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MARCIE ROTHMAN

Saturday, January 07, 2006 | There’s something about a room with a view – from the sky or at sea level – that makes the dining experience something special. Sometimes the view becomes the foil for mediocre food, but for the most part, San Diego’s eateries combine the two pretty well. Rooms with a view also make romantic backdrops for lovers out for a drink or meal so don’t forget Valentine’s Day.

Amazing that in San Diego, only two venues offer sky-view dining with panoramic vistas day and night. Bertrand at Mr. A’s on the 12th floor of an office building at Fifth and Laurel is top-notch. With stunning views of downtown, Point Loma and the airport, the restaurant with its heated outdoor terrace is spectacular for drinks and appetizers, lunch or dinner. Service and food are excellent.

Some of my favorites: A large satisfying salad of chopped endive with warm sautéed wild mushrooms in a light hazelnut dressing; lightly seasoned and perfectly cooked wild Alaskan salmon (with a sadly overcooked and tough, rather than light in texture, pike quenelle), yummy crisp frites with Parmesan and yes, a bit of truffle oil, and a light, not gooey version of mac and cheese done with Comte cheese. On the service side, water glasses stay filled, plates remain on the table until everyone finishes and when a busser forgot to pack up my leftover salmon, the kitchen unexpectedly produced another smaller order for me to take home. That is service. Bertrand at Mr. A’s. 2550 Fifth Avenue at Laurel, Bankers Hill, (619) 239-1377.

The other place with drop dead gorgeous views is the private University Club downtown on the 34th floor of Symphony Towers. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of Point Loma, the bay and city from the floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s so pretty at night, it’s worth finding a member to take you there for a meal or a drink.

Sea-level views abound along the ocean and bay. At The Marine Room, the surf pounds the large picture windows while you dine. From JRDN, Pacifica Del Mar, Brockton House and others up and down the coast, the sea and sunset become the decor. Consider however, that once the sun sets over the Pacific, it’s really dark out there, so some places light the sea – Jake’s Del Mar is one that comes to mind.

Locals and tourists love views of the bay and city from Coronado’s Il Fornaio and Peohe’s to the Embarcadero’s Star of the Sea and Top of the Market and Harbor Island’s Tom Ham’s Lighthouse and Island Prime. Along the boardwalk, sand lovers will find many casual and fun places too numerous to mention from Ocean Beach to Pacific Beach and points north.

If it’s drinks with only nibbles, not meals, Altitude on the 22nd floor of the Marriott Gaslamp offers views of the ballpark and bay, with only garlic fries, chicken wings and a few wood-fired pizzas for munching. Top of the Hyatt, on the 40th floor of the Manchester Hyatt, the dizzying view – from floor to ceiling windows – of Point Loma, and points south goes well with drinks and appetizers.

Tidbits: Wine and food lovers in-the-know get Chris Gluck’s Wine Vault and Bistro emails for tastings at his casual place on India Street. To join his list, send an email with Subscribe in the subject line to:

Pet Peeve: How is it that some cell phone users are cognizant of talking in a low voice while others feel the need to invade the space of diners by talking loudly, much the same way a smoker lights up without regard to those around him?

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