I will admit that the primary reason for past visits to Casa de Bandini in the Forum in Carlsbad has been motivated by the fabulous margaritas. I will touch on those again in this column, but the focus of a recent visit was the food. Specifically, the crazy good San German.
Before I get into that, though, I should mention that Casa de Bandini is following all the San Diego County protocols for COVID-19 compliance for the safety of their employees and customers. That was quite evident upon arriving and good to see.
So back to the San German as there is a bit of history around this visually striking dish that won first place at the International Ensenada Seafood Competition. It makes quite an entrance to the dining room on an oversized plate and the striking visual of a pineapple stuffed to the brim with shrimp.
That shrimp is seasoned wild Pacific sautéed with butter, brandy, pineapple and combined with a creamy wine sauce over a bed of arroz Amarillo and, again, it seems like there are about 50 of them stuffed into the half pineapple. It’s served with achiote seasoned sautéed vegetables.
I am not one to ever order pineapple on a pizza or combine it with anything savory for that matter, but this just seemed like it was worth exploring. And I’m glad I did — it was a very pleasurable mix of flavors and textures. Oh, and did I mention it had what seemed to be like endless shrimp coming out of that pineapple.
I hate to say this, but I could not finish them all … but this was after devouring their amazing guacamole and chips and about half of my dining companion’s dish. I did take the shrimp home and they made a great lunch the next day.
Our other entree was the Chile Verde consisting of pork carnitas sautéed in tomatillo sauce with onions and green peppers with arroz Mexicano, frijoles de la olla and, of course, their fabulous tortillas. We had their famous flan for dessert and that was amazing, of course.
Before I run out of space here I would like to do a quick revisit on their famous margaritas. The Rolls Royce margarita is the one that will have me coming back for more and bringing friends. Its foundation is Clase Azul, an ultra-premium, 100% Weber Blue Agave, Reposado Tequila, which comes in a beautiful, handcrafted, hand-painted Talavera carafe and is aged for a minimum of eight months in small oak barrels. It has distinct, smooth flavors and aromas. Bottles retail between $70-$200, which makes the $12 cost of the margarita make sense.
The Clase Azul is combined with Triple Sec, sweet and sour, and a shot of La Pinta, pomegranate infused tequila on the side which I was told I could sip, or pour into my drink. I had to give it a sip and while I’m not a huge fan of flavored alcohol, this proved to be a smooth accessory to the margarita and when I poured it in, it gave it a beautiful burgundy hue.
I counted 17 margaritas, including a “skinny margarita” for you calorie counters that’s made up of Sauza Hornitos Reposado, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, agave nectar, then shaken over ice. As a side note, the chips and salsa and guacamole that should accompany a good margarita, are all made in-house and delicious.
Casa de Bandini relocated to its current Carlsbad location in 2009 from Old Town, where it had resided for over 25 years and built a huge following that has followed to the new location. One of San Diego’s more familiar sights was the long line of locals and visitors awaiting their traditional Mexican “fix” at the historic adobe built in 1829 that housed Diane Powers’ popular restaurant in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Its Forum location in Carlsbad brings with it the same romantic essence of Old Mexico —reminiscent of the original location with lavish dining rooms, enchanting lighting and lush landscaping.
I mentioned them above, but their fresh, restaurant-made tortillas are a draw themselves and another good reason to visit. They come out hot and are the perfect accompaniment to most of the dishes on the menu or just on their own. I’ve taken to tearing them up into bite size shreds and mixing them into dishes or soup. Their full menu, hours and location can be found at www.casadebandini.com