Dinner at Tierra Sur: California's Best Kosher Restaurant

For those that know me, you know there's little in the world I love more than eating a delicious meal at a nice restaurant. I've been to kosher restaurants all over the world: from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, from Vancouver to Venice. While this isn't meant to be a post rating the best (kosher) restaurants on earth, I can confidently say this post is a review of the best kosher restaurant west of the Mississppi. 

Tierra Sur is the only kosher restaurant in the Ventura area, and is operated as part of the Herzog Winery in Oxnard - about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The restaurant doesn't have its own building, and as a result has you walk through the tasting bar and gift shop to reach the entrance. It's a bit tacky if you ask me - though I suspect, perhaps, the "trap" is set up that way intentionally - but it certainly doesn't take away from the quality of the restaurant itself. 

The main seating area is rather intimate, though there is (what looks like) a banquet room to the side which is ordinarily set up with extra tables. There is also seating outside. The table settings are very simple and elegant, and the service was quite good. Well given the average kosher restaurant has terrible service, that isn't saying much, but I was certainly satisfied. 

The menu is fantastic and has options for any palate. What you must know before venturing in for dinner (or even lunch) is that this is not an inexpensive place to grab a quick bite to eat. Is it going to cost $150 or $200 per person? No, probably not. But if you're planning on spending less than $175 for two, this is probably not the place for you. 

Sarah, my wife, opted for the three-course wine-tasting option. It included a salad, an entree and a dessert, each with a glass of a specifically paired wine. The salad, an heirloom tomato and cucumber salad, was incredibly fresh; Sarah said the dressing could have been better, but it was all forgotten, thanks to the glass of Herzog Chenin Blanc - that was the pairing for the first course - which she absoultely loved. Unfortuantely, the pictures of the salad did not come out, so you'll have to sit tight for the food pics...

I on the other hand, having ordered a-la-carte, started with the duck shnitzel. The sound of it was too good to pass up. If only it tasted as good as it sounded. It was served on a bed of mixed greens and certainly came well-presented. Unfortuantely however, that's where the compliments for this dish have to end. The meat was tough and not very flavorful. Beyond that, I really didn't think there was enough meat in the pieces themselves. Either way, it tasted fine - it wasn't inedible - but I would caution others from spending the money on this particular dish. I wish they offered the greens with the citrus-infused grilled onions was offered as a separate salad though. That was delicious, and I would definitely have ordered that on its own.

For Sarah's main course, she chose the salmon. It was a beautiful, large fillet, cooked to perfection. While she said it was a tad fatty for her taste, I thought it was delicious. The sides were perfect and she was in food heaven. She didn't love the chardonnay that was paired with it, but that was to be expected - she's not a big fan of dry wines (especially dry whites). 

I ordered the lamb and can still taste it as I write this post. Wow, was it incredible; that dish alone made the entire visit to Tierra Sur worthwhile. It was coated with a mushroom duxelle (which seemed to have some dijon in it as well) and was then wrapped in a thin layer phyllo dough. It came with an assortment of root vegetables, which I absoultely loved, as well as with a sweet julienned-carrot "jam." The variety of flavors was in no way overwhelming. The crunch of the parsnips alongside with the flaky phyllo dough were the perfect accompnyment for the slaw-like carrot jam and the melt-in-your-mouth lamb. While words can't do it justice - honestly, the picture can't either - I assure you it was phenomenal. If you're ever in the LA area and enjoy a good lamb dinner, I highly encourage you to try this out. 

Dessert is always hit-or-miss at kosher, meat-based kosher restaurants thanks to their non-dairy nature. In partiuclar the ice cream. Tierra Sur is a gem of an exception however. I wish I had pictures to show you of the flourless chocolate cake I had, which was accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I devoured it so quickly there wasn't any time for photos - sorry! Let's just say it's worth sticking around for. 

Overview: While the ambience and design aren't as chic or romantic as your average five star restaurant, the quality of the food and the variety of options certainly make Tierra Sur a contender in the Souther California restaurant scene. As far as kosher restaurants go however, this is by far the best option in California and may be a top three pick in all of North America. 

Have you been? What were your thoughts? More importantly, what did you eat when you were there?!

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