"I love the lights of the season," my companion proclaimed. "Christmas lights, Hanukkah candles -- all the lights that glow, dispelling the gloom and darkness of winter. And I love the city lights that twinkle like a huge ornament in the distance."
We were enjoying an early dinner at Peohe's (pronounced pay-oh-heez), a unique setting on Coronado that has a breathtaking view of the downtown skyline. It was already dark but the glowing office windows outlined the silhouettes of the buildings across the purple bay.
Peohe's has served a loyal clientele for more than 22 years. Once part of the Charthouse Restaurant chain, it was recently acquired by Landry Restaurants, which also owns such California eateries as Joe's Crab Shack and The Charthouse. Peohe's concept is unique, though, and has never been copied or replicated. Peohe's serves only Angus certified beef and the freshest of fish. Crab Stuffed Tilapia, a popular light fish, for example, is coated with breadcrumbs and stuffed with crab before baking and finishing with a butter sauce.
Arriving by car is only one way to reach Peohe's. There is also a convenient landing dock for boats, so if you own a yacht, you can take a nautical jaunt for dinner.
The restaurant's theme is tropical, complete with trees, plants and a recycling waterfall. The main dining room's comfortable booths blend with the lush background, and in one corner, a large tank holds brightly colored fish. Many of the restaurant's walls are made of clear glass. Heat lamps on the large deck outside provide a comfortable temperature year-round.
Peohe's can accommodate as many as 500 guests, which has made it a popular location for weddings and other large parties. Seating is arranged so everyone can have the best view in the house.
The menu reflects what's fresh in seafood, but also lists a good selection of meats. Preparations focus on fusion and run toward Hawaiian-Asian-Pacific Rim concepts. The Raw Bar section offers shrimp and oysters on the half shell. Try the Crab, Avocado and Mango Stack, a satisfying, eye-appealing tower of freshness. The spicy Pacific Fire Shrimp are sautéed in garlic and butter.
Crab Cake and Thai Chicken Spring Rolls make great appetizers. Herb Steamed Artichoke, in a lemon basil aioli, is a delightful conversation builder, as diners pull leaves soaked in the sauce.
Fresh fish selections include Chilean sea bass, grilled and served with a pinot noir sauce and a delightful Hawaiian ono, crusted with crabmeat. Lobster Ravioli also includes shrimp and scallops, and the lobster tail is flown in from Australia.
Prime rib and steaks are available for the carnivores, served with garlic mashed potatoes. The filet mignon is a tender cut, full of flavor.
The extensive wine list is printed on the back of the menu and worthy of study. Most selections are California vintages. The listing by the glass is limited but diverse, with most choices priced reasonably.
Be sure to leave room for dessert. The "no ka oi" (which means "the best" in Hawaiian) is a satisfying combination of macadamia nut ice cream and chocolate. Key Lime Pie and Macadamia Nut Crème Brulee are among the other selections. Peohe's famous Hot Chocolate Lava Cake must be ordered 30 minutes in advance. It is a blending of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, molten chocolate in the center, topped with macadamia nut ice cream and Heath bar crunch. The flavors and textures of this dessert work wonderfully together.
Peohe's now boasts a large sushi bar menu, with many choices of rolls and "new wave" sashimi. The Rainbow, a colorful lobster California roll topped with tuna, yellowtail, shrimp and avocado, is very popular.
Peohe's is a grand venue for casual dining, romantic evenings or that special occasion, and it is an absolute treasure during the holidays. The menu is expensive, but the view is priceless. The restaurant is located at 1201 First St. in Coronado. It is open daily for lunch and dinner and for brunch Sunday. Reservations are suggested. Call (619) 437-4474.
Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association. Send comments to the firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.