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Jun 14, 2007 08:52 AM

Monterey Fine Dining Recs

I see several threads on casual dining in Monterey, but my husband and I are looking for more upscale recommendations in the area tho not necessary suit and tie fancy. We're heading out there the first week of July. We'll have a car at our disposal and are willing to drive around (in fact, will relish the opportunity having never been down in that area of CA). Good scenary would be a plus :-)


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  1. Others may weigh in on this, but you might consider Casanova, in Carmel:

    good reviews of the place here:

    Caveat: I haven't eaten here, but my wife and I were exploring the village the last time we were there, and we discovered it (it's kind of tucked away, not on Ocean Avenue the main drag). Anyway it looked (and smelled !) really nice, but we'd already made dinner plans, so we promised ourselves to try it the next time we were in town.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mikester

      That will be one to put on the wish list - I've never read so many glowing reviews of a place before. Thanks for the link!

    2. Sivyaleach:
      I've traveled to the Monterey Peninsula for more than 20 years an have eaten inexpensively and eaten at restaurants with great reputations but overpriced cuisine.
      In no particular order, here are a few quick opinions:

      Casanova, Carmel -- Romantic, nicely prepared food -- overpriced.

      Fishwife -- Pacific Grove -- A locals' favorite. Fresh fresh, nice atmosphere without being pretentious.

      Peppers -- Pacific Grove -- Another locals' favorite. Freshest Mexican food in the tri-city area.

      Massaro & Santos -- New Monterey (Coast Guard pier). Still unheralded and about as unpretentious as it gets. Good seafood selection, nice oceanview. Doesn't appear to be a restaurant from the outside, but the place does a fine job.

      I also have a lot of additional restaurant and other additional Monterey Peninsula information on my web site,

      3 Replies
      1. re: James Raia

        I'd rec the Fishwife in Seaside over the one in Asilomar area. Quality of fish dishes is better. After eating seveal times at the Seaside location, I ate at the Asilomar spot and was very dissapointed. Dry fish, lackluster salad, etc. I like the deli at the Seaside location for po'boys and seafood salads to go for picnics.

        1. re: toodie jane

          I agree. The chowder at the Fishwife in PG is some of the least flavorful I've ever eaten. With so many special places around, it just isn't worth a visit (imho).

        2. re: James Raia

          I had a TERRIBLE and TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTING meal at Pepper's this week. I was so looking forward to it, but our group ordered several things, and only the smothered burrito (in the green sauce!) and the roasted (grilled?) chile stuffed with some kind of cheese were winning. The tamales were like dried-out wallpaper glue, and the chiles relleno was buried in goo. Not attractive goo, but gloppy goo.

          Definitely sliding or resting on their laurels. Believe me, I wanted to love it, because I did before, so much.

          Nothing tasted fresh or original. Not like it used to.

          Love Passionfish, very much. Everything so fresh. (I can't empasize that enough.)

        3. Casanova = YES!

          In Monterey, Passion Fish.

          'Nuff said. <grin>

          1. Casanova is looking like a winner - overpriced or not.
            Passionfish too - this is the type of cuisine/atmosphere we're seeking for dinner. Menu looks great.
            The others are tempting but too casual for dinner, plus too top-heavy on seafood. My husband does not eat any seafood at all :-( so I always have to keep that in mind.
            However, the mexican place Peppers is a possibility if we decide to downsize it one night. I'm intrigued by the artichoke/mushroom enchilada, it's something I've never encountered in the northeast and we're huge artichoke fans.

            Thanks for the recs - keep them coming!

            8 Replies
            1. re: sivyaleah

              As someone who lived in Monterey for 12 years and still visits regularly, I agree that Passionfish is worth a try - I think of it as the quintessential Mty Peninsula place. One new restaurant that has gotten much favorable mention here is Melange.

              If you are looking for real Mexican food, I wouldn't suggest Peppers. Not that the food is terrible, but it is more like Mexican influenced cuisine rather than real Mexican food.

              Two other spots are worthy of consideration. Taste cafe has some interesting and innovative preparations, and the Red House is a great breakfast/lunch spot as well.

              Also no visitor to Monterey should miss the Tuesday afternoon Farmer's Market on Alvarado in downtown Monterey. Just an amazing assemblage of produce and people. Leet me add that Point Lobos about 3 miles south of Carmel is beautiful jewel of a park with incredible views and numerous walking trials. It is definitely worth a visit.

              I am surprised that no one has yet suggested Pacific's Edge, which many consider the outstanding fine dining option in the area. It's outside of my price range, so I have no personal experience, but many others speak highly about it.


              1. re: Ed Dibble

                Just looked at Pacific's Edge menu - THAT is EXACTLY what we're looking for and not out of our price range (we're from the NY area and way used to those prices and worse). Thanks for that rec!

                We fully intend to visit the Farmer's Market or at least, let's say I'm going to push my husband to visit :-)


                1. re: sivyaleah

                  When you get your res at Pacific's Edge, ask them to note that you want a window table. They can't promise, but they do try. Also, they are not open every night, so do call to check.
                  We are spending our anniversary there too in mid July. :-) Please report back on your experience.

                  1. re: Gail

                    If we manage to get a reservation. I tried doing through Open Table last night and there was a problem with it. I'm going to try again today and if it still isn't working, call them directly. Hopefully I'll be able to get in the door at this late date. I'll certainly give a review if we do go - I'm known in my local boards for lengthy reviews :-)

                    1. re: sivyaleah

                      Hi sivyaleah, I'm waiting to hear about the Pacific's Edge. Did you go? How was everything? We leave this Sun for Carmel.

                      1. re: Gail

                        Unfortunately, we didn't. We managed to only get to Tarpy's which was very good and much nicer than we expected. Had a very nice meal there; it's a lovely restaurant on beautiful premises. We expected it to be kind of a more casual place - the name sounds like it would be a "dive" but it was far from it. Very good wine list, well run, interesting menu. Our reason for going there, was that we didn't arrive in Monterey the night before until 1am (which was 4am our time). We were exhausted and just not up to doing much of anything, let alone dressing up and going out of our way for a meal. We'd heard a lot of good things about Tarpy's here on Chowhound for casual fare and it was close to the hotel, so we figured it fit the bill for our state of mind and, it did.

                        The day we had planned for Pacific's Edge turned out to be such a long involved day of running around, that we realized we weren't going to make it back to the hotel in time to clean up and get re-dressed for dinner (the reservation we had was on the early side, it was the only one we were able to get).

                        I was VERY disappointed by this - but being a vacation, it's all about being flexible and having fun. Unfortunately, where we did wind up going was rather mediocre since we weren't able to plan ahead; Finos at the Wharf. Not terrible, but just average at best and way overpriced. But, it was close to 8:00 by the time we got to think about dinner. But I do have to say, service was excellent there, and it's on the water.

                        We were only there for 2 nights - which stunk. We really need to come back and spend more time. I had warned my husband this wasn't going to be enough time - he seemed to be under the impression it would be fine but did agree in the end it wasn't.

                        We made up for the lack of fine dining here by having much better meals when we arrived in Napa :-) I made sure of that!

                        1. re: sivyaleah

                          Having fun is number one, of course! Two nights is not enough, you must come back. Our next favorite place to go is Napa or Sonoma. Being native Calis, we are there often. My husband collects wine as a hobby and I'm a more than willing participant. Would love to know where you ate in the Valley. We are always looking for new, non touristy places.

                          Thanks for the newsy review, I'll keep Tarpy's in mind. Somehow, I have always thought of it as second rate. Nice to know differently.

                          1. re: Gail

                            We ate at Ad Hoc, Mustards Grill, Taylor's Refresher and the Napa Valley Wine Train (this was a concession to my husband, a train fanatic). Here's a link to my review:


                            We enjoyed Tarpy's. They served warm sourdough bread when you sat down. I had the BBQ Babyback Ribs with corn on the cob and substituted their scalloped potatoes for the fries which was a very good choice. My husband had the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Molasses Glaze, Braised Red Cabbage & Apple Butter - very good. We had gotten a free appetizer coupon from the concierge at the Marriott, it was "chef's choice" of 3 things, so we choose the Francaise Bruschetta with Sonoma Herb Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic and Roma Tomatoes. It too was good, but we think it should have been warmer (the waitress made such a point of warning us of how "hot" the platter was, and it wasn't). We didn't indulge in desert because we were way too stuffed by that point. Wine list was pretty impressive, and like I mentioned service was very good, knowledgeable and friendly. If you go, look for the wonderful whimsical sculptures of dogs and cats all over the place :-)

            2. There is a new restaurant in Carmel called Bubbly Fish they do Champagne, Caviar, and Chocolate. I think that is all!! They have little tasting menus to choose from. I have yet to visit but it sounds like it could be a ton of fun!!! Anton & MIchel in Carmel is one to consider. Or Fresh Cream in Monterey!! Hope you have a great time

              5 Replies
              1. re: sweetnspicy

                Bubbly Fish sounds fab for me, but my husband not so much, no cavier for him although on the other hand, a dinner of champagne and chocolate could please him :-)

                I just came upon Anton and Michel the other day on Open Table, it's one we are considering.

                I also came upon Fresh Cream but the menu is very similar to a French restaurant close to our home, not enough variety to make us chose it.

                1. re: sivyaleah

                  Just to clarify, Bubbly Fish has more than just Champagne, caviar and chocolate. They also serve small tastings of salumi, cheeses, pate, other wines and desserts. The whole menu is a small tastes menu so you can have as much or as little as you want and any combination of flavors.

                  It does sound interesting for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up after exploring the village, or for pre-dinner aps or an after-dinner treat/dessert. They say they have live music in the evening, which is rare for Carmel. It's on San Carlos S. of Ocean in a courtyard by Kocek jeweler. I want to try it soon, too.

                  1. re: Moka

                    This sounds great! I'll keep this in mind - we're big on salumi and cheese, etc. Thanks!

                    1. re: Moka

                      Thanks for the info!! It's something I want to try! it just sounds so fun!