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Thursday, January 21, 2016


Sunset Cliffs' Little Lion Restaurant is owned/operated by 3rd generation members of the culinary Coulon family.
Pillar to Post photo by Phyllis Shess

Delicious is a fine word to begin discussion of the Little Lion restaurant that’s located at 1424 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard between Ocean Beach and Point Loma.  Tiny is another.  When you combine both words as in this case it means: reservations are a good idea Friday through Sunday.

The Euro style menu with flashes of fresh American culinary enthusiasm makes the Little Lion fare sophisticated in a neighborhood that’s the epitome of casual.

Run by its three young owners, Anne-Marie, Jacqueline and Dominique Coulon, the décor is minimalist and very, very inviting.  The trio are the granddaughters of the now retired chefs of the esteemed Belgian Lion Restaurant, Don and Arlene Coulon.

When Don and Arlene opened the Belgian Lion so many years ago, it shaped the food culture in San Diego and made a mark in Ocean Beach.  Don and Arlene’s love of good quality food, coupled with a unique restaurant experience, left a deep impression on many, including their three granddaughters.  Chef Anne-Marie, and her sisters have succeeded in rekindling that love in their new cafe.  The Little Lion is not the same as the Belgian Lion, but the sentiment is:  Food is love, love is family.

After a run of exploring Ocean Beach’s collection of antique stores, we arrived at the Little Lion early enough to enter an empty restaurant (about 4 pm on a Saturday).   When we left after a remarkable dinner there was a line to get in.  While there several tables filled with families with young children learning the finer points of Belgian/American cuisine.

For openers we ordered glasses of orange juice and sparking wine and combined an appetizer of crispy onion rings in a homemade ranch dip with our main dishes.

The antipasti platter was more than enough for a meal.   The cured meats were spicy and the cheeses made this a remarkable dish.  The duck sausage stew was served with beans and kale and was a very tasty selection for a chilly afternoon turned evening.

Coffee was great and the bread pudding could have been less biscuit and more custard, but otherwise, we left the Little Lion promising ourselves we’ll be back soon.

The Little Lion one of a kind in San Diego.  It’s owners have taken in the ex-pats of the Belgian Lion with a nod to classic cuisine that’s a style of their own.  Make no mistake this is their place, but it is so nice knowing there is another fine Coulon restaurant making its mark in San Diego--By Thomas Shess.  

Antipasti Platter, a fine selection of cheeses and cured meats.  Added touches: sparkling wine and real roses.
January comfort dish duck sausage stew with beans and kale
Amazing onion rings with homemade ranch dip

Below: Bread pudding with caramel sauce, whipped cream and sauteed fruit.

Add notes: 
Michael Borrelli, a top San Diego residential kitchen designer and fabricator designed the Little Lion bar.

The aunt of the Coulon sisters, dessertiers Michelle Coulon operates a superb La Jolla café that also produces excellent chocolates and top of the line wedding cakes.

First cousin to the Little Lion crew, Nathan Coulon, is a San Diego native and 2007 James Beard "Rising Star" Award nominee, is currently the Executive Chef at Fox Restaurant Concepts' True Food Kitchen in Mission Valley, San Diego, CA.

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