When friends in Monterey invited me to a dinner with some other local chowish folks, I quickly accepted it is always nice to try a new spot accompanied by other interested eaters. So last Friday we were off to Phils at Charlie Mosss in Moss Landing, a nice seafood and steak house owned by Phil of Moss Landing whose other restaurants have been discussed on these boards in the past.
Some things about the meal were very, very good. Other aspects were not. We had steamer clams and fire roasted artichoke with aioli as appetizers, and both were outstanding. I have eaten artichokes for 50 years and never had one this well flavored before. The fire roasting and the aioli both added flavorful elements to the veggie. The steamers were perfectly cooked, flavorful and tender in a very nice broth that called out for the garlic bread that was supposed to accompany it. Unfortunately, our waitperson didnt hear the broth very well and we had to ask two or three times for the bread. Similarly, when we ordered the appetizer, we told our server that we wanted to order wine as well. That was the last we saw of him until the appetizers arrived (without the bread). In fact the service was often downright lousy. Plates were brought to the wrong people (sometimes to the wrong table) and we ended up playing musical chairs with our entrees. But the server did recommend the creamy cilantro dressing (house-made) which made the leaf lettuce salad quite exceptional even though the lettuce leaves were nothing out of the ordinary. Phils famous clam chowder was a bit of a disappointment though not bad but nowhere near as good as the chowder Id had the same day for lunch at Massaro and Santos in Monterey. I didnt get to sample others entrees, but I did like my prime rib quite a bit it is the Friday night special and appreciated that it was an actual roasted rib roast, not some reheated slice from the cooler. One diner did not like his swordfish and thought the sauce a poor match for the fish. Others seemed to like their fish dishes.
It is hard to judge a restaurant based on one meal, and I certainly had some things at Phils that were truly memorable and outstanding. Yet the experience as a whole was far from perfect, and all of us resented having to pay a 20% tip (that's 20% on the whole bill including the cost of three bottles of wine and tax) for such indifferent (at best) service. Nontheless, if I lived in the area, I would definitely return and give the place another try.
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