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Jan 27, 2011 05:29 PM

Feedback on Monterey/PG restaurants

Three girlfriends heading over to watch some golf next week. We tentatively have reservations at Peppers on Thursday and Fandango's on Friday. Any recent experiences you can share? I've been reading here that we should try Passionfish or Sardine Factory. Should we switch?

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    1. Passionfish is my favorite in the area from a price/quality standpoint. I especially love the extensive wine list (wines sold at retail prices), innovative preps of sustainable seafood, and changing menu. It is generally a board favorite.

      Fandango used to be outstanding Mediterranean cuisine. Reports are that it has declined, and my local friends have not eaten there in years, but it might be worth a visit. Peppers is not a standard Mexican place. I used to like some of their Mexican influenced seafood dishes, but I never thought it in the same league as these others.

      Sardine Factory is very nice, huge wine list, old school service, and expensive prices.

      Be sure to report on where you go and what you thought.

      701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

      Sardine Factory
      701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940

      1. I was at Fandango's for lunch last April and it was good. Not mind-blowing by any means but good. Large portions, decent wine list.

        7 Replies
        1. re: HoosierFoodie

          We went to Passionfish for the first time recently. Help me understand Ed's "favorite in the area from a price/quality standpoint" comment.

          As an appetizer we had the "Beer battered and fried Kalamata olives". It consisted of eight (8) olives with a little batter on them. For $5. They were just Kalamata olives, nothing particularly special or different. Two-thirds of a dollar per little thumb-sized olive. We felt that we were ripped off.

          The brussel sprout salad was very good. And the pork chop was excellent.

          I had the "Sea scallops with risotto custard and minted celery" for $22. There were four (4) _silver dollar sized_ scallops on the plate. The scallops that I buy at Whole Foods and cook at home at least have some meat on them. I guess these were just baby scallops. If there's a size limit on scallops, these should have been thrown back in.

          The "risotto custard" was neither risotto nor custard. It was something in between. Rice pudding, sort of. Not successful.

          The "minted celery" was very different. One tablespoon of celery with some mint was interspersed between the four scallops, total of four tablespoons of celery. That would be one-fourth cup (total).

          So picture this plate. At the four points of the compass was a baby scallop. Between the scallops (NE, SE, SW, NW) was a tablespoon of celery. In the middle was a little rice pudding. For $22.

          Who do those people think they are, Chez Panisse?

          We liked this place a whole lot better when it was El Cocodrilo.

          On another night we went to Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant and had a great meal. It's a simple, unpretentious seafood place, kind of reminiscent of an eastern seafood shack. Seafood-wise, they have it all, and it all looks (and tastes) fresh. But (to the OP) if you want to dress up and go out on the town, this might not be the place.

          One way to think of these two places is that the tourists go to Passionfish and the locals go to Sea Harvest. (More or less.)

          701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

          1. re: joee

            Hey, joee, I was just trying to respond to the OP. If that person had said that they were coming over to the aquarium with a family and were looking for inexpensive fresh seafood, I would have mentioned Sea Harvest. But that was not the question. And let's face it, there is nothing on the Sea Harvest menu that isn't available at hundreds, maybe thousands, of other restaurants in CA. Heck, we have aplace out here in the boonies where I live that prepares seafood about as well as Sea Harvest. Most of the time that I go out to eat in the Monterey area, I am not looking for the cheapest place.

            Clearly you thought that you paid too much for your dinner at Passionfish. Maybe you don't get out to eat very often, but entrees around $20 have been fairly standard in nice restaurants for nearly 10 years. I have had a scallop dish at Passionfish, and on that night, they were the best prepared grilled scallops that I can recall ever eating - each end crusty brown with the centers raw cooked and moist and sweet. Maybe yours weren't that good, but I would consider that the exception.

            I lived on the peninsula for 12 years and still have numerous friends there most of whom love to go out to eat. Without exception, they consider Passionfish to be one of the best restaurants in the area.

            I also notice that you didn't mention wine, and that is one area where the values at PF are outstanding. A $30 bottle at PF would be listed at $60-90 at other local restaurants and be completely unavailable at Sea Harvest.

            Oh, by the way, I used to love El Cocodrilo (I think its the best restaurant Julio has ever had), but PF is more imaginative, has a much better wine list, and changes its menu regularly.

            701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

            1. re: Ed Dibble

              "Oh, by the way, I used to love El Cocodrilo (I think its the best restaurant Julio has ever had), but PF is more imaginative, has a much better wine list, and changes its menu regularly" - Every time we are in this area over many years we have always stopped at Passionfish for dinner. We really like their approach (sustainability etc.), their wine program and it might be a reflection of our greater sampling of good restaurants anywhere over the last ten years but we have more and more problems to call the cooking at PF imaginative/creative. The execution is good (though it could be better) but their range of influences (often asian) hasn't changed much over the last ten years and even though the menu changes many dishes often taste quite similar over the years. Nobody expects high-end cooking, foams everywhere etc. but we can't really see any kind of significant progression in the cooking of PF and it feels more and more old-fashioned (but not in a good way) with many dishes having the same flavor profile. PF is still for us one of the best restaurants in this area but we would wish they would be more open to some new influences.

              1. re: honkman

                Point well taken. PF revolves in its own little universe. As for imagination, I guess I compare PF to Fisherman's Wharf/Cannery Row spots and it seems very innovative. Also, this is a chef owned place so the menu reflects his interests and skills. Sometimes when they get too far from what they do best, they don't pull it off. Nonetheless, I have had far more outstanding dishes than mediocre ones over the years.

                As for El Cocdrilo, it featured primarily Caribbean flavors etc. But almost everything came with black beans and rice and the menu never seemed to change after the place opened. It was good and different, but not (to my mind) in the same league with PF.

            2. re: joee

              >>"the tourists go to Passionfish and the locals go to Sea Harvest"<<

              That's like saying that the locals go to Target and the tourists go to Macy's. Not only is it a false comparison, it's simply untrue. Passionfish is a favorite among locals.

              My experiences are vastly different than yours. I've had some of the best seafood preparations of my life at Passionfish, while Sea Harvest has been hit-or-miss. Especially the fried stuff, which tends to be greasy. And it's not exactly cheap; I'd rather pay $22 for a well-conceived and well-executed seafood entree than $15 for a plain piece of fish that's been indifferently prepared.

              701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

              1. re: alanbarnes


                Sea Harvest Fish Market
                598 Foam St, Monterey, CA 93940

              2. re: joee

                Sea Harvest & Passionfish are definitely NOT the same type of seafood cuisine. I actually prefer the Moss Landing Sea Harvest over the Cannery Row's more fish market-like atmosphere . . views of the harbor, sea lions, otters, pelicans, kayakers & easier parking. If going to SH, I stick to their simpler preparations & avoid disappointment.

            3. Great Breakfast at First Awakenings near the aquarium.

              First Awakenings
              125 Ocean View Blvd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

              1 Reply
              1. re: wienermobile

                We really like the Sardine Factory! We have celebrated two birthdays there and an anniversary. The Captain's Room has a fireplace and is very elegant, the Conservatory Room where we dine with larger groups is beautiful with lots of greenery and glass ceilings. If you haven't tried the sand dabs, this is a great place to try them. Have fun at the coast! :)

                Sardine Factory
                701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940

              2. This thread of steve h. might give you some ideas: