have two daughters that graduated from Pt. Loma High – and he said he didn’t know – maybe about 50. It seemed to both Scot and I that the manager did not know much about his employer, the restaurant and how to work with people.
We had decided beforehand that we wanted to try the Flan listed on the dessert menu. The description was different than most flan’s, but stated that it was “Carmel cheesecake flan – made fresh daily since 1981″ – much like traditional flan custard but with a cheese cake twist. Deliciously sweet! And the cost was $4.50. It was, without a doubt, the best part of the meal. It had a cream cheese texture, but very slight cream cheese taste. It was so good that even though we shared one we both ate very slowly to savor the taste.
The question arises: would I return to Las Olas. I don’t think so. I think it was horribly over priced; the food, while tasty, had some quirks that I was not happy with. (The chips, for example; the lack of ice tea as another example.) Yes, I know, critics out there, that they are very small things compared to the meal, but when I pay $40 for a meal without an alcoholic drink I want to feel like I am getting my money’s worth, and I did not feel that way in this case. I can get the same meal at “Nati’s” or “Rancho’s” at half the cost. True, the ambiance of those two restaurants do not compare to the atmosphere of Las Olas, but it is the food I am interested in – and this restaurant is just too expensive for this “fixed income widow.”