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San Diego Dining

The Third Corner will no doubt be a charm for Ocean Beach

Remember that old Abbott & Costello comic routine, "Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third"?

Now there is a new version: Ed Moore's on Third.

The Third Corner, that is. That's the name of Moore's newest restaurant venture.

Moore has touched all three corners of the block that he controls in Ocean Beach. His first restaurant venture was located on one corner. He bought Livingston's Chicken Kitchen in 1983. Four years later, in 1987, he bought Thee Bungalow on a second corner. He made Thee Bungalow into one of the most honored local French cuisine establishments, with one of the best wine lists in Southern California.

Now he's done it again. The owner of The Belgian Lion retired last year. This restaurant was located right across the street from Thee Bungalow. He sold his property to Moore. Over a number of months, the property was completely rebuilt and reopened as -- what else? -- The Third Corner.

A parking lot surrounds the building and the main entrance is off to one side, near the large enclosed patio that is certain to become the favorite area during warm summer evenings. The interior of the restaurant is decorated in simple but sophisticated taste. A blue wall runs adjacent to the front door with recesses for glass art objects. A second wall divides the two interior sections of the restaurant. It has "see-through" large geometric holes cut into it.

One of the dining rooms has the bar along one wall and a mellow fireplace along the other. The second dining room has study pillars supporting the ceiling. Attractive framed graphics grace the walls of both rooms. The conical lights and chandeliers reminded me of clusters of grapes on vines.

The wine list at The Third Corner is elaborate, although not quite as extensive as Thee Bungalow's. John McCarthy, the general manager (who was once Moore's boss) laughingly called it "Thee Bungalow Lite." It runs only seven pages but includes vintages from all over the world. Some of the more expensive wines actually were American, not foreign. Many small wineries are represented whose pressings may be difficult to find at other restaurants. Dining at The Third Corner or at Thee Bungalow is an opportunity to explore new tastes and complexities. Pricing is fair. It is the stated policy of the restaurants not to mark up the wholesale price more than 2.3 times and many are marked up less than that.

A number of listed wines are available by the half bottle. The selection of wines available by the glass is small but very well chosen and also very well priced. Most run only $4 to $6. I stayed by the glass with the excellent Vitiano Red from Umbria, Italy -- a full bodied complex wine with strong taste of oak.

Ed Moore brought Chef Juan Flores over to The Third Corner. Flores was his executive chef across the street and worked there for more than 10 years. The different menu concepts at The Third Corner display Flores' skill and creativity. Most dishes are seafood, such as the popular lobster risoto, or ahi, or sea bass. Monk fish, the fish that tastes like lobster and is often difficult to find, comes baked in a garlic crust and served on a bed of saut?ed onions and other vegetables. Paella, the Spanish m?lange of clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp -- along with chicken, pork and chorizo -- arrives on a bed of saffron rice. Bouillabaisse, the fish stew that made Marseilles famous, is at the top of the menu. Of course, there is also chicken, steak and lamb.

We started with Scallops 3rd Corner -- 4 large firm scallops saut?ed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, capers and white wine. The sauce was exquisite and we eagerly sopped it up with some of the best bread I've eaten recently. The broth was full of small round Kalamata olives that were sharp and piquant and added gusto to the meaty texture of the scallops.

The dish was listed in the "Small Plates" section of the menu, perfect for sharing or a light meal. Other dishes include Moules Mariniere, mussels with white wine, shallots, parsley and butter as well as Shrimp Proven?al, with lemon, garlic, basil and fresh tomatoes.

My companion's entr?e was the Filet of Sole Almadine, a large portion of Sole served with a lemon butter sauce and roasted almonds. It came with pomme frites (french fries) and delightful green beans. The butter sauce blended beautifully with the bland sole and the resulting flavor was mouthwatering.

I selected Pan Roasted Lamb Loin, served with tapenade, roasted potatoes and bell peppers. A small tower of tapenade and potato was formed in the middle of the plate. Juicy lamb slices were decoratively arranged in a circle around the plate. The lamb had lots of natural flavor, with just the smallest edge of fat along one side to generate taste.

The dessert menu includes two of my favorites. The Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Gellato tastes like a chocolate brownie with hot chocolate sauce on the inside, cooled by the sweet cold ice cream. The Ricotta Cake with Orange Mascarpone, Strawberries and Grand Marnier is a cheesecake like you've never tasted before. It is a real treat at the end of an elegant dinner.

The moderate prices at The Third Corner -- most entrees are less than $20 -- make it affordable to dine there often. With delicious food and wines so attainable, life takes on a whole new positive meaning.

The Third Corner is open nightly for dinner at 2265 Bacon Street in Point Loma. Call 619-223-2700 for reservations.

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Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association.

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