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Dining Review: George’s at the Cove

The restaurant celebrates its 40th anniversary and focuses on where the La Jolla stalwart is right now

Wild Isles Salmon: Indian spice aioli, kumquats, roasted baby carrots, Marcona almonds (center) with Crab Salad: Valencia Pride mango, carrots, sprouts, radish, citrus dressing, and a Premium Old Fashioned
Image Credits Photography by Vincent Knakal

Making it four decades in the restaurant industry is no easy feat, much less in a high-profile, high-expectation area of oft-fickle San Diego. So, for George’s at the Cove to be celebrating the big four-zero isn’t just big, it’s a momentous occasion worthy of an extended celebration. As such, they are taking all of 2024 to mark the achievement of not only lasting, but maintaining the restaurant’s reputation as one of La Jolla’s finest. 

George Hauer first offered gourmet cuisine with a side of ocean-view sunsets in 1984. In no time, it was the place to be for La Jollans and tourists in search of a special occasion splurge or quintessentially San Diego dining experience. But even the most rock-solid concepts require a bit of chiseling and refinement over time. Hence the 2000 onboarding of chef-partner Trey Foshee and introduction of the high-concept George’s California Modern as the literal and figurative base of the three-tiered eatery. Installation of a top-shelf craft-cocktail program and an ambitious 14-course tasting experience dubbed TBL3 followed, along with other innovations.

George’s at the Cove Pastry Chef Aly Lyng, Chef-Partner Trey Foshee, and Executive Chef Masa Kojima
George’s at the Cove Pastry Chef Aly Lyng, Chef-Partner Trey Foshee, and Executive Chef Masa Kojima

A willingness to adapt has kept George’s relevant and fresh, as have a cavalcade of fresh faces which have passed the torch and used it to sear in their individual impressions over the years. Recognizing this, Hauer and Foshee are inviting former chefs, cooks, pastry mavens, and mixologists back to their old stomping grounds to take part in a 40th Anniversary Guest Chef Dinner Series. Billed as a culinary homecoming, the monthly affairs will take place March through August, with one final dinner held in October, and will include former cook Anthony Secviar (now chef/owner of Palo Alto’s Michelin-starred Protégé), pastry chef Stephanie Prida (Michelin-starred Manresa), and a trio of expats now helming Pendry San Diego’s culinary operations.

Catching up with George’s extended back-of-house fam to see what culinary tricks they’ve picked up is a great reason to return to this venerable Prospect Avenue standout, but catching up with the restaurant during its nightly service is just as rewarding.

George’s menu kicks off with a mix of starters spotlighting one of the restaurant’s historic strengths: fresh seafood and seasonal produce. Preparations feature international influence — tender grilled octopus with nduja (spicy Calabrian pork sausage) relish, salmon tartare with wasabi-infused guacamole — and twists on classics like roasted beets and chèvre with a goddess dressing that’s red as opposed to the traditional green.

Dishes emblematic of Executive Chef Masa Kojima’s masterful infusion of Asian flavors include a bowl of plumped mussels made abundantly fragrant with loads of garlic (it’s not a date night dish if you catch my drift) and bathed in broth lent biting, clean heat from ssamjang (Korean chili paste). Thai basil adds an uplifting licorice verdancy while peanuts give the dish a crunchy element. Truly “jumbo” lumps of crab mingle with mango and sweet citrus in a timbale-style salad, while similarly wholesome cuts of lightly torched hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) present a salty smokiness tamed by the citric tang and pronounced umami of a ginger and shiitake mushroom vinaigrette.  

Looking for something you won’t find anywhere else in San Diego? Go for the seemingly humble, incredibly delicious snap peas served in a tofu-based Meyer lemon crema topped with finely shaved horseradish masquerading as Parmesan cheese. It’s a clever, unique dish and just one example of Chef Kojima’s protein-bending sorcery. He also uses cashews to somehow mimic the flavor and texture of foie gras, then serves it with yuzu marmalade and heavily toasted focaccia.

Entrées also lean toward pelagic fare with exotic accoutrements, such as Wild Isles salmon with Indian spice aioli and Marcona almonds as well as scallops with cauliflower in a vadouvan curry sauce. The latter has an earthy, almost dusty authenticity that’s countered by tart apples sauteed in nutty brown butter. Non-seafood mains include a Niman Ranch flatiron steak with a vegetable ragout and red wine reduction or a succulent confit duck leg with a wholly original setup built around almost confectionery flavors of orange and cocoa. 

On the dessert side, Pastry Chef Aly Lyng gets high marks for a lovely sticky toffee pudding resembling a molasses-laced winter spiced cake. Fresh, vibrant kumquats offset its richness while a chocolate-hazelnut crumble brings in a crispety-crunchetiness that’s just plain fun.

Dark Chocolate Mousse: blueberry-cassis compote, chocolate sorbet, black cocoa sable
Dark Chocolate Mousse: blueberry-cassis compote, chocolate sorbet, black cocoa sable

As the restaurant takes a moment to look back, there is much to be celebrated about its past, but the same can be said for its present and, from the taste of things, its future. 858.454.4244, georgesatthecove.com

Golden Forks

Service: 4.5
Timeliness: 4.5
Ambience: 3.5
Culinary Innovation: 4
Food Quality: 4.5
Cocktail Program: 4.5
Wine List: 4
Beer List: 4
Value: 4


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