Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Restaurant Review: Passionfish, Pacific Grove, CA

Monterey......highway to paradise!!!

Monterey has got to be one of the most beautiful places here on the West Coast. We had the pleasure of going since my college roommate got married there last weekend (congrats Katie and Carey!!) and I pretty much fell in love with the beachside community. I mean, what's not to love? Blue skies, clean ocean and the greenest of trees all meet to form a magical place. I could do without some of the seagulls who have a knack for pooing on your car in just the right way so your ENTIRE CAR is covered with their, er, stuff, after ONE shot. How they manage that is beyond me, but otherwise Monterey is absolutely enchanting.

We drove up last Friday and arrived just before 4:00 PM. I had done a bit of research on where to have dinner that night, and after checking a few websites I came to the conclusion that Passionfish was the place to eat. When we arrived a bit early for our 7:00 PM reservation, the place was already filled with people- both in the dining room and the waiting area. We sat in front of the enormous wine case while we waited a few extra minutes to be seated.

The hostess called my name and we were walked to the far end of the restaurant....which would have been fine if the fan hadn't been broken. You see, Friday was unusually hot for Monterey and the place has no air conditioning, so it was taking some time to cool off the back room and the fan not working wasn't helping. They did have a window and the back door opened but I have to admit, I was beginning to get ansty. You know when you spend the time to find the perfect place, you want it to be, well...perfect. There was also a large party seated right behind us, and one of them was having some sort of hissyfit over a menu item that was apparently no longer on the menu. All I could hear him say was "Well they'd better make it coz when I called they said they had it and that is what I wanted!" all bratty and whiny. Ugh. I was getting a sinking feeling that my much-anticipated dinner was not going to go well.

Luckily our waitress was very nice and said she could get us another table if we could wait a few minutes- she also explained that the other areas in the restaurant were likely to be on the warm side as well since they didn't have A/C. Her good mood, in addition to the fact that Loud Whiny Guy had finally shut up put us in a good mood too, and we decided to stay at our table. The open door started to cool the room down, and I got back to my happy place. J marveled at the well-priced wine list and read off the wine pricing philosophy of the restaurant- they don't spend money on Riedels or expensive decanters so they only mark up the wine slightly. If you'd like to come armed with your best crystal stemware, please do so at no charge but they are more concerned with serving great wine at reasonable prices- an idea I can definitely jump on board for! J decided to start with a half bottle of the Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (we love NZ sauvis!) and placed our orders.

Fried oyster salad......

My Fried Oyster Salad with Citrus Soy Glazed Arugula was a perfect combo of crunchy oysters and the peppery leaves. I'm a big fan of deep fried elements in a salad since it's never overpowering and such a good balance with fresh, raw veggies. J's Dungeness Crab Cake with Spicy Tomato and Onion Relish was a ball of crab- no filler- and the fresh sauce had just enough kick to balance out the richness of the crab. Both dishes went so well with the green-apple-juicy-fruity-tangy sauvignon blanc. My mouth is watering just thinking about that crisp wine with the crunchy oysters.

Crab cake with fresh tomato sauce

We ordered a bottle of the Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir after our first choice was sold out and a call to his J's winemaker brother resulted in that choice (Carl, if you're reading this, we have to say thanks for recommending one of the best pinots we've ever had!!!). Now- I'll say that the photos our main dishes do not do them justice. J's salmon with cucumbers (don't know the official name) was fresh, clean and dolloped with roasted garlic aioli which the light cucumbers tempered to make just the right combination. My grilled sturgeon with sweet corn, bacon, banana potatoes and tomato salsa (also not the official name) was, in a word, divine. Corn, bacon and potatoes with white fish is the classic chowder combo and this dish had all of the comfort but none of the heaviness of that. The sturgeon was beautifully grilled and the sweet corn and salty bacon was meant to surround that gorgeous piece of fish. Yum.

Dessert wasn't as perfect as our meal- J ordered the peach cobbler (his favorite dessert besides bread pudding) and for once, we both agreed that it wasn't sweet enough. Strange, coming from two people who prefer our sweets to be, well, less sweet. I think cobbler is one of those desserts that need sugar since the fruit will be varying degrees of sweetness depending on the season and the kind of fruit, and the cobbler topping was just barely sweet. The vanilla ice cream, however, was creamy and just sweet enough.

Passionfish is one of those perfect restaurants that does rustic yet elegant food and does it extremely well....with a wine list that just cannot be beat. I love the fact that getting the customers the best wine and food possible without breaking their banks is the top priority. They also serve only sustainable seafood and provide a list of all sustainable seafood for you to take home.

High quality, fresh seafood and organic produce combined with the skill of a good chef is all you need for a great meal and Passionfish is a great example of that.

We'll definitely be back!

701 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA
831 655 3311


Edmond said...

Tuna Toast -

It was great to run into you at PF. Even more amazing is that we ordered exactly the same things - though our table went with a Gruener Veltliner.

It is a wonderful restaurant, but you are right it gets loud even without a whiny moaner at the next table.

Ed Dibble/edfromyuma said...

Not used to this Google blog. The comment from edmond should have identified me as Ed Dibble/edfromyuma

Food, she thought. said...

Thanks for the great review on Passionfish. I have been there a few times, as my mother makes two annual pilgramiges there to eat sustainable fish and drink the well priced wine selections. I am surprised at how many restaurant and food choices we have in common. Now, a keen follower!