Black Radish is a cozy yet elegant and sophisticated bistro in North Park that has everything a bistro should have. It has soul and heart. The food is delicious. The service is outstanding. In short: If you like good food in a warm ambiance, try this restaurant.
Quick Facts about Black Radish San Diego
A Bit More About Black Radish
Black Radish is one of these places that I didn’t want to write about on SanDiegoExplorer. A part of me wanted to keep this restaurant hidden, secret, and only to myself.
What makes this place so special? The owners are always there. You can taste their passion in the delectable dishes and feel the care of the servers that make your evening extra special. It’s the little things, like the crusty bread baked every morning by the owner. Or the perfectly paired wine that takes the dish to the next level, picked by a Michelin-level sommelier.
Two big wood tables are at the center of the room, framed with small bistro tables along the walls and windows. Unless you are a big group, you will most likely share the big table with another party. Bringing people together and creating a sense of communal dinner experience that is inviting, warm, and intimate. Benches and leather armchairs make for comfortable seating that lets you linger, order another bottle of wine, and philosophize with your partner or a group of friends, create memories, and simply be.
The owner duo is made of Chef Itze Behar and architect John Welsh. They bring together their style, taste, and passion in this restaurant. Black Radish is their baby. Their everything. You can feel their fire in every design detail, in every bite, in every sip.
They picked a team that supports that passion. Our waitress, Elyse, didn’t just show up to do her job. She took care of us and made us feel welcome as if she was hosting us in her own home. The service was perfect, yet casual and unpretentious.
What To Order
The menu is small but mighty. You can choose between a 4-course prix fixe menu (with or without wine pairing), or a la carte (also with or without wine pairing). The menu changes frequently and focuses on local, in-season ingredients.
Greg and I started our meal with an amuse-bouche consisting of a rice cracker, avocado cream, radish, and beet sauce. I loved the combination of textures. The rice cracker was crispy but melted on your tongue. The combination of the creamy avocado with the beet’s earthiness paired with the radish’s refreshing spice was a promising glimpse of what was to come.
It was difficult to choose only 2 out of 5 first course offerings as they all sounded delicious. We decided to go with the Diver Scallop Crudo with a lemon verbena cucumber sauce with Osetra caviar and the Porcini Linguini with chanterelles, black truffle, and a mushroom veloute. Both were absolutely fantastic.
The scallops were perfectly cooked with a golden brown sear on top and buttery middle that melted in my mouth. The bright green sauce was fresh and herby, with little pops of saltiness from the caviar. A buttery Vermentino created a fantastic balance of flavors.
A nest of linguine doused in a shiny mushroom veloute and topped with sauteed mushrooms and thin slivers of black truffle. Greg and I love mushrooms, and chanterelles are our favorites, so we knew we would love this dish. But the earthy umaminess of the mushrooms combined with the delicate nuttiness of the truffle was fantastic.
The pairing with the fun-to-say grape variety, Grignolino, was my favorite of the evening. Grignolino is like Pinot Noir’s fun and lively younger brother. Light and fruity, this wine cuts through the buttery sauce and dances on your tongue.
Luckily, there was no FOMO (fear of missing out) for the second course, as there were only two options:
A light carrot salad with escarole and blue cheese from Point Reyes drizzled with a light carrot top vinaigrette. I loved the balance of the bitter escarole with the sweet carrots. This was paired with a dry Chenin Blanc with notes of grapefruit, green apples, a slight grassiness, and minerality.
And a creamy, rich, and decadent blue crab bisque with chervil cream, saffron, and micro leeks, paired with a (very light) rosé sparkling wine from Caraccioli Cellars in the Santa Lucia Highlands. I don’t drink sparkling wine, but Greg said it was a delicious combination. I can speak about the soup though. The soup was absolutely fantastic, and my favorite part was dipping the rustic thick slice of freshly baked bread into it. This is like the grown-up version of a tomato soup and grilled cheese classic but offers the same kind of coziness and nourishing comfort.
While all the 3rd-course dishes sounded absolutely lovely, it didn’t take us long to decide on our two options. Whenever we see duck or rabbit on the menu, at least one of us usually orders it because it is so rare to find. To our delight, Black Radish didn’t just have one of our favorite meats, but both on the menu!
The duck was cooked two ways: Duck confit and grilled duck skewers served with greens and duck sauce. The simple greens with a fresh vinaigrette were the perfect pairing with the tender confit and decadent sauce to cut through the richness and not overwhelm the palate. I have to say, this wasn’t the prettiest dish of the evening, but it was delicious!
The duck was paired with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault from Lebanon. This was by far our favorite wine of the evening. Earthy, spiced, and leathery notes on the nose, with a potent flavor of dark cherries and chocolate wrapped by smooth tannins and a finish that lingers. Fantastic!
The rabbit, served with roasted sweet kabocha squash, was tender and juicy and the rabbit jus, served in a cute mini turrine, packed a punch of umami goodness. So good that I could not let any drop go to waste, and I asked for another slice of the crusty bread to soak up the very last bit of it.
Rabbit lends itself to being paired with a lighter wine, and the choice of the Ashes and Diamonds Rosé natural wine from Napa Valley was delightful. The red Bordeaux blend was served slightly chilled, and its high acidity and citrusy notes played well with the dish, giving it a light and summery feel.
I am usually not much of a dessert person unless there is chocolate involved. So it was quite surprising to me how much I liked the two desserts. I ordered the French Merengue with Yuzu cream, marinated oranges, and blood orange broth, and Greg got the Meyer Lemon Semifredo with berries and shortbread crumbles. Both were light and refreshing, without leaving behind the lingering guilt and heaviness that comes with so many desserts. Delightful.
Usually, the desserts are paired with sparkling wine, an extra dry Prosecco in this case. For me, Elyse chose a delicious port wine instead, which brought me back to Portugal with the first sip. A glorious ending to a glorious evening.
You can probably guess by now that I really enjoyed our dinner at Black Radish and can only recommend them. Yes, their menu is small, but everything sounds so delicious that I am confident I would have liked the other dishes just as much. They might only do a few dishes, but they do them right!
The wine pairing was out of this world and the best I have experienced. The wines were exciting and fresh, not the same old, same old. And the balance each sip provided was like a well-choreographed ballet of flavors.
Greg and I are still talking about our dinner there days later and can’t wait to go back. The owners, Behar and Welsh, have created something special at their restaurant, and I hope you get to experience it soon as well.
As customary in travel writing, some or all of the food and drinks were provided by the restaurant free of charge. This has not influenced their opinion and the content of this article.
Last Updated on November 19, 2023 by Maria Haase