KEX in San Diego

Kettner Exchange

Another dinner with some co-workers during another business trip means another opportunity for good company, good food and all on the company card. This time we were in San Diego and one of my co-workers had recommended Kettner Exchange.  I had never heard of it so I didn’t go in with any expectation, but the reviews were generally positive and the menu looked interesting.

Big Eye Tuna Pizza

This may have looked like a pizza but it tasted as far from it as you could imagine.  Thinly sliced raw tuna with red onions and shiso sat atop a crispy tortilla-like cracker and some ponzu and truffle oil drizzled all over finished it off.  I enjoyed the crunch from the cracker and was surprised by how flavorful it turned out to be.

Hamachi Tostada

Similar to the Big Eye Tuna pizza, the Hamachi Tostada didn’t look that appetizing.  I had visions of it being akin to its Mexican cousin, but aside from sharing the use of cabbage, cilantro, and tortilla chips, this was so much better tasting.  The hamachi along with a thai vinaigrette gave this dish an Asian slant which I really enjoyed and like the pizza, the texture from the chips went very well with the raw fish making this one of my favorite dishes.

Tenderbelly Farms Pork Belly

For some reason, I didn’t expect much from the pork belly buns mostly because I see it done so often that it isn’t as interesting as it was 10 years ago.  The buns were light but doughy and filled with pork belly, watermelon, charred jalapenos, green papaya, and pickled daikon.  Even though I knew what to expect in terms of the tangy fruitiness balancing out the decadence of the pork belly, I was still quite pleasantly surprised at how much I still enjoyed each bite of these little buns.

Grilled Spanish Octopus

The octopus was grilled and served with some tomatoes, cucumbers, aioli and chimichurri. The octopus pieces were a little too big and I thought they were a little too chewy for my liking.  I probably didn’t get enough sauce on them because I found them lacking in flavor.  I did like the crispy potatoes though.

Spicy Shrimp

The shrimps were deep fried and tossed in a chipotle aioli sauce giving it a nice kick of heat.  It was spicy and maybe a little too creamy, but I really liked them and helped myself to a second serving.

Kale Salad

I seriously have never eaten as much kale salad as I have in the last 18 months since joining my team.  I’m surrounded by a number of co-workers who’s choice of green ruffrage always ends up being kale salad.  In terms of flavor, this one wasn’t bad with the almonds, apple, golden raisins, parmesan, and lemon-olive oil.  It helped mask the bitterness that often accompanies this super food.

Foie Gras Toast

I had higher hopes for this. It sounded good, but ultimately I felt like the individual components just never came together. The grilled batard was too thick and I would have preferred it be toastier than it was.  Although one would expect the sweetness of the figs and foie gras would be perfect complements for one another, it didn’t seem to work here. The boysenberry jam seemed lost somewhere in the bread.  I think ultimately, the dish could have been better executed with the foie gras being cooked.

Chicken Liver Mousse

This was okay but still nothing terribly memorable. Of the 3 liver/foie gras preparations, this one was definitely smack dab in the middle. It had a softer consistency making it more spreadable, but I still wasn’t a fan of the bread and the jam, in spite of its sweetness, didn’t do much for the overall flavor profile.

Avocado Toast

Similar to the foie gras toast, I wasn’t a fan of the thick toast that was used. It was too heavy and not crunchy enough.  Again the gioia burrata and avocado sounded promising but the ingredients just didn’t complement one another in a way that made it memorable.

Royal Red Shrimp Garlic Noodles

This was definitely one of the better dishes of the meal. It was more like spaghetti and a little saucier than I expected, but the flavor profile was distinctly Asian with the bok choy and garlic shrimp.  The two arounds of this dish was definitely deserved.

Duck Meatballs

I am such a sucker for meatballs, so I was really disappointed by these ones using duck meat.  The consistency of the meatball was a little odd, kind of grainy and the flavor was lackluster.  No amount of tomato sauce and cheese could save this dish for me.

Foie Gras French Toast

This particular preparation of the foie gras was probably my favorite of the meal, but it was still a little too decadent for me.  Cinnamon-raisin bread was toasted and topped with stone fruit and a sizeable piece of grilled foie gras then the whole thing was drizzled with some maple syrup.  It was sweeter than my taste buds could handle, but it confirmed to me that when it comes to foie gras, it definitely should be served hot.

Overall, we ordered quite a lot of food but with 11 people dining, we had a lot of mouths amongst which we could share many things.  Admittedly, we ended up ordering a lot of similar dishes.  Upon closer look at the menu, although the appetizer section seemed rather extensive, in reality, there were many dishes that were similar in concept and/or ingredient profile.  We ended up ordering almost the entire appetizer section so it was no surprise that we felt like we were repeating dishes.  There is a notable Asian slant to many of the dishes which I did appreciate because it was well-executed for the most part.  It was the non-Asian dishes that didn’t seem to be as memorable in my mind. I still enjoyed the meal, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting the San Diego area.

Kettner Exchange
2001 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101

PAFO Ratings for Kettner Exchange:
Price $$½
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

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