During a recent weekend in Carmel Valley I had the chance to try both Citronelle and Cantinetta Luca, so I thought I'd post about my experiences.
Cantinetta Luca was very busy so we were only able to get 2 seats at the bar. The appetizer special was ravioli with egg yolk, with shaved white truffle on top. I am a big fan of runny egg yolks and this appetizer did not disappoint. There was a good amount of truffle and the flavor combo was perfect. The dish is best enjoyed with a spoon. My SO had the prawns - 3 fresh grilled prawns - good and simple. As main courses, we had a pizza (margherita w/housemade peperone) and halibut. The pizza was okay, although I wouldn't order it again. The crust was limp, too pale on the bottom, and not very flavorful. The halibut was memorably excellent. It was cooked well done but not overdone, and the tomato based sauce complemented the fish perfectly. Dessert was so-so. Overall, a great meal due to the 2 big winners - the ravioli and the halibut.
After reading some of the posts on chowhound, I thought Citronelle would be a great restaurant to celebrate my birthday. While there were two excellent dishes, I was surprised that some of the others were below average:
Bread: a selection was available, still warm, yum!
Abalone w/caviar cream: Very good! There were more well done meatier pieces and 2 thinly sliced rarer pieces, making for good contrast in texture and flavor.
Escargot: These was submerged in a salty cream sauce topped with crunchy nuts, another good texture combo.
Tuna tartare with beets and watermelon: This was my favorite course - the three main ingredients were cubed roughly the same size and all three were a great match for the sweet and spicy sauce.
Lobster "beluga pasta": previously described in previously posts, I was looking forward to it but after my first bite of the caviar-like pasta, I had to send it back because it was too salty. The rest of the dish, normally salted, could not offset large amount of salt in the pasta.
Celebration cake: This was a large cake composed of a layer of sponge cake, ice cream, and whipped cream/berries, encased in a chocolate shell. Most of the components were fine, except for the stale and dry sponge cake.
While I really enjoyed some of the dishes, I would expect a restaurant associated with a top chef and charging high prices to have fewer disappointing dishes. The service was very good.