Cybereater Review: Donovan's is opulent, elegant, delicious!
Our evening at Donovan's began with a surprise. The restaurant's entrance is quite unremarkable - a single, simple door with a brass plaque that states, "Proper Attire Required."
The "simple door" leads into a small, quiet entry, a tease for what's to come The next door suddenly opens to a sensation of bursting energy - the warm, comforting sounds of laughter and conversation. The initial feeling is that of walking into a very elegant, exclusive private club.
The bar is complemented by dark Honduran mahogany, gleaming brass, and thick paisley carpet. It has extensive cocktail offerings, including a good selection of single malt scotch, and there is a huge back bar brimming with cognacs, armagnacs, ports and grappas from all over the world. Even when filled with people, the bar feels comfortable.
The main dining room is very inviting, with low candlelight, crisp, white tablecloths and paneling. Softly lit paintings grace the walls and lovely Tiffany-like fixtures hang from cove ceilings. The rich, dark paneling sets off the radiant brass touches in the room. Gorgeous Remington sculptures - originals - are seen with every turn of the head. Comfortable leather booths create a cozy ambiance.
The wine list is superb, with extensive choices. "Our restaurant is one of only two in the San Diego area that can boast a sommelier on premises", said proprietor Jim MacDonough. For those of us who may not know a "sommelier" is a wine connoisseur who has the knowledge to create a balance between high quality food and wine selections. Donovan's is very proud of the wine selections it has available.
Diners are pampered by excellent service. Our server, Elaine, told us that she was part of a team of five servers who were assigned to serve our table, as is the case throughout. she informed us that all the meats at Donovan's are "prime cut". That means they are in the top 2 percent of all meats sold in the United States. The restaurant further ages the beef for 21 days. Some cuts are aged a full 40 days. Chef Martin Venegas uses a special process, the "Montague Broiling System" which flash broils the steaks on both sides, carefully searing in the juices and flavor. He then finishes in a unique slow-cooking process.
I began with a tangy Caesar salad. It was very fresh and crisp. One companion chose the shrimp bisque with fresh basil (with four spoons of course). It was delicious. Another ordered beefsteak tomato and red onion salad, lavished with crumpled blue cheeses. The tomatoes were truly divine. Donovan's chop house sale of greens, tomato, bell pepper, sweet onion, fresh bacon and hearts of palm was also delicious.
Then we had the difficult decision between several prime entrees. There were so many mouth-watering choices - filets, porterhouses, rib eyes, T-bones, veal and lamb chops - and the wonderful option of seafood such as scampi, salmon or lobster tail.
The chef's special was filet, topped with fresh crabmeat and hollandaise sauce. We couldn't resist, and were delighted by the blend of the sea and land. My favorite was the prime peppercorn filet.
The prime porterhouse was a very large cut and was extremely tasty. A seafood choice - the salmon - was fresh and tender.
The entrees were accompanied by "smashed potatoes". We renamed them "smashing potatoes!". They were whipped with fresh garlic, and were delectable. Our plates were adorned by lovely green beans and glazed carrots fresh and perfectly al dente.
The food was so good, I didn't want to stop. Therefore, I didn't. Nor did my companions. The desserts - triple chocolate> brownie, creme brulee, with sliced strawberries and key lime pie-were all to tempting. The were all stand-outs.
Donovan's has become one of the top restaurants in Southern California in 10 shot months. Entrees range from $24.95 to $34.95.
Donovan's is a full, rich dining experience that will bring me back again and again.
Donovan's is open for dinners only on Mondays through Thursdays from 5 until 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 5 until 11 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. It is located at 1250 Prospect St., with complementary valet parking. Call 450-6666 for reservations.