Rising from the floor in flourishes or “blooms” as they reach the ceiling, the support columns at Born & Raised, the new $6.5 million steakhouse in San Diego's Little Italy, harken back to an early 20th-century sense of grandeur.
Yellow-tinted lighting bathes the dining room, which is lined with curved leather booths. A beautiful Italian marble bar with brass accents runs the length of the space; an inviting spot to grab a cocktail if one needs to wait to be seated.
Candid black and white portraits of rappers appear on the walls, a detail I didn't notice until I was on my way out and saw Ol' Dirty Bastard at the top of the staircase.
Speaking of stairs, the table reserved for my friend and I was on the second story rooftop, which featured a second, circular bar. I sat facing the skyline; however as we were only on the second floor, the view isn't too noteworthy.
The rooftop's decor and the vibe is more casual than the dining room below. Given San Diego's delightful summer temps, though, it's hard not to choose it over the main room.
In keeping with the decor, the menus are elegantly designed with gold and black fonts.
Appetizers include steakhouse classics like dry-aged carpaccio with bone marrow vinaigrette and lobster bisque, as well as two types of foie gras and caviar. For the vegetarians, there's the house salad and a vegetable “tartare.”
I was leaning toward the carpaccio until my friend ordered the seared foie gras with peaches ($24), at which point I changed my order. Go big or go home!
We were each served a massive piece of foie, possibly the largest single piece I've ever eaten, yet I dared not waste a single silky bite.
I've seen the term “wagyu” spread across menus everywhere I go, just as truffle oil had before it. A few years ago I learned truffle oil is rarely the real thing, as is the case with wagyu.
So when I saw a little Japanese flag and the prices of the wagyu beef on the Born & Raised menu, I felt it was finally time to try the real thing.
I visited Japan briefly in 2011. However, I didn't go out of my way to try wagyu while there. I was more focused on sushi and seafood at the time.
The minimum portion size for the imported wagyu is $19/oz, with a minimum of three ounces per order ($57 total).
Cost-wise, this put it between the aged steaks such as an 8oz filet or 18oz ribeye ($42-$49) and the more expensive dry-aged steaks ($69-$88).
As if dinner wasn't turning out to be rich enough as it was, I picked the Robuchon potatoes as a side, knowing full well the recipes not-so-secret secret was copious amounts of butter.
When the wagyu arrived, six slices were glistening with more marbling than I've ever seen in a slice of beef that small. A few pinches of sea salt accompanied the wagyu.
Biting into my first slice, I was surprised at just how tender the beef felt in my mouth. It practically melted in the same way I've become accustomed to with a bite of foie gras.
I wasn't sure that 3oz was going to fill me up, but given how fatty the meat is the portion size turned out to be perfect, especially considering my choice of appetizer and side.
The Robuchon potatoes were creamy, as to be expected, and the portion size was plenty large enough to share.
Add-ons for steaks include foie gras, truffle, crab legs, and béarnaise sauce, butter-poached lobster, and truffles (market price).
Sauce options include béarnaise, peppercorn, creamy horseradish, and bordelaise.
Additional sides include coal-roasted leeks with goat cheese, hazelnuts, and grapes, Parisian gnocchi, and mushroom fricassee with herbs, garlic, and egg yolk (my friend had the mushrooms).
In no way did I have room for dessert, let alone carrot cake, which I never order, however as it's Born & Raised's signature dessert, the dinner would've felt incomplete without it.
The massive, layered piece of carrot cake arrived, and I almost immediately wanted to waive the white flag of surrender. However, I carried on and dug in. The cake was moist, but it was the sweet creaminess of the frosting that I enjoyed most.
I ate more than I should've, and accepted the inevitable food coma that awaited me. The cake, should you too choose it, is large enough to share with friends.
The total cost for my three-course dinner came to $108.83, or about $130 including tip. I stuck with table water. Had I not, it would've been closer to $150 with a cocktail.
After paying our checks, we took a few minutes to get a closer look at the main bar and open kitchen on the ground floor.
The resident butcher was happy to show off her area, including the aged meats hanging in a display case and a handsome, clearly used ban saw.
Overall, I had a wonderful time during my first visit to Born & Raised. The interior design is unique and sets the stage for what will likely be a decadent meal.
I recommend the rooftop in warmer months for all occasions, and the dining room in winter or if you prefer a more intimate, formal setting.
- Born & Raised (website, Instagram)
- 1909 India St., San Diego, CA 92101
- Reservations recommended
For more photos of the incredible interior, check out the designer's portfolio.
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