Florent Restaurant (672 Fifth Ave.) is one of those places that locals often pass by while going to other places in the Gaslamp. It just looks like a place that is made for convention goers and not for locals. But, after eating there, I have to eat the words I wrote in the previous sentence: Florent has a lot to like for locals, as well as visitors to the Gaslamp.
The name Florent sounds vaguely European, but the emphasis is on American fare with a global influence. San Diego is a multi-cultural city and the menu reflects that in a way that feels American.
There are some refreshing cocktails here. I went there on a very hot Sunday and wanted something cool. For that, I recommend the Pimm's & Gin, a variation on a popular daytime drink in Britain with angostura bitters, lemon and ginger beer along with the gin and Pimm's, a liqueur made from gin. It's definitely a good go-to cocktail for global warming.
For appetizers, go for the Brussels sprouts which have the cultural cross pollination thing going by grilling them with Spanish chorizo and Asian chili sauce. The bitterness of the sprouts, the heat of the sauce and the spiciness of the sausage blended very nicely. So nicely that we ate them before I remembered to take a photograph.
My dining companions and I also enjoyed the fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and goat cheese and served on the plate with pesto aioli. Alternately crunchy and soft, the tanginess of the cheese was nicely complemented by the earthiness of the basil in the pesto aioli.
By comparison, the grilled shishito peppers were too salty. Of course, it was an excuse to order more drinks, so let's call them a push.
I am trying to eat more low-carb foods these days, and I am happy to say that Florent has a lot of creative side dishes that fit the bill. I was especially impressed by the presence of spaghetti squash, which is a good substitute for potatoes or rice, and cucumber-wakame salad, an Asian-influenced salad with a soy sauce-type dressing.
The sides played together nicely with the seared big eye tuna. Mine consisted of about five large chunks that were seared on the outside, nice and rare on the inside.
My friend's pan-roasted chicken was a surprise. Usually, chicken at a restaurant can be bland, something for people afraid of food. Florent's chicken was moist, tender with a mustard sauce that hit the spot.
For dessert, there is one thing to get and it could make your whole meal: The Cravory Cookie Sandwich. They take cookies made by the Cravory in Point Loma and put them with ice cream.
Simple? Yes! Delicious? Uh huh! They rotate the cookies. I enjoyed the chocolate fudge.
I wasn't a fan of everything we tried. Florent has a watermelon-cucumber mojito, but my other friend had a regular mojito. It was just OK.
She got the Restaurant Week steak and thought it was just OK. That must have been tough, considering how I was enjoying my tuna and her husband was enjoying his chicken.
Although not everything was a home run at Florent, there was enough good stuff that I will probably go back again, even if it's just for drinks and dessert.