Ray Napolitano’s version of MBRW

November 11th, 20104:10 pm @

Monterey Bay Restaurant Week

Looks like this Restaurant Week phenomenon that has been catching on across the country has caught on here as well. Last year’s promotion was off the Chart House and this year promises even more excitement.
Looking at this season’s lineup you’ll find it to be both easy and difficult—easy to set up your schedule, difficult to find enough time to take the fullest possible advantage of the opportunities. There are various strategies one may employ based upon variables like geography, food styles, ambiance, time of day and so on. Here are a few different humble (hah) opinions from a local with some insight into the area’s dining scene.
One approach—one that I highly recommend—is to try to hit every restaurant on the list. It seems daunting at first, but if you approach it with a bit of rough planning it becomes quite clear that an ambitious foursome or duo can easily enjoy time at each restaurant during the days allotted for this promotion.
For instance: Let’s say we start in Carmel one day. A hop and skip out to Edgar’s at Quail Lodge at about 11-11:30 for Bloody Marys and/or Mimosas on the Patio overlooking the driving range. That should start to fire up the appetites, maybe lead into something fresh and fun from their interesting lunch menu. Julio Ramirez has been overseeing the culinary operation there for almost a year. Afterwards, mosey on back toward town and pop into Rio Grill as the lunch scene is winding down. Sit by the fireplace and enjoy afternoon Margueritas, lively conversation and something Tex-Mexy to nibble on. This Tony Tollner Carmel icon is still the place to greet and eat and Chef Cy Yontz knows his way around the kitchen.
From there swing up Rio Road and down Dolores to Fresh Cream’s new location for Happy Hour. Enjoy cocktails and appetizers with the locals while debating about the next few destinations. Perhaps owner Steve Chesney will thrill you with stories of his country-singing cousin. Your car should be parked for the evening and now it’s walking time. What the heck, Flaherty’s for oysters or crab or shrimp and a bottle of bubbly is just about perfect after a couple of blocks of walking.
Then head up Mission toward 5th to L’Escargot. Chef Kerry Loutas who has owned this Carmel Landmark for over a decade, consistently wows diners with country style French classics in a decidedly un-stuffy dining room. His personal touch and comfortable style make L’Escargot a can’t-miss. Afterwards, stroll back toward town and bop into Basil, the tiny alleyway eatery masterfully driven by Chef/owner Michele (pronounced Meekaylay) Cremonese. A fun patio table, fresh, original cocktails and delicately prepared dishes using local seasonal ingredients make this a perfect spot for eating and drinking during the later dinner hour.
That’s just one day. Using variations of that template, weave Andre’s Bouchee into the mix. This family-run continuation of the original Bouchee hasn’t skipped a beat. Open-air lunch at La Dolce Vita has been happening for decades and Hola in the Barnyard is knocking out the best Mexican food in Carmel in a beautiful space once occupied by Thunderbird Books.
Monterey’s scene is equally enticing, with long, fulfilling days and nights of dining, wining and song just there for the taking.
The completely revised and updated Jack’s in Portola Hotel & Spa has a clubby feel, big comfortable booths and puts you in the middle of action during the many conferences in downtown Monterey. Hotel GM Janine Chicourrat brings her extensive resume to this property, including a stint at The Lodge. Tony Tollner’s Montrio Bistro has one of the best Happy Hours around with inspired dishes by Chef Tony Baker and cocktails to match from local bartending legend Anthony Vitacca.
This week is set up for a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf. In fact, the play is to get a room at Portola or another of the area hotels and do the whole lineup of Wharf and Cannery Row spots signed up for Restaurant Week. The C at brand new Clement, named for the owner of the Intercontinental Hotel chain, is right on the water and sports Jerry Regester as Executive Chef. His pedigree is long and his menu is strong.
Fish Hopper, also right on the water is not only one of the highest volume restaurants in Monterey but also surprisingly stout with fresh seafood and plenty of it. Two of the Shake brothers own this hot spot that is a proponent of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. Rounding out the Cannery Row lineup is The Chart House, one of the prettiest spots on the Row, tucked there alongside Monterey Plaza Hotel. Chart House is a small national chain that prides itself on great seaside locales, professional execution of menu and service and high standards.
Back on the Wharf, Café Fina and Domenico’s are both Domenick Mercurio spots serving authentic Sicilian-Monterey Seafood cuisine. In fact, Old Fisherman’s Grotto, Isabella’s, virtually all the Wharf restaurants are second-generation (at least) local, grown up on the wharf-owned places that have honed the art of serving fresh Monterey Bay seafood every day. Restaurant Week is a great time to revisit the Wharf and Cannery Row to remember why it is that so many visitors flock here each year and return to these restaurants over and over. We really know how to do it right, right here.
The Lallas, Grill and Palooza, are local bastions of cocktail and wine sipping funsters. Overall frivolity shouldn’t obscure the dedication to fresh, sustainable ingredients and ambitious menus that deliver the goods—taste, quality and preparation. Also in Del Monte Center is PF Changs, the wildly popular Asian inspired chain. Dark wood, big banquets, plus a good bar at which to dine mark PF’s.
While you’re out in Monterey, you can swing by Tarpy’s Roadhouse near the airport. Another of Tony Tollner’s well-run establishments, Tarpy’s is a great place for patio dining during lunch or dinner. Classic Monterey-inspired Americana with the thrill of private jets buzzing by to keep things lively. Right down the road is TusCa at the Hyatt Regency. This beautiful property was completely renovated a couple of years ago and now boasts a delightful Tuscany/California menu. The views of Old Del Monte Golf Course are as delicious as the menu items. Great lounge too.
PG’s two entrees into Monterey Bay Restaurant Week represent classic Monterey Peninsula success and greatness. Fandango, under the leadership of owners, husband & wife team Pierre and Marietta Bain, has been a destination gem for a quarter-century, serving up Mediterranean classics in a beautiful French countryside style restaurant with multiple dining rooms. Chef Pedro De La Cruz has been there every step of the way.
At Bistro Moulin, Chef Owner Didier Duterte and his partner Colleen Manni have only been opened about 3 years but this intimate locals hangout became an instant classic from day one. Didier was the chef at Casanova in Carmel for 25 years prior to opening Moulin so his reputation had them packing the place right away. Casual fun, flavorful, just what you’d want after a day of watching fish swim around the Aquarium, which is just down the block. Sassy waitress Sara keeps things hopping in the dining room.
There are loads of choices this week around the Monterey Peninsula. With this menu of restaurants everyone should have great success going around to try new spots, revisit past friends and jump aboard the bandwagon of dining excitement that is this year’s version of Monterey Bay Restaurant Week. Cheers.