San Diego's location on the coast allows many restaurants to utilize spectacular seaside views to create an atmosphere perfect for dining out. The invigorating smell of the salty ocean water, warm sunshine, and cool breeze make our stretch of coastline a prime location for a sensory experience that can be only be completed by food that delights and entertains the palate. Sally's Seafood on the Water is a place where all five human senses can be simultaneously invigorated and stimulated with creative coastal cuisine, tremendous atmosphere, and stunning views.
Sally's Seafood on the Water is located behind the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, adjacent to Seaport Village and just feet from the water. While the acclaimed restaurant is not located in the hotel, it is considered one of the Hyatt's most popular dining destinations for both guests and visitors, and is held to Hyatt's high standards. There is plenty of paid parking near the restaurant at both the hotel and Seaport Village, and validation for the hotel is readily available when visiting the restaurant. Many guests prefer to park a ways down from Sally's Seafood as it affords them an opportunity to take in the transcendent view on the way there, and a rejuvenating post-meal walk back.
From the moment guests walk up the steps to the front door, Sally's Seafood exudes an elegant atmosphere that complements the restaurant's luxurious cuisine. While the impressive size and aesthetically striking exterior of the restaurant can seem intimidating at first glance, its staff wants guests to be comfortable and feel at home. The restaurant’s black walls, booths, tables, and ceiling with its subdued lighting provide an intimate environment for dining at night. Similarly, the floor-to-ceiling windows give a panoramic view of the San Diego Bay during the day and a gorgeous sunset at dusk. The amount of natural light that the restaurant receives during the day is somewhat subdued by the black interior to ensure the restaurant isn't too bright—the dark interior also complements the intimate lighting in the evening. Of course, there is seating available on the patio for diners that wish to fully enjoy a sunset meal, or an al fresco dinner after dark in the warmer months. When the sea air does become nippy, there are plenty of heat lamps on the patio to keep the temperature at your table just right.
The chic table settings give a nod to the modern approach of Sally's Seafood, and the fixed overhead lighting seems to find the exact spot of your place setting on the table. A small sushi station—somewhat resembling a portable bar one would find at catered events—sits near the entrance, letting guests know that they will never have to wait long to enjoy delicious sushi and sashimi. This petite sushi station offers a limited selection of the many octopus, squid, tuna, and shellfish specialties that acclaimed Sushi Chef Kaz offers daily at Sally's. The bar area sits to the right of the entrance, inviting diners to enjoy a glass of wine and a selection of appetizers that come as welcomed relief at the end of any day. Even the clean and sophisticated look of the menus adds yet another touch of class; however, it's what is inside the menus that makes Sally's Seafood on the Water one of San Diego's premier seafood restaurants.
I am enjoying dinner on this outing to Sally's, but the restaurant offers even more scrumptious selections for breakfast and lunch. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of tasty weekend breakfast dishes that incorporate seafood, like the Lobster Omelet and the Crab Cake Benedict, which features Sally's popular signature crab cakes. There are also traditional breakfast favorites prepared with a touch of Sally's flair like the Steak and Eggs with chipotle hollandaise and Chef Sarah's Original Dutch Blueberry Pancakes. While the daily lunch menu features many of the same popular dishes found on the dinner menu, there are also unique offerings like the King Crab Club Sandwich on brioche and the Whole Wheat Linguini with oregano and thyme roasted shrimp.
Similar to the food menus, Sally's Seafood displays a wide range of vintages from around the world on their wine menu. The list is categorized by the many varieties of white, red, and "bubbly" wines served at the restaurant, and includes a list of "interesting" varietals that all guests are welcome to experience. Sally's offers an impressive number of French Champagnes and German Rieslings that show off the sweeter side of the restaurant's wine list. Many of the interesting white wines on the list are popular vintages from France, Italy, and New Zealand, as well as a number of delicious California chardonnays. The majority of the red wines on the list come from respected California vineyards; the selection is also largely dominated by a number of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. The wine list even includes a number of delicious sakes straight from Japan like Kijoshu, Ginjo, Junmai, and Daiginjo; each conveying its own varying sweetness that can complement any of the restaurant's sushi and sashimi. Many of the wines are priced around $40 to $60 a bottle, with only a quarter of the list lying above the $100 mark—well worth it for the quality and flavor of these impressive drinks.
Our meal begins as the tantalizing first dish promptly arrives. A long rectangular plate with a Tanuki Roll is placed at the table, along with a serving of Tuna Tartare, both meticulously presented on the plate. Sally's Seafood is well known for their sushi, sashimi, and nigiri, which are all prepared by the restaurant’s talented and revered head sushi chef, Chef Kaz. The Tanuki Roll consists of barbecued eel, shrimp, avocado, sushi rice, and sesame oil with a smattering of tempura flakes on the outside to give the roll a slight crunch. It sits atop a dollop of Sriracha hot sauce and eel sauce to add a relatable yet unique flavor to the roll, which itself displays a bold, sweet flavor from the barbecued eel. The extremely tender Tuna Tartare is topped with pine nuts, scallions, and sesame oil, and sits on a strip of wasabi aioli. The toasted flavor of the pine nuts adds to the creamy texture of the naturally decadent tuna to highlight the simple yet robust flavors of this dish.
It is worth noting that all of the soy sauce at the restaurant is re-brewed by Chef Kaz, who makes minor additions to bring out a full flavor that most people aren't aware is possible. First, brewing the soy sauce once more before serving unlocks a more robust flavor that is often lost in transportation from the factory to the restaurant. Next, Chef Kaz adds bonito flakes (smoked skipjack tuna flakes) to give the sauce a saltier flavor, along with sake to add a dry note that highlights the saltiness. This soy sauce is then placed in a unique container that allows guests to drop the seasoning on their dish to avoid the mess of pouring. Soy sauce has always been a popular seasoning for sushi, but Chef Kaz's unique additions to the commonplace condiment is just one way that Sally's Seafood makes the ordinary exciting.
Next comes one of Sally's Seafood on the Water's most popular starters, Sally's Signature Appetizer. The hors d'oeuvre is a sampler, consisting of Shiitake Chicken Spring Rolls, a Blue Crab Cake, and Smoked Bay Scallop Chowder. The Shiitake Chicken Spring Rolls are made with flavorful roasted chicken, carrots, daikon, cilantro, and tender shiitake mushrooms. Unlike spring rolls served at many other establishments, these spring rolls are fried delicately to provide a crunch without being overly greasy. The roasted chicken bursts with flavor and dominates the flavor of this surprising unique treat. Not content to present a common chowder, Sally's Seafood's Smoked Bay Scallop Chowder is made with a creamy tomato base and black pepper crème fraiche, forgoing bacon in favor of the smoked flavor of the tender and supple scallops. The chowder both warms and fills my stomach while treating my taste buds to a powerfully bold flavor. The Crab Cakes are another of the restaurant's most popular starters and are extremely flavorful despite their simple ingredients. The Blue Crab cakes are made with nothing more than crab and egg as a binder, lightly fried and topped with a tomato relish, and are expertly paired with the splash of Old Bay Seasoning aioli underneath. The aioli is all that is needed to enhance the naturally rich flavors in the quality crab, creating a Crab Cake that will last in diners' memories.
The next dish showcases a lighter side of Sally's Seafood on the Water. Bursting with a variety of flavors, the Duck Confit and Beet Salad includes mixed greens, poached pear, gorgonzola, pepitas, and balsamic dressing. The duck is lightly seasoned and incredibly tender, almost melting in my mouth and leaving a delicious, salty flavor that works well with the gorgonzola and pepitas. This creates an interesting contrast with the sweetness of the supple roasted beets, juicy poached pear, and balsamic dressing to create masterfully balanced salad. The many delicious and nutritious ingredients will make for a wonderful starter to a large meal or for a light dinner that doesn't skimp on flavor.
Chef de cuisine for Sally's Seafood on the Water, Sarah Linkenheil hails from Germany, and her command of regional cuisine shines through in the Herb Butter-Broiled Barramundi. What really makes this dish special is the bed of doughy spätzle that sits beneath the fish--it’s infused with spinach puree to give it both a green color and salty flavor. The flakey, flavorful Barramundi is accentuated by the subtle saltiness of the herb butter and shares salty, tender, and earthy qualities with the spätzle. The herb butter also accentuates the two components, adding a more complex note to the spätzle and highlighting the natural, salty flavors of the Barramundi. The airy fish and heavy spätzle make for a dish that is both light and filling, and undeniably delicious.
While Chef de Cuisine Linkenheil is more than adept when it comes to cooking seafood, she also shows off her talents with dishes like the Braised Colorado Lamb Osso Buco. The lamb is expertly braised until it's practically dripping off the bone and served with a pine nut relish, caramelized cauliflower, purple and white carrots, and a side of flavorful garam masala rice. The sauce from the osso buco works incredibly well with the bold spices from the masala to create a robust flavor that carries over into the other components of the dish. Lamb can often be filling, so the sides of garam masala rice and tender purple and white carrots make them an ideal accompaniment due to their light consistency and full flavor. The lamb is prepared so that diners can even scoop the buttery, salty marrow from the lamb bone to add another dimension this amazing entrée.
This unforgettable meal concludes with a sampling of decadent desserts including a sinful Chocolate Crunch with macadamia nut brittle and chewy Amaretto Cheesecake Beignets. The highlight of these guilty pleasures is the most deceptively ordinary: the new Warm Quince and Cranberry Crisp. Fans of cobbler may have tried apple or peach varieties, but this bold dish utilizes the natural sweetness (and tartness) of quince and cranberries to create a taste sweeter than chocolate or cream. The dessert also includes sweet orange gelato and a versatile oatmeal crumble that is both crispy and chewy, completing this wonderful blend of flavors and textures.
The meal leaves me full, remarkably satisfied, and eager to head out into the cool night air for a much needed walk along the water. Many restaurants in San Diego can serve seafood with a view, but few can achieve the level of spectacular service, originality, and quality that Sally's Seafood on the Water has achieved. The restaurant provides a haven for fine dining enthusiasts that wish to unwind after a long day, enjoy a meal with those closest to them, or gear up for a night of drinks and dancing in the Gaslamp District. For all these reasons and more, Sally's Seafood has become the crown jewel of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel and a treasured San Diego institution.
Monday-Thursday, stop by for weeknight themed dining and drink specials. And don’t forget that happy hour is celebrated seven days a week at Sally’s Seafood on the Water.