2014 Roadtrip: 2014 Monterey Peninsula Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM

NOTE: we practically always share our meals, typically ordering one starter, one main and one dessert for the two of us. That makes a big difference in the cost of our meals and the expansion of our waistlines. We don’t have the kitchen split the meals because ALE doesn’t eat as much as DM. We just ask for an extra plate and ALE takes what she thinks she should eat.

ALE and DM discussed adding ratings to our restaurant reviews and compromised on the following ratings:
HR: Highly recommended
R: Recommended
NR: Not recommended
A: Awful
Okay, now the reviews:

1.    Dinner

1.1.        R: Il Vecchio, 110 Central Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. 831-324-4282, www.ilvecchiorestaurant.com. Charlie was our server and we liked him. We ordered a Capestrano Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo, a wine we always liked when we were living in Italy ($28). We had the Monday Night Adventure Dinners ($23 each) which were 5 courses. The first course was a bruschetta with goat cheese and small, diced sweet pepper on top. Then we had a roasted carrot soup that was very good. The third course was a very good salad. The fourth course was a baked polenta topped with parmesan cheese and vegetable. The polenta was perfectly cooked and the combination was very good. For the fifth course there was a choice between a beef stew and a cioppino. We ordered one of each and the cioppino was the much better of the two. For an extra cost of $6 we had one cannoli for dessert. It was crunchy and we liked it. The meal was fun and we enjoyed it. We spent $86.60 plus tip.

1.2.        R: Persian Grill, 675 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, CA 93940, tel. 831-372-3720, www.persiangril.com (owned by Masoud Homami, e-mail: persiangrill@sbcglobal.net). We had a wonderful meal and recommend this restaurant. Masoud Homami is the owner, the chef and the server. He does a terrific job. We started with one soup, the Aush e’ Reshteh, Persian style noodles with variety of chopped greens, sautéed garlic, onion and mint served with kashk (dried whey) for $6.75. Dimitri loved it and it reminded him of Melokhia, an Egyptian soup. We next ordered one Panir-O-Sabzi, fresh cut garden basil, mint, watercress, radishes and coriander served with feta cheese for $5.99. We expected more of a salad but it was not. One is supposed to take some lavash and make a little appetizer with all of the ingredients. The herbs were so good and fresh we enjoyed the dish. We wanted to have “Tahdeeg” ($3.99) the famous Persian crispy rice but it wasn’t available and takes an hour to make. Our next dish wa Khoresht e’Fesenjoon, the walnut stew that Audre makes. It is crushed walnuts, caramelized onion and pomegranate juice with tender chicken breast, served with basmati rice ($13.99). It was delicious but maybe a little too sweet for us. For dessert Dimitri really enjoyed the Makhloot, a combination of Persian ice cream and faloode (which was what Dimitri really wanted). It was a great success as was the entire dinner. We spent $55.59 plus tip.

1.3.        R: Bistro Moulin, 67 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940, tel. 831-333-1200, E-mail: bistromoulin@gmail.com, web: http://www.bistromoulin.com/ .We had a very nice meal even though neither Didier Dutertre nor Colleen Manni were there. Our server was friendly, professional and good. All the other servers helped too. The room is “bistro-y” but the tables are not close together. Audre had one (appetizer-sized) spinach gnocchi ($12.75). The gnocchi were light but they were floating in a cream sauce which made the dish a little too rich for Audre. Dimitri had the Osso Buco which he liked very much. It was in a tasty tomato sauce and had some snap peas in it too. With our meal we had a small bottle of Chateau Le Bonnat Grave Bordeaux ($28). There was no dessert on the menu that appealed so that was all we had. We spent $73.64 plus tip.

1.4.        R: Passionfish, 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. 831-655-3311, www.passionfish.net. Our server, Mara, was good. We brought a coupon for a free appetizer of our choice. The room was crowded and noisy. While we made jokes of it with our neighboring tables, we were so close we were practically sitting with them. The bread was good and was called  Pane Franchese from a bakery in Santa Cruz (The Buttery, perhaps.) We started with the Spicy Seafood Stew ($9 on the menu, $10 on our bill (?)). There was plenty of seafood and it was in a delicious tomato-cilantro broth that was just the correct amount of spicy. We shared that and a ½ bottole of Alfaro Family Vinyard (Corralitos, CA) Pinot Noir ($21). The next dish we shared was the Grilled Lemongrass Catfish in red curry with jicama slaw ($10) which we asked to be our free appetizer. It was delicious and had a nice taste of lemongrass. For our main course we had the Sturgeon with warm preserved lemon-white bean salad and spicy herb relish ($23). Audre liked the sturgeon but thought it was bland. Dimitri was lukewarm about it. There was plenty of food to share. For dessert we had the bread pudding with honey/ginger ice cream ($7) with a Peruvian decaf ($2). We spent $68.36 (even with the free appetizer) plus tip and were happy.

1.5.       R: Petra Restaurant, 477 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA tel. 831-649-2530. We were happy with our meal and with the service at Petra. The room is decorated in an old-fashioned way—nice. There is a flat screen TV over the gas fireplace (on) which scrolls through a slideshow of scenes of Petra. (A good use of a TV, in our opinion). The place was busy and there was a even a table of 3 women who Dimitri said could have been his Greek aunts. We had 2 entrées: one was the special mousaka. It was served with sautéed vegetables and rice. The other entrée was the couscous stew made with chicken. It had a nice cinnamon spice taste and Dimitri liked it (although the chicken should have been less cooked for his taste). The stew also came with a side of vegetables We liked the pita bread served at Petra. For dessert we had one baklava and it was good and crunchy. With that we had one decaf coffee. Nice. We spent $56.24 plus tip.

1.6.        R: We had a nice meal at Fishwife at Asilomar (1996 1/2 Sunset Dr., Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. 831-375-7107). It was crowded but we didn’t have to wait long and we got the table that Dimitri asked for. We had a coupon for a free fried clam appetizer. We never would have ordered a fried dish but we ate this one! Dimitri had the catfish entrée ($17.50) and liked it. Audre had the Calamari Provençal and was impressed ($17.50). The calamari was fork-tender. We have never had calamari so tender. We each had a glass of wine—Audre had a glass of Firestone Sauvignon Blanc ($7) and Dimitri had a glass of Seaglass Riesling ($7). We spent $52.08 plus tip and were happy.

1.7.        R: Epsilon Restaurant, 422 Tyler St., Monterey, CA, tel. 831-655-8108, web: http://www.epsilonrestaurant.com/  We had a very nice meal. Christopher was our server. He was efficient and unobtrusive. We had one lamb shanks ($19.75) which came with a Greek salad with lentils to start. The meal was served with rice and vegetables. It was very good and huge--more than enough for the 2 of us. We had a glass of Greek red (Nema) for $8 and a glass of Retsina ($7). We had a great time talking to the men at the table next to us (long time Monterey residents). We also  had a rice pudding which Dimitri liked ($5.95). We spent $43.72 plus tip.

1.8.        R: La Bicyclette, 7th & Dorlores, 29 Dolores St, Carmel, CA 93923, Carmel, CA tel. (831) 622-9899, web: http://www.labicycletterestaurant.com/. We had a very nice meal. Our server, Arturo, was good and had a good personality. We were sitting next to a man (who lives in Carmel) and woman (who was visiting). They were fun to talk to and very informative about the area. We had one of the soup of the day (carrot) and it was very good ($8). It was served in a big copper pot and it was plenty for two. We had one entrée of duck ($23) that was served with black rice. The dish was very good too (although we probably should have had the day’s special dish: wild boar cannelloni). We had 3 glasses of Malbec ($9 each) but no dessert. We spent $62.94 plus tip.

1.9.        NR: La Balena, Junipero between 5th and 6th, Carme-by-the-Sea, CA, tel. 831-250-6295, www.labalenacarmel.com. We were unhappy with the taste of the food and the preparation. We were so disappointed because La Balena had been highly recommended. It was our first self-described “farm to table” restaurant and we were excited. Our server, Iracema, was quite nice and good (serving the entire restaurant, as far as we could tell). The restaurant was accommodating to our request to get out of the breezy area where we were first seated. We were given the table next to the kitchen and it was quite warm but fine for us. We decided to order 2 starters and one pasta and share everything. Our starters were the Osseo Puttanesca (bone marrow, braised tomato, capers, olives, anchovy and taleggio) for $15. The bone marrow was overwhelmed by the salty taste of capers and there was too much tomato sauce and taleggio (a cheese that we ordinarily love). We left most of it (and the restaurant did not charge us for the dish). Our second starter was Polpo Fritto (crispy octopus that was actually grilled, not fried, Calabrian chili and lemon) for $21. The sauce was good, very garlicky, but Dimitri didn’t like the way the octopus was grilled. He said that it should be grilled over charcoal and it should be almost burnt (but not overcooked) and result in a crispiness on the outside and tender on the inside. One should see it blackened and taste the charcoaling. So after the first two dishes, we were bummed out. For our pasta, we chose the Tagliatele Nero (described as Monterey Bay king salmon, grappa, crème fraîche and roe) $21. It was good and the pasta (homemade) was very good but, as Audre recalls, the dish didn’t have salmon it had clams—oh well). With our meal we the half bottle of Joyce Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (San Banito, Pedregal Vineyards, Salines) for $18. We were happy with that choice. We spent $65.10 (without the Osseo Puttanesca) plus tip.

1.10.     NR:  Sea Harvest, Foam St., Monterey, CA 93940, tel. (831-646-0547. It looked like it would be good but it wasn’t (and it had been recommended). We had lunch there but we would not recommend it for any meal. Audre ordered the oyster appetizer: 6 oysters ($10.95). We didn’t ask; we just assumed that they would be local. They were not. They were Blue Points from VA. Unfortunately they were tasteless. Even the juice was tasteless. Dimitri had the lunch special: skate fish grilled and served with rice, cole slaw and sautéed vegetables ($12.99). He was disappointed. Audre was still hungry so she ordered a side of cole slaw. We spent $29 plus tip.

2.    Lunch

2.1.        R: Vineyard Bistro, 6 Pilot Rd., Carmel Valley, CA 93924, tel. 831-659-5020, web: www.vineyard-bistro.net. Our server, John, was good. He reminded Audre of Matthew Broderick for some reason. He was good and gave us advice on other restaurants in the Monterey area to try. We had one special of the day: sand dabs served grill and sitting on a salad with mango salsa and apples and oranges ($15) which we shared. The restaurant served bread. Dimitri had a Line Sauvignon Blanc ($8) and thought it was good. We spent $24.96 and enjoyed sitting in the garden. We spent $24.96 plus tip.

2.2.        R: Paprika Cafe, 309 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, CA 93940, tel. 831-375-7452. This is a tiny, cute place and a throw-back from earlier times. The owner does absolutely everything without anyone else there to help. It was almost full. We had a very good lunch, after waiting our turn for it to be made. Dimitri had a foul (Egyptian fava bean stew) that came with pita. Audre had a salad. We had a piece of homemade baklava and a Turkish coffee. The owner was Lebanese but grew up in France. He has been in Monterey for over 20 years working very hard. It shows; the café is very good. We spent $14.05 plus tip.

2.3.        R: The Lodge at Pebble Beach Resort, The Bench, Pebble Beach, CA. The spot is lovely and our server, Vincent was good. We shared one order of mussels ($24) from Prince Edward Island, Canada in a very good broth, one baked Alaska (also very good) for $10 and one coffee ($3.75). A very nice lunch even though it was full of noisy groups. We spent $40.58 plus tip.

2.4.        R: From Scratch Restaurant, 3626 The Barnyard Shopping Village, Carmel, CA 93923, tel. 831-625-2448, e-mail: fromscratchrestaurant@gmail.com. We sat out on the patio under a pergola and it was pleasant. We had one quiche of the day that came with a cup of cream of broccoli soup ($9.95). Audre didn’t think that the crust-less quiche with chorizo was as tasty as it should have been. She liked the soup although it was too creamy and should have had more broccoli taste. Dimitri had the Chinese chicken salad ($11.50) that had chicken pieces which were moist and tasty. The salad was made with romaine lettuce which he likes and had some vegetables in it. It wasn’t particularly Chinese, however. Dimitri liked the toasted baguette that came with the meals. Our server, Kristofer, was fairly invisible but we had everything we needed. Audre thought that it was an over-hyped sort of place. We spent $23.06 plus tip.

3.    Breakfast

3.1.        R: Lou Lou's Griddle in the Middle, Wharf #2, Figueroa and Del Monte, Monterey, CA. We had a very good breakfast. We tried to get a table over the weekend but it was packed and the wait would have taken 1 ½ hours on Sunday (Mother’s Day). We came back on Thursday and it was calm and a very warm day—too warm in fact to sit outside in the sun. We moved in to the counter and watched the cook do his magic. Dimitri ordered 2 eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes and sourdough bread. He liked his breakfast with coffee. Audre had one pancake with strawberries. The one pancake was so huge it hung over the sides of the plate. They serve it with butter and syrup but not real maple syrup. It was fluffy and good. Of course it was way too big for Audre and even with Dimitri’s help we only ate half. Our breakfast cost $20 plus tip and we would recommend it.

3.2.        R: First Awakenings, 125 Ocean View Blvd #105, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, tel. (831) 372-1125, http://www.firstawakenings.net/. We thought our breakfasts were very good and our server, Brittney, was excellent. We had a complicated order. Audre thought she wanted a wheat berry pancake until she learned that the wheat berry pancake had wheat germ in it which she doesn’t like. Brittany was very patient and suggested that Audre order one blueberry pancake with strawberries on top. That sounded good to Audre so that’s what she ordered and it was great; too big by half but very good. Dimitri wanted one pancake with mango in it, scrambled eggs and one strip of bacon. That’s what he got and he was very happy. Dimitri also ordered coffee and it came quickly. We learned that First Awakenings has real maple syrup for an extra charge. We ordered that. Our bill was $19.61 plus tip and were very happy.

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