Friday, February 18, 2005 | Trying to become a food destination isn’t easy. The status quo simply doesn’t work. So,

Riko Bartolome, chef/owner of Escondido’s Asia-Vous definitely has the scene right. Walk in on a weekend, and you’ll think you are in San Francisco. The food is edgy and inventive; the atmosphere sophisticated, and the service just fine. Asia-Vous, 417 West Grand Avenue, Escondido (760) 747-5000.

Extraordinary Desserts on Union Street in downtown is owner Karen Krasne’s attempt to bring a bit of Manhattan style to San Diego. The place is sleek and sophisticated; the menu designed for snacks before and after the theater or concert. Most locals don’t quite understand the concept, but for late night snackers and drinkers, it is just perfect. And the desserts are extraordinary. Extraordinary Desserts, 1430 Union Street, San Diego, (619) 294-2132.

Executive chef Jesse Paul at downtown’s Star of the Sea and chef de cuisine Gavin Kaysen of El Bizcocho at The Rancho Bernardo Inn have brought the art of the tasting menu to town. Long a favorite of diners in big food cities around the world, tasting menus offer many small courses often paired with specially selected wines. San Diegans continue to resist the small portions as not getting enough for their food dollar. Come on San Diego; it’s time to get with the program.

Pamela J. Wischkaemper is a local food consultant and is the founder of San Diego Gastronomically Correct, a group that goes on the road twice a year to promote the San Diego restaurant industry. The only criteria for membership is having cooked at the James Beard House in New York. Nineteen chefs in San Diego are members.

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