Friday, May 20, 2005 | Laurel Restaurant & Bar reopened last Saturday night with its much-anticipated makeover almost complete. Although it is hard not to compare what was to what is, I decided to treat the experience as if I had never been in the restaurant before (the old place was my “Cheers”).

Laurel regulars should not expect the Laurel you knew- in food, wine or room. Only the Roquefort tarte remains on the grazing menu and the bathrooms haven’t yet been redone. You can’t miss the all-white bar, the mirrors, the green wall and mirror on the way to the restrooms, the white marble floor and white leather-like upholstered chairs. Candles and votives are everywhere on shelves and tables. The room is airy and the green banquette on the entry level for drinks has a full view of the dining room. Mustard yellow-green banquettes separate the room with the far wall being mirrored as well. If you walk into the restaurant in daylight, the colors can be jarring … the white is very white and the dark gray private dining room is quite simply, dark.

Lighting, artwork and menu continue to be tweaked – the restaurant had only been open one night before I arrived. Now for the food … there is a grazing menu with an Asian fusion flair such as onion rings, a trio of sausages, gnocchi and lobster, sticky rice and salmon and pork belly and mushrooms. Don’t expect a breadbasket – there isn’t one – but there are edamame (soy beans in the shell, a la Japanese restaurants) that come to the table as nibbles. There is also an a la carte appetizer and main course menu all of which go with the more eclectic wine list; we counted nearly 50 wines by the glass in the wine book. Around June 1, a chunk of the bar becomes a chef’s station where Executive Chef Fabrice Poigin, Chef de Cuisine Amy DiBiase and Sous Chef Laura Kenny will rotate daily to the area to make many of the additional grazing menu items. Laurel will host a Mostly Mozart concert on Sunday, June 5, at 2 p.m. with an optional $25 prix-fixe dinner available after the music. Reservations can be made at

Restaurants with a spectacular city view are far and few in San Diego. Members of the private University Club atop Symphony Towers can drink and dine with a fine panorama of the city and bay. Another place with equally gorgeous views, including the planes landing at Lindbergh Field (and no membership fee) is Bertrand at Mr. A’s, on the 12th floor of the office building opposite Laurel Restaurant, at Fifth Avenue and Laurel. The dining room, patio and redone cozy bar (with bartender Domingo) make it a wonderful place to go for drinks and an appetizer, lunch or dinner. Bertrand at Mr. A’s, 2550 Fifth Avenue, 12th Floor, Bankers Hill, (619) 239-1377.

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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