We have never been impressed with the restaurant scene in Carmel. Everything is all about presentation, the view and overly obsequious service rather than about the main point of a restaurant (imho) which is the FOOD!
My ideal restaurant is Higgins in Portland or the old Cafe Beaujolais circa 1992. Warm and caring service, a decor that is pleasant and a really fantastic, full-bodied, multi-layered, complex food experience!
While restaurants like Sierra Mar can be lovely for special occasions, my favorite restaurants are ones that are the passionate vision of the owner - and are intellectually interesting, yet nuturing at the same.
And if you don't know of such a restaurant in Carmel proper (and I am doubtful that there is one) - I would be grateful for a recommendation to such a restaurant in a near-by place (we are driving down from the East Bay).