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Currant American Brasserie: electrifying currant

"Current" refers to "rate of flow," often used with respect to electricity. Change an "e" to an "a" and you have a new word that refers to a small seedless raisin, often grown in California.

But "currant" also is the name of an electrifying new downtown restaurant, located in the chic and convenient Sofia Hotel, within walking distance to state and federal courts and to many office buildings. When the hotel was renovated, a new restaurant concept was needed to complement the sophistication of the setting. And a great chef was attracted to it.

Jonathan Pfleuger has dazzled diners all across the country at such eminent restaurants as Russian Tea Room, Montage Resort and, locally, at Anthony's Star of the Sea. Now, as chef/owner of Currant American Brasserie, he has latitude to be creative and engaging.

If professional stature is reflected by one's friends, Pfleuger is certainly in good company. Last week, Wayne Nish, a Michelin Star-honored chef, shared his kitchen for a night of extraordinary culinary performance.

The dining room is an eclectic mixture of modern and French influences. Chandeliers and furniture look like a Louis XIV setting, but the two-toned tile floor is more art deco. Couches and settees line one wall. The center of the room is filled by a tall "zinc" bar. It is a casual, sophisticated ambiance that attracts many local residents and workers. "On Fridays, we are often totally full," manager Sanjay Parekh told me. The daily Happy Hour offers discounts on food, well drinks and wine.

Currant Brasserie's wine list is select, but manageable. There are interesting vintages such as the flowery 2006 Darioush Viognier and the full-bodied 2005 Caldwell Hill Pinot Noir. Wine flights, three pours of 2 oz, make sampling easy. A good number of wines are available by the glass.

The menu is also select, with limited choices exquisitely prepared. Only the freshest and seasonal ingredients are used to combine both American and French styles into one tasty whole.

The Hibachi Style Salmon was grilled perfectly -- firm on the outside, yet moist on the inside. It was accompanied with green soba tea noodles and Asian vegetables. Roasted Jidori Chicken was a large half chicken atop a Tuscan bread salad with currants (of course) pine nuts and mustard greens.

Don't pass up the Roasted Tomato Bisque, one of the best renditions of this dish that I've ever enjoyed. The combination of the tastes of tomato, lobster, cheese and herbs was just delightful.

Desserts are also special, all made "in house." Try the Tangerine Cheesecake, with pomegranate sorbet and kiwi sauce or the popular Hot Chocolate Souffle with Irish Coffee Ice Cream. I was intrigued by Quince Beignets, small donuts made with the aromatic fruit.

Currant American Brasserie is a definite must to experience. The ambiance, service and cuisine are excellent. Prices are moderate. The restaurant is located at 140 W. Broadway, near First Avenue. Reservations are suggested. Call 619-702-6309.


Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association. Send comments to the editor@sddt.com. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.

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