Food & Spirits: My quest for all things "spectacular San Diego" inevitably led me to Anthology -- a distinctive venue offering a combination of avant-garde dining with an eclectic mix of live entertainment. Located near the bustling Little Italy district adjacent to downtown San Diego, Anthology is wonderfully reminiscent of the intimate supper clubs of yore, though modernized to deliver a magnificent mélange of fine food, entertainment and ambiance in a sultry and sophisticated venue.
Having opened its doors in June of 2007, this bona fide hotspot is the brainchild of Howard and Marsha Berkson. Howard, a San Diego-based real estate developer, used his 20 years of world travel and jet-setting club experiences as the foundation for his vision, which came to fruition in the form of Anthology.
Attracting couples, small groups and large parties, alike, this hybrid fine dining and live music and entertainment establishment, which can accommodate 300 seated or 500 cocktail reception patrons throughout its two levels and mezzanine, offers something for everyone.
Enticing Entertainment First, there is the music. There is not one bad seat in the house, whether enjoying performances from the ground floor, the mezzanine above, or the bar. The space, with its 30-foot high ceilings and an expansive draped wall bathed in a moody blue light, has been strategically designed for enhanced acoustics and to provide optimal viewing of the performers, also boasting a state-of-the-art digital sound, video and lighting system.
Anthology shows feature a diverse selection of musical genres -- Jazz, Blues, Soul, Classic Rock, R&B, Latin and even some stand-up comedy in between. The venue showcases a house band when a headlining act is not scheduled. Recent shows have included Joe Piscopo, Stepping Feet -- A Dave Matthews Tribute, Paula Poundstone, Thunder Road -- A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen, and Saffire -- Uppity Blues Women. Other artists who have performed include Ramsey Lewis Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Rankin, Larry Coryell, Mose Allison, Sonny Landreth, Chick Corea and Lee Ritenour. Shows typically run Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. with two sets, and on Friday and Saturday a second seating and show kicks off at 9:30 p.m.
On the night of my visit Hiromi commanded the stage. This demure, unbelievably talented Jazz pianist, keyboardist and composer, along with her three-man band, delivered an invigorating performance worth far more than the affordably priced $25 admission ticket. While the house band garners ticket costing just $5, other recession-friendly ticket prices range from $10 up to $48.
Splendid Sustenance Second, like its multi-faceted entertainment offering, the restaurant offers a revolving New American menu inspired by seasonal, locally produced fresh ingredients and Executive Chef Eric Bauer's apparent high standards and attention to detail. Our party's entrées were served while the show was underway, resulting in a multi-sensory delight allowing me to savor the fab fare without conversational distractions.
Complimenting Chef Bauer's culinary skill set is Matt Ahern who serves as Anthology's Wine Director. While Ahern has a propensity toward boutique wines that may be new to many patrons, the wine menu itself is quite comprehensive with many recognizable standards interspersed with surprising selections for those who like to drink outside of the box.
With a menu that changes daily, eating at Anthology is always a culinary adventure. For my "First Set" appetizer course on this evening, I opted for the steamed Mediterranean Black Mussels ($13), sizable, meaty and well cleaned, served with shaved fennel and spring garlic in a delicate white wine and saffron sauce also with a garlic and herb crostini. I also had the Argentinean Empanadas ($12) that were filled, albeit sparingly, with American kobe beef, boiled egg, and green olive and accompanied by a sweet golden raisin compote and a vibrant chimi churi sauce that, for me, was the essential component completing the dish. Other representative starters the evening of my visit included Calvados and Black Pepper Lacquered Pork Belly with roasted Schaner Farm's spring onions and Chino Farm's creamed sweet corn, and a Cypress Grove Goat Cheese Tart Brûlée with a frisée and field greens salad topped with a summer raspberry vinaigrette.