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Restaurants & Bars 5

Cetrella HMB -- another view

Jan Holloway | Mar 4, 200202:02 PM

Seeing Michael Bauer's review of Cetrella in Half Moon Bay I thought I should get give a local perspective. As it's not a rave (or even the near rave Bauer gave) I was a bit hesitant. We here on isolated Coastside welcome ambitious restaurants until proven wrong (as at the Ritz Carlton, for example -- altho even they seem to be trying to court locals of late). And Cetrella is certainly ambitious. A beautiful renovation of the old growers exchange, it manages to be both warm and airy. The open kitchen is attractive too with wood burning ovens. It's fun to watch but that's hardly worth a special trip since such kitchens are everywhere. The real question is how's the food?

My answer is -- good, but not good enough to match the building. Maybe I was expecting specatular.

At any rate after three visits I can say that nothing is bad, but a few things were definitely mediocre and none was inspired as I'd hope. The list of mediocre begins with the salad -- okay, but well below the heavenly coastal greens dressed in too-die-for balsamic vinegrette at Pasta Moon. And the roast chicken with mashed potatoes was just -- well roast chikcen with mashed potatoes.

With entree prices averaging around $20 they could have tried for a few innovations, a dish or two that's cutting edge, but for those I'll need to go to the other end of Main Street (Pasta Moon again). Once I knew the salads would disappoint I tried other appetizers -- one, Calimari stuffed with chorizo had one of the most appealing aromas I've smelled. I thought I'd finally stumbled on something exceptional, but once again the taste was only good. Same for the Paella. Ditto the Shellfish Stew and fish of the day. Veal shanks produced another delicious aroma burst but as to taste -- I can do better in my kitchen oven.

Suggestions: Skip dinner and hit the Cetrella cafe where they serve a raw bar, small plates (the best of the menu anyway)and live jazz.


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