Restaurants & Bars

Cetrella Report….Half Moon Bay

susancinsf | Aug 6, 200501:59 AM     1

I recently asked for some suggestions for spots for a low-key but celebratory place to take hubby for his 50th birthday on a Monday evening. As it happened, we extended our weekend celebration in Monterey until the Monday actual big day and ended up at Cetrella in Half Moon Bay. Hubby had protested that he really didn’t want to make the actual birthday dinner a big deal, and was campaigning for a home-grilled steak, so I hadn’t actually made any reservations…..but our drive home up Highway One took longer than anticipated, so there we were in HMB and getting quite hungry….

Overall, it was an excellent choice, and I would definitely go back. Indeed, I think Cetrella is worth considering as the goal of a Sunday drive from the City.

I did call from the parking lot to see if we would be welcomed in jeans, and indeed we were. The room is attractive and comfortable. We were seated in the front room, sort of an enclosed sun porch overlooking the street, near a cozy fireplace. Tables in the front and main dining rooms are well-spaced which I appreciate (a quick glance at the bar area gave me the impression that it was a bit more crowded). The place was fairly full for a Monday evening, but we had no problem being seated right away without a reservation (at seven pm).

Since it was hubby’s birthday and he wasn’t driving, he started with a pomegranate cosmo. I can’t vouch for it, as I never even got a sip :-) though it looked good.

The menu changes frequently and had some nice choices, although there were less choices than the sample on the web page would lead one to believe, perhaps because it was Monday night. There is a price-fixe menu on weekdays, three courses for about $25, but the choices the night we were there (IIRC it was salad, pasta and sorbet) sounded much less interesting than the rest of the menu.

Our server wasn’t comfortable with the wine list, but sent over the sommelier Chris Bradford to answer some questions. The wine list is weighted towards higher end selections; I didn’t see much under $50, but then perhaps I was spoiled having just dined at Passionfish in Pacific Grove. Since it was a special occasion I splurged on a 2003 Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Pinot Noir. ($92). Hubby enjoyed it quite a bit.

We ordered the following:

‘First of the season’ heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella: rworange will notice I didn’t mention this in response to her post last week: it was pretty good, but it wasn’t $11 good and certainly not amazing…. I'd say this was the weakest dish of the night.

Squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese: this was hubby’s choice and like the cosmo, was gone before I got a good taste…it was served with greens and some roast beets that had him raving. I did get a bite of those, and I agree: very yummy!

Zarzuela Catalonian Shellfish Stew with Dungeness crab, scallops, mussels and prawns in a tomato, and saffron Broth: the server warned hubby that this was not a good choice unless he wanted a ‘messy, hands-on’ dinner, but that didn’t stop him: hubby loves shellfish stew and will order it whenever he gets a change. Again, I didn’t get much of a taste, but I did get a bit of crab and it was very nice. The sauce didn’t over power the seafood.

Halibut fillet: served in a broth with corn and bits of bacon: my entrée was truly delicious and perfectly cooked.

For dessert, the birthday boy had the Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream & Huckleberry Sauce. I’m not a big chocolate fan, so am probably the wrong one to judge, but I thought the huckleberry sauce was the best part. J paired the cake with the recommended Smith Woodhouse port. Instead of dessert, I opted for cheese: the cheese list is fairly impressive for a bay area restaurant. I chose the Queso Majorero goat cheese from Spain which was mild and didn’t really impress.

Service was very good and the staff seemed to enjoy working there. We left happy. (At least, I was happy, and hubby was as happy as someone could be who was in denial about turning fifty).

Total bill with tax, before tip, was about $216. However, half of that total was for drinks and wine and one could definitely spend quite a bit less. A good choice for a celebration or to cap off a Sunday drive in style...

Link: http://www.cetrella.com/index.html

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