In September our gang of girlfriends headed to the coast for dinner and the sunset view at Café Gibraltar in El Granada. The five of us requested one of the tented tables along the back wall. On an elevated platform, the low wood-grained table was set with red placemats and surrounded by colorful floor pillows for sitting/reclining. The Mediterranean-style dishes named in Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, and Arabic showed a leaning toward seasonal ingredients and local purveyors in the descriptions on the extensive polyglot menu.
We ordered five apps to share and five entrees. Our vegetarian member was happy to see so many interesting choices without meat, and these turned out to be some of the best on the table.
The appetizers were a riot of color and huge, explosive flavors. Of the five starters, the marinated and wood-roasted artichoke with chervil aioli fell out. Burnt black on the edges, yet it was still hard and not cooked through, and the aioli was grainy. The other four though were top notch. We were so absorbed by the over-the-top deliciousness of our appetizers that we almost missed the sunset! Organic zucchini blossoms stuffed with seasoned feta cheese glided on a pool of silky eggplant puree. Rough-hewn hunks of wood-roasted beets glazed with orange and balsamic vinegar were topped with housemade goat cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and mint, and scented with a little truffle oil to accentuate their earthy character. Sweet red peppers stuffed with duck confit and savories were baked in béchamel sauce. The least visually appealing, a grilled octopus and calamari salad bathed in olive oil and tons of garlic and served warm, was my favorite for its chewy and tender textures and fresh taste of the sea. Serving size for the appetizers was generous and we were so full after polishing those off, we almost asked our waiter to just box up the rest of our meal.