It had been a few years since we had last dined at Amaya at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, but the memories we had of our last experience left us feeling very excited for a return visit. We had visions of a lush hotel oozing with warm marble tones and sparkly chandeliers at every turn; and not to mention a wonderful dining experience that was nothing short of relaxing and romantic. We only hoped that our return visit would be just as we had remembered.
As it turned out, the day we went back was clouded by gray skies and rain showers, but the Grand felt just as beautiful and welcoming as ever. In fact, the rain made it feel like the perfect day to go somewhere cozy, cuddle up with my love and toast with a delicious glass of red wine.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Grand or dining there, let me tell you…the property is absolutely stunning. At every turn, the attention to detail is spot on, giving you a warm and welcoming feeling. Some hotels can feel cavernous and cold, but not the Grand. Not at all.
We checked in for our reservation and were very kindly and politely greeted, which immediately reminded us of how spot on the service is. The host was more than happy to accommodate our request to sit in one of their ginormous booths, and we were thrilled. Sitting tucked back behind a large table gave us the feeling of being in a private dining room, as if we had the whole restaurant to ourselves.
We were quickly welcomed by our server as well as the general manager, and then with serious excitement, we looked over the wine list and the menu; both of which we had very vivid memories of being extremely well thought out. Nothing has changed in this department – the wine list was spot on with a carefully curated and interesting selection, and the menu left us with too many good options to choose from. (Our favorite kind of problem.)
As we debated over which direction to go with for food, our extremely kind and attentive server poured a glass of champagne for myself and rosé for the Mr. Both exceptional, and nothing short of what we expected.
Our waiter suggested that we start with the scallop appetizer, which I had eyed up, but then immediately dismissed because of the cauliflower component. Remember my discovery of my complete distaste, and, truthfully hate for cauliflower? Yep, ever since then, I haven’t touched it. But with the waiter’s suggestion, I decided to give it a try.
Wow. Life changing cauliflower moment. Perfectly pureed with hints of vanilla, and probably a good amount of cheese and butter. If this is cauliflower, I am in. I was blown away by how delicious and un-cauliflower-like the cauliflower was. Not to mention that the scallops were oh-so-sweet, and I am always a sucker for anything with mushrooms. And don’t even get me started on that sauce…a balsamic jus…oh baby was it good. To say that we enjoyed the appetizer was an understatement. My husband even grabbed a piece of focaccia to soak up the extra sauce, saying something like, “I’m Italian, I can’t leave the sauce on the plate.”
Post scallop-high, we were both greeted by delicious plates of meat. And that was a difference in the menu that we did notice – there are definitely far more meat options available now (but don’t worry, there are still plenty of fish, vegetarian and carb options as well). And of course, this was a huge excitement for the hubby. The only problem for him was narrowing down what to order. However, I was happy to comply with his meat desires and share our entrées – a roasted lamb shank and a grilled tenderloin.
My lamb shank came out sizzling with a glaze, sitting on top of a bed of creamy polenta and roasted vegetables. After our sauce obsession with the scallops, I was thrilled to see more, and could barely resist tucking in immediately. The hubby’s tenderloin was cooked absolutely perfect, and was also accompanied by the most delicious peppercorn jus. (Yay for more jus!) Neither one of us can specifically remember having a sauce moment the last time we were here, but let me tell you, we were close to wanting to lick the plate clean, the sauces were so good. Could I survive on jus alone? Well, yes, I think that I could.
Although we were both stuffed to the brim after our entrées, we decided to try a couple of their desserts, and boy were we glad that we did. Truly some of the best desserts I have had anywhere, hands down.
The hubby ordered a butterscotch budino, that actually ended up being so much more than just a budino – it was layers upon layers of dessert goodness. And although I am not normally a butterscotch kind of girl, I was completely won over by this dessert and I absolutely loved how delicate the butterscotch flavor of the budino was.
But my dessert truly took the cake (no pun intended). A thin layer of moist almond cake, topped with a not-too-dense cheesecake, of which the top had been crème-brûléed. I think that I just about died. I love almond cake, and I love cheesecake, and I love crème brûlée. But to combine all 3?!? It was beyond something that I could have ever imagined. It was literally melt in your mouth, sweet, savory, delicate…it. was. heaven.
Truly a dinner to remember. We felt cozy, pampered and stuffed – the perfect date night combination. As we drove home, we immediately started talking about when we should go back. And you can bet that the next time we go back, we are going straight for the heavy hitters – the scallops and dessert (well…and the wine too!). For us, they were our favorite bites all night, and definitely left us wanting more. Even though the weather failed to impress us, Amaya gave us a truly Grand experience.