I was in Monterey for a few weeks and had a chance to sample the culinary offerings. Here is my report. I ranked each item on a scale of 1-5:
1 - bad
2 - poor
3 - OK
4 - good
4.5 - exceptional
5 - a near life-ending experience
Montrio. They have a version of tapas in a "small bites" form factor, which are freakishly small: they look like props for a Saturday Night Live parody.
414 Calle Principal, Monterey (831) 648-8880
- "small bite" filet with Yorkshire pudding: 4
- "small bite" pancetta wrapped prawns: 4.5. (how could it not be great?)
- "small bite" salmon with potato salad: 1
- brioche bread pudding: 5
- molten chocolate cake: 4
500 Hartnell St, Monterey 831 373-1110
Mon-Sat: 11:30-5:30, 5:30-10, Sun: 5-9
- crispy polenta and mushrooms: 4
- duck confit: 4
162 Fountain Ave, Pacific Grove (831) 373-7911
- Tamales: 1. Tasted like day-old tamales that were warmed up.
731 Munras Ave, Monterey (831) 643-0300
- croissant: 4.5 The true test of a pastry shop is the simple plain croissant. And they do it very well.
- chanelle (sp?): 4. A gourmet donut hole.
- almond croissant: 2
- nectarine tart: 4
- ham and cheese quiche: 4
- lemon bar: 4
- apricot puff: 3
- gateau au chocolate: 4
Passionfish. Their brochure from the visitor's center has a coupon for a free appetizer. Normally, I don't care about how good the service is, but here it was astoundingly bad.
701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove (831) 655-3311
Closed Tuesdays, Sun-Thurs 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10
- squid appetizer: 3
- tilapia: 1. The fish and the risoto had no flavor. I obviously ordered the wrong thing.
Across from Grove Market 219 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove
236-8392 7am-6pm Mon.-Fri.; 7:30am-4pm Sat.; closed Sun.
- raspberry puff: 3
- raisin bun: 3
- croissant: 3
- raspberry/cream puff: 4
- chocolate croissant: 2
The White House
649 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove (831) 375-9626
Closed Monday. Tue-Sun 5:30-
- lobster ravioli: 4
- tomato/mozzarella salad: 3
- London broil: 5. One half had béarnaise sauce, the other half Madeira. Robert is a genius. And only $27 for the prix-fixe.
- apple tart tatin: 2. It was not caramelized enough
Max's Grill. This place is supposed to be the "hot new restaurant" in town.
209 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove 831 375-7997
- porcini ravioli: 4
- lamb loin: 3
1225 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove (831) 375-0846
- French style almond croissant: 4.5. It has an interesting cinnamon crust.
- regular croissant: 3
Flying fish. On the credit card receipt, they provide calculations for 15%, 18%, and 20% tip amounts "for your convenience," which are all based on the after-tax price.
Carmel Plaza, Carmel 831.625.1962
- Yin-Yang Salmon: 4
Mission St, Carmel 831.626.7880
- chocolate bread pudding: 4
Fourtier Bakery. The bonus here is that if you show up when they open, everything is hot out of the oven.
The Crossroads, Carmel
- plain croissant: 4.5. Their plain croissant, when hot out of the oven, is as good as the plain croissant at Parker-Lusseau. Imagine how good a hot-out-of-the-oven croissant would be from Parker-Lusseau.
- apricot danish: 4
- bearclaw: 4
Hwy 1 & Rio Rd, Carmel 831.625.5436
Lunch: Mon-Thur 11:30-5, Sun 11:30-4
Dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri-Sat 5-11
- smoked half chicken: 4
- bread pudding: 2
See "bests" at http://www.coastweekly.com
Web: search for Monterey site:chowhound.com
Groups: search for Monterey group:ba.food
So in summary, there were two 5s: The brioche bread pudding at Montrio, and the London broil at The White House. I suspect there are a few more 5s at the White House, and for $27 prix-fixe, I'll be investigating further.