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Monterey update: Passionfish, LouLou's, Won Ju

susancinsf | May 15, 200406:52 PM

Took a quick overnight trip to scuba at Point Lobos yesterday. Our picnic lunch at Lobos, post-dive, was undoubtably the trip highlight for the ambiance and company of some noisy harbor seals...

Dinner was at Passionfish in Pacific Grove. I have posted my enthusiasm for this restaurant several times, so I have to say in all fairness that if last night had been my first time there I would have had some hesitancy in giving it an unqualified recommendation. It was quite busy but still we were seated promptly, which made me happy (in the past my only real ding on the place has been having to wait for the table even with a reservation). The wine list remains fabulous: there are some new additions, and almost everything is priced at or near retail. Service was almost too quick: I had barely had time to take a sip of our wine, when our apps appeared.

Hubby's app was an excellent calamari with a cilantro dipping sauce. Delicious, perfectly cooked. I had an only slightly less succesful Dungeneous salad.

My qualms were about the mains: both my pureed asparagus ravioli and his wild salmon in taragon sauce with gnochi suffered from too much oil in the sauces. Indeed, I think the oil on the ravioli, which also came with marscapone cheese and diced asparagus in yet more oil, was completely unecessary. A little salt would have been a much better addition. I am hoping that we just ordered poorly. It would be a shame to think that a chef at a restaurant as dedicated to only serving sustainable seafood as Passionfish doesn't have confidence in just letting the fresh seafood taste shine through...(of course, there was no seafood in my ravioli, but again, the flavors were fresh: so why not let them stand on their own?).

I will be back again in a few weeks and will undoubtable be there again soon, but I would be interested in feedback from other hounds on the status of the cooking at Passionfish, or for other comparable places on the peninsula to try. But please: I am not interested in referrals to upscale places on the water that are pricier: one of the reasons I have always loved Passionfish is that I don't have to bring anything but my jeans or spend in triple digits for two of us to drink great wine and (other than this last meal) eat an excellent dinner.

Also an update on LouLou's: a tiny diner on the Old Fisherman's Wharf (this is Wharf Two, NOT the tourist Wharf): we went there for breakfast this morning, and I was disconcerted to see a 'change of ownership' announcement in the window. No worries, though: the owner is retiring but selling to one of the line cooks, and I see no reason to believe that quality will change. Still the best cheap breakfast in the area, IMO. I had a fresh spinach omelette. They were comping all tables some delicious fresh grilled potatoes with tomato, carmelized onions and basil....low carb dieters should probably just stay away to avoid that temptation.

LouLou's was much more crowded that on my last visit in March: looks like summer tourist season is upon us. Get there by nine if you don't want to wait for a table on a weekend.

One more note: while driving back to the motel from Passionfish, we passed a Korean Restaurant called Won Ju, on Lighthouse Ave in Monterey (not to be confused with Lighthouse in Pacific Grove). I thought of e.d. and his request for info on Asian options in Monterey: this one might be worth checking out. I put it on the list for our next dive trip.

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