On my last day in San Diego my boss took me out for a leisurely, long lunch at one of San Diego’s monumental seafood-with-a-view restaurants, The Fish Market Seafood Market and Restaurant’s Top of the Market, overlooking the San Diego Bay. The market is basically divided into a ground-level counter, where passers-by can pick up some fresh, paper-wrapped fish and seafood, as well as some house-made chowders and dipping sauces. Surrounding the counter is a child friendly, family style eatery with large round tables and a comfortable, homey feel to it. A flight of stairs on the side of the building leads to the Top of the Market Restaurant, which spans the top floor and has a semi-outdoor deck area with more of a white linen, business lunch type atmosphere to it.
The scenery was nothing short of gorgeous on a typical cloudless, sunny San Diego day. If you are planning to sit by the windows (which you should), definitely bring your sunglasses. The rays of sunshine bounce hard off the surface of the water and pierce the eyes with all their might otherwise.
Service was friendly and the menu came with fresh bread and fluffy, frothy butter for our table. I left it mostly up to my lunch companion to order, while I stared at the ferries criss-crossing the blue sea.
The first dish that arrived at our table was a big bowl of steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels, which my lunch companion requested with the “natural sauce” that consisted of white wine, garlic and butter alone. Apparently the restaurant also has a creamy white and a tomato-based sauce to serve the mussels in, but we thought it best to go with the simplest option in order to fully be able to enjoy the animal for its natural taste. The mussels and jus were served with crispy, oily triangles of toasted bread that soaked up the extra sauce nicely, providing a comforting crispy element to contrast the mushy little buggers. Apparently San Diego is a great place to get these mussels, as they seem pretty prevalent on seafood restaurant menus around the city. The mussels are incredibly large (around 3-3.5 inches of shell and a full inch of juicy, delicious flesh), plump, moist and satisfying. The skin stretched tight over the soft, creamy interior of the animal, which picked up the luxurious butter around it. The flesh was mildly sweet, packed with a considerable amount of flavor for the size (judging from which I was expecting them to taste more watery). The animal itself is also very pretty in my opinion. The colors of the shell ranged from orange in the center to a deep turquoise to green at the tip. The tips were also studded (bedazzled, I should say…) with barnacles which gave it a cool feeling of authenticity. This also suggested to me that the mussels had never been frozen (which our waitress confirmed afterwards), because if they had been, the barnacles would have frozen as well and fallen off.
I suspected that a restaurant situated right above a wet market (of sorts), renowned for the freshness of its seafood, would be a good place to try out another fish taco, of which I had tried a few already during this trip to San Diego. So far I had not been too impressed by the quality of these and I was fond of the idea of getting one in a place that takes its fish seriously. This ended up being a good call. Two oiled and toasted corn tortillas stuffed with great big rectangular chunks of fresh grilled swordfish, shredded Napa cabbage, a few shreds of cheddar cheese, some “salsa fresca” of chopped tomato, and a very lightly flavored chipotle crema fesca dressing. I very much enjoyed the fact that the fish was grilled, instead of battered and fried. The simplicity of this preparation allowed the freshness of the swordfish to shine through and it’s meaty, firm texture stood up to the tortilla and stole the show. The sauce was very slightly spicy with a warm, smoky heat from the chipotle and some acidity from lime juice. I appreciated the fact that the toppings did not overwhelm the fish. Unlike the sauce and cheese of the mahi mahi taco I had at Lucha Libre, the sauce here was very light, with the chopped tomatoes only slightly tossed in with the stuff, and the pieces of cheddar could be counted one-by-one (they seemed to only be there for color). The cabbage was left fresh and crunchy instead of being bogged down by dairy into a sloppy, creamy mess. The tortilla could have been a bit fresher and less firm – I like them a bit moist in the center – but in this case the fish was the protagonist and I appreciated the tacos for this ingredient above all.
Upon leaving the restaurant, I had a glance at what other people had ordered and everything looked delicious, especially their sandwiches, which the restaurant is also quite well known for. In particular, the Alaskan Crab Club sandwich (with toasted brioche, crab claw, avocado, bacon and lettuce and tomatoes) and the Lobster Salad Sliders (served with sweet potato fries) looked mouthwateringly delicious, both seemingly bursting with fresh crab/lobster meat.
A nice, light lunch with a wonderful view that sent us floating back to the office, happy and satisfied.