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Passionfish and Thaiwaiian [Pacific Grove] report & questions

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Passionfish and Thaiwaiian [Pacific Grove] report & questions

PolarBear | Jun 6, 2006 12:35 AM

Rolled into town late Friday afternoon for an old pal's BD celebration. Hooked up with two couples of dear friends at Passionfish for dinner after a couple of cocktails at Scooner's in the Monterey Plaza Hotel.

We waltzed in with a couple of Pinot Noirs (Flowers and a Loring Gary's Vineyard) and were informed by our most congenial waitress that there was a corkage fee (15?) but it would be waived for any purchases from their list. I was tasked with choosing a white to go with our appetizers and salads. We'd decided to share the Asparagus Fries w/sesame aioli and the Oysters in a Passionfish sauce, which was a tamarind jelly. My Roast Beet salad with goat cheese, greens & fried onions (8.00) was so large that I passed it around the table, but looking back I don't recall the same happening with the Fried Oyster Salad w/citrus dressing over arugula (8.00), must have been pretty good. Initially, I was surprised to find a Gruener Veltliner on the list (sorry, can't recall which), and said as much to our gal, who quickly informed me that there were a couple of more selections in the back pages with the "finer" selections. Totally wowed, I went with the most expensive, Martin Nigl for 26.00 iirc, no more than 30.00. It was a crowd pleaser, I just wish I knew where to find it in a wine shop. Appetizers were a hit, the fried asparagus taking top honors. Likewise, loved my Roast Beet salad.

Lady PB and I per our usual MO negotiated on which two entrees we'd order and share. She chose the Alaskan Halibut w/ cilantro-citrus sauce, garlic noodles & watercress (20.00) and I the Gulf of Maine Sea Scallops w/ tomato-truffle butter, braised chard, and green herb risotto custard. Both were utterly fantastic, the scallops cooked perfectly and though I was a little skeptical of the tomato-truffle combination it worked very well. The creamy cilantro sauce with the halibut was just divine (one other in our group ordered it and agreed as well). Had a taste of the Duck Confit (16) that my wine afficianado friend ordered and had to comment that it was the key thing that was missing in the cassoulet that I had prepared for them last fall.

Sorry, can't recall what our other two companions ordered, but everyone was thrilled. We ended up getting another bottle of Goldeneye Pinot from their list so there were no corkage fees. My bud that likes his higher end Pinot remarked about PF's prices being equal to or even lower than what we can purchase a number of their selections for at our local discounter (Old Doc's).

Ended up passing around two desserts, The Bananas sauteed w/ rum & lime over coconut ice cream, and the Chocolate Truffle Torte w/ blackberry coulis (ea 6.00).

All in all, one of the finest dining experiences we've had on the peninsula. Total incl. wine and tax, pre tip was 100.00 per couple. Can't wait to return.

Sat. night abandoned by the BD boy dealing with family coming in and our other pals headed for the Lodge in Carmel Valley for another commitment, we were kicking around ideas for something more low key. My first thought was Pho King in Seaside, not the most logical choice for a twosome, but I really wanted to pick up some paper menus to distribute and then educate our friends on the proper Vietnamese pronunciation (I know, it's a character flaw, and I'm easily amused). Realizing that I should give Lady PB a couple of options I ran across an ad for Lattitudes (formerly The Tinnery) at Lover's Point and then recalled Thaiwaiian Bistro in upper PG that we'd had a nice meal at a year or so ago. Called each to find out what the evenings' specials were and had a strange conversation with the person at Lattitudes, took some time on hold before anyone could describe them and then didn't get a really clear definition of what their overall concept was...signature dishes??... well we do seafood and steak, multiple cuisines/styles as suggested by the name.... no, that's not us. TB was short and to the point, a Salmon dish and something else...OK, do you still have the Poke Tower, yes! Book it Danno.

Staying true to our dining style for a place that we might not get back to for a while, we way over ordered.

Started with the Poke Tower (@ 8.00 iirc), very fresh cubes of Ahi mixed with slices of sweet Maui onion and chopped ogo (I assume). This was more of a minimalist approach than what we had on our last visit, it normally comes as a combo of Ahi and salmon, but we opted for the Ahi only. Light, refreshing fresh flavors, didn't come up to the level of Parallel 33 in San Diego with the crispy won ton base and wasabi cream, but quite satisfying. Also ordered the coconut shrimp (8.95), proclaimed by the expert, Lady PB, to be at least equal to or maybe even surpassing Chef Rick's in Orcutt. Light crispy batter, no hint of grease and a decent citrus marmalade sauce. The other appetizer, Thaiwaiian Coconut Crab Cakes w/ sweet bail coconut aoili, were substantial but too heavy on the filler. We ordered the Papaya Salad w/ Prawns (9.95, my choice) after determining that it wasn't really spicy (for my wife's sake), unfortunately even with all the stated ingredients (shredded green papaya, carrots, tomatos, garlic, HOT [sic] chili, topped with peanuts in a special Thai dressing, it was rather bland with no character. My better half aced me again with her selection of the Pumpkin & Coconut Soup (6.95), w/ prawns, mushrooms, lemon grass, lime juice and fresh chilis. This along with the Poke were the highpoints of the meal, along with dessert. We passed on the entrees since we'd ordered so much, but decided to try the Kalua Pork off the lunch menu, offered as "By itself, with cabbage, or sandwich". We opted for with cabbage which came with a big mound of rice and a small serving of very mild, creamy macaroni salad. We found the pork to be overly salty, had we mixed it with the rice/mac it would probably have toned it down a bit, but by this time we were too full.... except for dessert.

Fried bananas with French Butter Pecan Ice Cream, I could feel my blood sugar rising just reading it on the menu. In a word, incredible. I could only indulge in a couple of bites, so while my lovely wife tackled the ugly task of cleaning the plate I took a quick stroll through the Forest Hill center to check out the new places... hence my questions for the local hounds.

Started by looking at Vito's on the end across from Fifi's. As before, your basic Italian offerings but nothing spoke to me. Having been married into a regionally diverse Italian family for close to 40 years makes it hard to want to dine out when we cook most of it better at home.

Strolling toward the back end of the wing I heard a heavy Italian accent from a fellow talking to a table of customers at Matteo's. The tables in the small space were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Upon entering Matteo came over and introduced himself and his wife back in the kitchen on the cooking line. The regional style is Sicilian, I mentioned that I hadn't heard of their place before and he commented that he prefers to stay low-key, satisfying his locally devoted customer base.

Serving lunch and dinner, there are 14 Panini and an equal number of pizzas available from 7.95 to 9.95 for the panini and 11.95 to 14.95 for the pizza. Both appetizer menus list Lumpia, in the Netherlands this was a fried spring roll, not sure what it might be here. The Secondi Piatti come with soup or salad, priced 11.95 to 17.95, the low end being Zitz Arrabbiata and Veal Scloppine at the other end of the scale. Ziti Gorganzola and chicken Adobo both sound interesting. Would love to hear any reports from the hounds on this place.

Just across in the back facing the street is Dos Amigos Southwest Cafe. Popped in for a menu and met the owner Steve Corres to learn that they have Oaxacan cuisine, a couple of chicken mole dishes, tortas, and mariscos. Again looks like worthwhile exploration. They are also open for breakfast. Anyone try this place recently?

Thaiwaiian Bistro
1184 Forest Ave Ste E (delivery to PG & Carmel)
831-658-0134

Matteo's
same addy Ste F
333-1035

Dos Amigos
646-8888

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