Published on November 3rd, 2012 | by James Miyazawa1
Terra – From Farm to Table to Happy Belly
Terra American Bistro Review
Atmosphere: Part soft-loft, part rustic space, with a large bar and seating for about fifty, including a large communal table.
The Menu: If the farm-to-table movement were a religion, chef and owner Jeff Rossman would be its disciple, and Terra its shrine. Unlike some F-T-T adherents who bellow like screaming televangelists; Rossman is the quiet persuader, and his menu shows it. His vision is simple: curate the best ingredients, treat them with respect, and have some fun in the process. Wherever you happen to be on the voraciousness scale, Terra has you covered: starters, salads, soups, flatbreads, a burger (more on that later), and a few entrees. The menu invites diners to customize their experience: two starters and a salad? Sure. Just a flatbread? No problem. Traditional three course meal? Got it. Inventive cocktails (with house-infused spirits), a well-edited beer and wine list, and HFCS-free sodas await you when you get thirsty.
Our meal: We started with the ginger chicken postickers – six meaty dumplings filled with moist, tender chicken infused with the piquancy that only fresh ginger can provide. While the sauce delivered heat, sweet and tang, there was so much of it atop, below and beside the dumplings that it overpowered the dish. Sauce aside, these dumplings merit your attention.
For entrees, I built my own moules frites by ordering two starters: the Carlsbad mussels and a side of fries. The mussels (about fifteen or so) arrived in a perfumed broth redolent of white wine, garlic, thyme and possibly Pernod (I don’t excel at reverse engineering sauce components – I just know what I like). The broth begs to be mopped up with crusty bread, and I was happy to oblige (and our server was happy to supply reinforcement bread once I ran out). The mussels were cooked to tender, briny perfection, topped with slivers of sauteed onions and peppers. The garlic fries (you can also get plain or a truly pimped-out version with truffle oil and Asiago cheese) were starchy and flavorful – though serving them in a mini-bucket, while attractive, rendered them soggy halfway through the meal.
My wife ordered, as she always does, the house burger: a honking half-pound of beefy goodness, topped with carmelized onions, luscious tomato (even in October), crisp Romaine and truffle aioli, nestled in a thick, crusty roll that’s part Pullman, part brioche. The burger is juicy, cooked precisely as ordered, and very satisfying. Importantly, the roll is well-toasted, which is important to a burger this juicy to prevent it from turning into a mushy, disintegrating mess. A pile of crisp, salty classic fries rounds out the meal, as does a house-made ketchup infused with an umami sweetness.
Skirt steak also merits consideration: grilled crusty on the outside, it explodes with a beefy flavor that other cuts simply can’t provide. To its side are earthy black beans, tender but still toothsome, and a hearty potato and brie quesadilla.
Service and Other Stuff You Should Know: Servers are attentive, answer questions, and provide advice when asked. During peak times, reservations are helpful but not essential. A small parking lot out front and along the side can fill quickly, but nearby street parking abounds.7091 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
Neighborhood: La Mesa