Restaurant Review: Vessel at Kona Kai Resort, Shelter Island


About four years ago, I made up a rhyme to help friends and co-workers remember my dining preferences: "Nothing from the sea for Bri." That jingle is everything you'd expect from someone with a Master's in Creative Writing, right? Whatever the case, it stuck and thank god. That little phrase has saved me from many an awkward situation at a dinner party or restaurant. Unfortunately the sentiment behind it has also prevented me from enjoying many of the beautiful restaurants situated around San Diego's bay and coastline: very few restaurants on the water here have appetizing choices outside of their coastal fare. That is, until I went to Vessel at Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island. 

By the time we arrived on a rainy Wednesday night, it was too dark outside to capture the beautiful views and natural light from it's floor-to-ceiling windows that Vessel has to offer, so my camera certainly doesn't do the interior justice. I love the distressed blue and white washed wood that lines the walls and the overall vintage beach style that inspired the design. Most importantly, the views of the marina and harbor are on full display from both the bar and the main dining area and there is plenty of outdoor dining space as well. 

Vessel had invited myself, Ryan, and several other bloggers and food columnists to enjoy a special dinner and so we received the star treatment from the moment we pulled up to the resort. Valet parked our car while the General Manager showed us to the bar area where we enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and some drinks. I ordered the Kentucky Buck cocktail with ginger beer and Ryan got a nice glass of the Layer Cake Cab Sav. A jazz band played in the lounge space in the bar and the singer blew me away with her voice. It was the perfect musical backdrop for our evening.

The team at Vessel had an amazing six course meal planned out for us with wine pairings for each dish. I can not even begin to express how impressed I was with the resort, the restaurant, the service and the event as it was, but Vessel went out of their way to create non-seafood dishes off of the prix fixe event menu for me. It was perfect because I got a chance to learn about all the dishes Vessel has for a turf-only lover like me. The first course was their Tomato & Burrata salad with onion, aged balsamic and jalapeno pesto. I devoured mine and Ryan's (you say, 'tomato', he says, 'no thanks'). 

As the evening went on we relaxed and shared in great conversations on our end of the table with some executives from Noble House Hotels, Britta from Edible San Diego, and Mary from This Tasty Life. The second and third courses consisted of a Tomato and Avocado Mole Tostada and an Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap. The second course also featured my favorite wine of the night, a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford in New Zealand. 

A Mole Marinated Pork Loin and Braised Short Ribs in Carrot Puree made up the fourth and fifth courses and I have been dreaming about the short ribs ever since. The ribs were so tender and the carrot puree was so unexpectedly tasty. It was truly my favorite dish of the night. And then dessert happened. I have seven words for you: Whipped Cheese Cake and Warm Berry Cobbler. 

I can't say enough good things about our dinner at Vessel. Perfect for a date night, a celebration or a girl's night, Vessel provides stunning views, relaxing live music, and a superb menu for every palate. 

Kona Kai Resort & Marina 
1551 Shelter Island Drive 
San Diego , CA 92106 
Phone: (619) 221-8000