Now that everyone has been on their healthy eating New Year’s resolutions for a few weeks, there’s a good reason to take a cheat day — San Diego Restaurant Week, which runs from January 19-26. More than 180 local restaurants participate, offering great deals on prix fixe lunch and dinner menus that include between two and four courses. For those who overspent during the holidays, it’s a great way to indulge without breaking the bank.
I know many people use Restaurant Week as an opportunity to try new eateries that have just opened, but I think it’s a good excuse to visit an old favorite. One such place is Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island that has been in business for more than 60 years. In fact, my dad wrote about enjoying one of their (very strong) Mai Tai cocktails way back when he was stationed in San Diego during his time in the navy. Today, the restaurant actually has a counter on their website showing the number of Mai Tais they’ve sold to date: 2.6 million and counting! The Polynesian-inspired restaurant overlooks the San Diego harbor and has an incredible view of the downtown skyline. In fact, some of my closest friends got married there a few years ago and it was picture perfect.
This year for Restaurant Week, Bali Hai is offering a two-course lunch menu for $15 and a three-course dinner menu for $30. The coconut shrimp is one of their most popular starters, and is available on both the lunch and dinner menus. The fried, crunchy shrimp is served with a flavorful ginger-lime dipping sauce. On the dinner menu, another standout pupu is the Hawaiian tuna poke, which includes avocado, seaweed salad and masago, and is served with wonton chips. The ahi poke is cut into nice thick chunks and tastes really fresh. On the lunch menu, the poke is available as a bowl with seaweed salad, edamame and shredded nori.
There are eight different dinner entree options on Bali Hai’s Restaurant Week menu, which is a lot more than most other participating eateries offer. Some of the standouts are the pan-seared market fish (likely a Mahi-Mahi) that’s served with cabbage, cilantro, scallion, ginger, Serrano peppers and an adobo jus, and a wok-fried seabass (large portion) with ponzu sauce and Szechuan-style vegetables. Vegetarians will love the panang vegetable stir-fry with crispy tofu, onions, bell peppers, carrots and garlic.
The dessert selection should be a no-brainer since there’s no need to look past the mango sticky rice. But for those who might be allergic to mangos, instead opt for the tiramisu or cookies and cream puffs. Personally, I can’t ever say no to their haupia pie (a Hawaiian specialty made with coconut and chocolate puddings) because it’s rare to see it outside of the aloha state (*unfortunately it’s not offered on the Restaurant Week menu).
After enjoying this filling meal with your ohana, walk it off at nearby Shoreline Park, a mile-long park with sweeping views of the bay that stretches the length of Shelter Island. You’ll find bike paths, a public fishing pier, boat launch ramp, picnic tables and fire rings. It really showcases the beauty of San Diego from a cool vantage point.
Pro tip: Be sure to make reservations in advance for Restaurant Week… spots will fill up fast (just like the parking lot at Bali Hai)!