Bartenders Recommend Best Raw Bar And Cocktail Pairings
Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, it’s no secret that San Diego restaurants offer some of the freshest and most flavorful raw bar offerings. So, in the midst of oyster season, we’ve gathered bartenders from some of San Diego’s most notable restaurants to share their favorite raw bar and cocktail pairings specific to their restaurants.
Herb & Sea
Tucked away in San Diego’s beach town of Encinitas, you’ll find Herb & Sea, a restaurant beloved by its community and a welcoming place for all to share the bounties of the sea paired with a selection of refreshing, ingredient-forward cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Encapsulating all that the coastal lifestyle means and more, Herb & Sea offers a raw bar selection of simple and fresh dishes like raw oysters on the half shell, punchy crudos, smoked fish and ceviche; all dishes are reminiscent of a salty, summer, seaside escape.
Bar Lead Laz Jimenez suggests guests enjoy the Gin & Juice cocktail with the Hamachi Crudo, as the lemongrass and strawberry-infused gin pair well with the fresh citrus ingredients and white ponzu sauce in the Hamachi Crudo. The Gin Martini pairs best with Raw Oysters on the Half Shell, as a classic stiff martini complements an oyster’s briny flavor and buttery texture making it an unmistakable match.
Located on the 101 in Leucadia, Valentina is a favorite amongst locals for its European-style bistro offerings and expansive wine and bubbles program.
Valentina’s intimate yet vibrant atmosphere offers a unique raw bar menu paired perfectly with its rotating list of worldly and natural wines and a large selection of legendary, well-known and unique bubbles. Director of Operations and Sommelier Ricardo Zarate recommends ordering the Spanish Sashimi which is best enjoyed with a bottle of Vincent Couche “Chloé” Brut Nature Champagne, highly focused on its minerality and stone fruit tones to contrast beautifully with the richness of the fish.
The Steak Tartare is a classic bistro staple elevated by Chef Jonathon Freyberg’s seasonings and choice of Prime-grade steak paired perfectly with the SAMsARA Rancho Boa Vista Vineyard Carbonic Syrah, offered by the glass at Valentina. The Boquerones will transport guests to a Spanish villa escape as it is a quintessential tapa in Spain paired best with Alfredo Egia’s “Rebel Rebel” Txakolina from Northern Spain, bringing a rich nutty tone that harmonizes with the salinity of the Boquerones. No dining experience at Valentina is complete without an order of their delightful oysters, paired perfectly with OVUM’s “Rare Form: For Love Nor Money” Riesling.
Known for its unparalleled views of the San Diego skyline and bay, InterContinental San Diego’s rooftop restaurant, Garibaldi, whisks guests away to Southern Italy. Dedicated to serving only the highest quality, freshly caught seafood, Garibaldi is one of San Diego’s finest destinations for seafood lovers, with a creative cocktail menu to match.
Restaurant and Bar Manager, Megan Brown, suggests pairing the whimsical color-changing Fiore di Farfella cocktail, a combination of Carbonadi Vodka, Gusto di Amalfi Alloro, Butterfly Pea Flower Infused Luxardo, lemon juice, and Brut Champagne, with the Pesce Freddo, an impressive seafood platter served with a trio of sauces – mignonette, cocktail, and marie rose. The wild-grown bay laurel in the Alloro and the bright lemon juice within the cocktail balances the brininess of the oysters, while the Luxardo liqueur enhances the subtle sweetness of the tuna crudo and prawns. This cocktail and raw bar pairing is perfect for sharing and comes in two sizes to serve the whole table: ‘Piccolo’ or ‘Grande’.
Other recommended pairings include the Spritz Estivo, a zesty and light aperitif, and the Antipasti Di Pesce, with tuna tonnato, octopus salami, smoked swordfish carpaccio, and an assortment of pickles. Garibaldi’s spin on the classic Campari Spritz, the Spritz Estivo’s fresh grapefruit juice and slight bitterness play off of the rich tuna tonnato while complementing the savory swordfish carpaccio.
Located in Little Italy, one of the oldest and most iconic historical areas of San Diego, maritime-themed Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar is a unique seafood dining experience that will leave guests feeling like they are about to set sail on a 19th century ocean liner.
Known for their fresh raw oysters served with a balanced acidic-sweet mignonette, as well as the shrimp, rockfish, clams and lobster, Ironside’s lead bartender, Tania Corenjo, has a drink recommendation for a selection of Ironside’s most popular raw bar offerings.
It’s no secret oysters need to be followed with some bubbles, Tania recommends the popular South Pacific Spritz highlighting tequila, vermouth, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice. Other recommendations include pairing the Kanpachi Crudo with the Venitian Spritz, or the Shrimp and Octopus Cocktail with the Daisy Del Mar.
Ironside’s menu boasts a great variety of delicious seafood options and a selection of craft cocktails guaranteed to make your dining experience even more memorable.
See you there, San Diego!