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California Trip Report

Sonoma and Carmel Trip Report


Restaurants & Bars 13

Sonoma and Carmel Trip Report

souschef | Apr 13, 2010 10:12 AM

With memories of a very nice lunch at "The Girl and the Fig" in Sonoma a few years ago, I took my wife there for dinner. We had the 3-course bistro prix-fixe.

The first course was a duck confit terrine that was quite pleasant. This was followed by a veal roulade. It was not a conventional roulade in that it was not pounded thin and stuffed; instead, it was a chunk of veal cut open and stuffed with spinach. When it arrived I could tell just by looking at it that it was overcooked; it was - overcooked and dry. No one stopped by to ask how the meal was, and the server who cleared the plates did not question the half-eaten meal either. Dessert was a nondescript saffron risotto with caramelized nuts. A real disappointment.

We stopped in a store close by after the meal and were discussing it with the lady who worked there. She mentioned that the restaurant was great for beef, but was variable otherwise. She recommended instead "La Salette", a Portuguese restaurant down the lane.

We were in Sonoma again the next day, so we tried la Salette. For starters we shared 3 small plates (sausage, cheese, and baby octopus), which were all very nice. For a main my wife had a flank steak, which she enjoyed. I had the fisherman's stew. The broth was tasty but a touch too spicy for me (I do not eat spicy hot food). The seafood was cooked really nicely, with the exception of the small pieces of fish, which were overcooked. Dessert was a chocolate trio: mousse, soufflé, and sherbet. The "soufflé" was just a warm chocolate cake, while the sherbet was very pleasant. But the mousse - OMG it was amazing! It was the very best mousse I have ever had; definitely the lightest and the most flavourful, and I have had chocolate mousse in lots of places. The waitress said it was made with Scharffenberger chocolate. Normally I am not a fan of Scharffenberger, but this was truly special.

Heading South, we were in Carmel for a few days.

Had lunch at Wickets, the casual restaurant in the Bernardus Lodge. For starters I had a very nicely done tuna tartare. For a main my SIL had a really moist chicken breast; the resto readily substituted the garnish from another dish for the one that went with the chicken. My wife had smelts, which she enjoyed. I had the halibut, which was overcooked, dry, and tasteless (why does it always happen to me?). Dessert was a very nice molten Valrhona cake.

We had dinner the next day at Roy Yamaguchi's restaurant "Roy's" in Pebble Beach. On looking at the menu my SIL said to me that there was not much on the menu, to which I responded that I liked it that way as they can then concentrate on doing just a few things well. I chose the bento box, while my SIL had the butterfish and my wife had a roll of some kind. One thing I was impressed with was that the bento box included pork of some kind, and I did not feel like pork , so I asked the waiter if they could substitute something fishy for it; he said that they could, and suggested the butterfish, whic he said was his favourite. The bento box started with a tasteless miso soup. The first thing I tasted in the box was the butterfish. It was one of those fall-off-your-chair moments. I could not believe how delicate, tender and flavourful it was; it was truly exceptional. The waiter said that they marinate the fish for 24 hours in a mixture of mirin, brown sugar and sake, and then sear it (one thing I intend to try). Also in the box was some sushi, crab-encrusted seabass, some shrimp, and a salad; they were all very good, but definitely overshadowed by the wonderful butterfish. Dessert was a molten chocolate cake served with raspberries. As good as the cake was at WIckets, this one was head and shoulders above it. It was served with a warm chocolate sauce; overkill perhaps, but what a wonderful way to go! My wife enjoyed her meal, while my eccentric SIL was not as bowled over by the butterfish as I was. Oh, BTW, I washed down my meal with sparkling sake, a novelty for me.

We had one lunch and one dinner at Stravaganza in the Crossroads Shopping Centre. It was good, basic food.

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