Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park is named after the Sea Rocket, a plant growing mainly near coastal beaches and dunes. The Sea Rocket has fleshy leaves and flowers that are typically pale mauve to white. Many different varieties exist from coast to coast, and continent to continent, with a few making their home right here in San Diego. Talking with Elena Rivellino, the General Manager of Sea Rocket Bistro, she explained to me the origins of the bistro’s name. A plant that is so reliant on its ecosystem would be the perfect namesake for a restaurant that strives to be green in every way.
From a robust recycling program including composting and biodegradable containers, to menus printed on 25% hemp and 75% post-consumer recycled paper, Sea Rocket Bistro is taking the time to care about our environment.
I sat down at the bar early one afternoon and instantly sparked a conversation with a couple of local gentlemen from North Park visiting for a pint and a quick bite to eat. Displayed proudly at the bar is a draft tower displaying a variety of well-chosen local craft ales. Elena mentions that Sea Rocket Bistro prides itself on being a farm-to-table restaurant, specializing in the local coastal culinary culture and local wine and beer industries. They do this by sourcing their ingredients from local farmers, suppliers, and wineries, and breweries.
As I perused the menu, I noticed an eclectic selection of dishes that sparked the imagination and the taste buds. I could hardly wait to taste the local faire with a few pints myself!
I started with the Native American Wild Rice Salad. This blend of California wild rice, shredded carrots, tomatoes, dried sour cherries, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and green onions was dressed in a beautiful honey apple cider vinaigrette. Based on a traditional recipe from the National Museum of the American Indian, this dish had bright flavors that were clean and crisp. The vinaigrette was subtle so as not to overpower the salad itself. A sophisticated melding of the wild rice with the fruit flavors of apples and cherries envelopes the palate. Salads pair well with most hefeweizens or wheat beers, and I was happy to be having a Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat draft. The predominant flavors of wheat and citrus paired well with the starches in the rice and acids in the cherries and dressing.
The Sea Urchin is not an inviting looking creature. Small, globular, and very spiny, these creatures are a delicacy around the world. I was excited to see a Sea Urchin Bisque on the menu and quickly ordered up. Served in the spiny shell of the urchin, the bisque has an elegant and sweet aroma of fresh seafood. Rich, smooth, and creamy, each taste coats your mouth with the flavors of the sea. From the tap selection I found a perfect partner in Port Brewing’s Red Barn Ale. A Saison or farmhouse ale, Red Barn starts out sweet with the flavors of orange, coriander, ginger, and honey. This is a perfect match for the natural sweetness of seafood and bisque. As the beer evolves it shows more spice, citrus, and a dry finish that lends itself well to cleansing the palate and refreshing the senses.
Moving on, I tried the Grilled San Diego Sardines. This omega-rich fish is full of flavor rich oils that impart a wonderful combination of savory and salty sensations. Sources directly from the waters of our shores, these sardines are perfectly grilled and served with a chilled lima bean salad drizzled with a lemon-infused Temecula avocado oil. The contrast of the cold salad with its slight acidity and the full flavored sardines makes for an interesting and pleasurable meal. A meal of this grand of flavor needs a beer to match. Hops tend to pair well here, as the bitterness they impart help to break down the savory oils and salty notes in the fish. Luckily for me, Green Flash’s Hop Head Red was available and brought out the best in this dish.
Other dishes peaked my interest as well. The Sea Rocket Ceviche (which does NOT contain sea rocket) was light and tender. Sweet melon, red onion, cilantro, and habanero melded into a truly unique ceviche. The Beet & Goat Cheese Tart was an unexpected favorite of mine. Not a huge fan of beets, I found this entrée to be sweet and tender, with a pleasant earthiness. Also, the huge contrast in textures between the crisp crust and walnuts, complimented the smooth textures of the goat cheese and beets. Lastly, the Kumquat Bread Pudding with Coconut Caramel Sauce was the perfect end to the meal. Served cold, it was refreshing and satisfying. Full of citrus flavors, the pudding was moist and delectable.
With a namesake that roams the coastlines, and a work ethic for creating wonderful dishes from locally sources ingredients and products, Sea Rocket Bistro is leading the way in farm fresh dining. Couple that with the friendly atmosphere, eclectic local crowds, and staff that truly care about not just what we eat but how we eat, and I can’t think of a better place to support local. Cheers!
Sea Rocket Bistro is located at 3382 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104