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1 Night in Carmel/Monterey, please help me decide!

We are going to Carmel for a wedding and have Friday night free for dinner. On our last trip we went to Bouchee and really loved it, but I have heard that they have changed chefs. We have also been to Passionfish and had a very nice meal there, might want to try something new this time though. I have a list of options so far, please let me know your experiences or what you would choose. Any other recs are also really appreciated.

We are looking for semi-romantic, excellent food, inventive dishes and good service. Probably French, American, Italian and we love Seafood. Here is my short list so far:

Luca Cantinetta

Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Since you seem to know downtown Carmel, why not try the Pacific's Edge at the Highlands Inn. You won't find a better view, the food is excellent and also very expensive. It is truly a romantic, special event place.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gail

      Thanks, we have actually been there. I am actually leaning more towards Stokes, have you been there before?

      1. re: CarlieInLA

        Sorry, I haven't. It has gotten mixed reviews on this board, though. Casanova gets positive reviews here. I was there a few times, long ago, and didn't care for the Nothern Italian menu. That may have all changed. Check their site.

    2. In Carmel, I would go to Casanova.

      In Monterey, I would go to Passionfish.

      'Nuff said.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Carrie 218

        We loved passionfish and the red house cafe.

      2. I'm tagging onto the OP...we, too, will be in Carmel for just one nite (in Feb) and chose Luca Cantinetta over Casanova's, based on board reviews...comments?

        6 Replies
        1. re: nancyhudson

          Cantinetta Luca is an excellent Italian restaurant. I really liked their chacuterie and pizza (if you like classical very thin pizza from Napoli).

          1. re: nancyhudson

            I think food wise Luca is the best bet in the area for Italian food. However, I would definitely not call it romantic. The noise level is very high and the tables are very close together.

            1. re: nancyhudson

              Following up on my visit to Carmel - we went with Luca Cantinetta. Was not overly impressed. We'll give Casanova's a shot next time!

              1. re: nancyhudson

                Just curious: What didn't you like at Luca Cantinetta ? Compared for example to italian restaurants in San Diego it was much better than most (which sadly doesn't say much good about Italian food in San Diego)

                1. re: honkman

                  You know, my husband is not a Chowhound, and I was hoping for a more traditional Italian dinner - not spaghetti and meatballs, but fried calamari and caesar salad, with tortellini bolognese none on the menu at Luca Cantinetta. I had the pumpkin ravioli with a side of broccolini - both outstanding, but not what I had my heart on. So, all in all, I guess it really wasn't the restaurant, but the overall evening.

                  1. re: nancyhudson

                    Sorry ot hear that you didn't got would you hoped for. At Luca Cantinetta you can't get any classical American-Italian dishes. They are much more focused on Italian dishes.

            2. Thanks for the info. Has anyone been to Stokes or recently been to Bouchee since they changed chefs?

              1. Hi there - though I'm sure you have already enjoyed or are at it's finishing touches, a nice meal and ambiance, I got to this late and thought I'd mention a possibility for next time: Fifi's in Pacific Grove. Personally they had a decadent trout dish there last time that I have yet to receive a better dish on, and in my (humble and yet biased, opinion) THE best Creme Brulee for dessert. Maybe on your next stop you can see if they fit your bill.

                Bon Appetit!

                1. If you try Pacific's Edge make sure you get there in time for the sunset. It is simple beautiful. When you call for a reservation they can tell you the best time to be there. It is one of the prettiest restuarants that we have been in. If you decide to dine elsewhere stop there for a drink first. You will have the water and sunset views from the bar.
                  Have fun!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jtiernan

                    Thanks for the info! We aren't going for a couple of weeks. I am leaning towards Pacific's Edge, although the website at Stokes makes it seem really nice. I just can't find much information on it that is recent.

                  2. Michel Richard has just opened a new Citronelle at Carmel Valley Ranch. I know the room is very cozy and romantic from its previous incarnations. The new Citronelle is just a few weeks old, and I haven't had a chance to try it yet

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jaweino

                      I tried to go down two weeks ago but learned that only a bar menu was available on Sunday night... I decided to not stay and wait until I could experience the whole menu.

                    2. I recently ate at Stokes, and all I can say is that if that was my last meal, I am a happy Chowhound.

                      Really really good food, good service, a great location.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Food Tyrant

                        Thanks! It would be interesting to find out about Citronelle too.