Big Sur Area Update?
I am new to the board and very hungry and enthusiastic. Planning a trip to Big Sur this weekend and wondering if anyone been to Sierra Mar restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn or to the Bonita Roadhouse. I am having great fun perusing all of the posts!
Waddling back from my trip to Big Sur. There's definitely good food down there. I did start off at the Marriott in Monterey, but wasn't able to get to Duffy's. Will keep on file for the next time.
Tried Bonito Roadhouse in Big Sur and had one of those 50/50 experiences. The restaurant has a very nice atmosphere and a short menu with mainly local seasonal ingredients. The castroville artichoke was cold and tough, but was served with a chipotle aioli that was very good. Roasted butternut squash soup was on the plain side. I loved the iceberg lettuce salad with blue cheese sandwichettes, also had very good green bean and corncake side dishes. Grilled salmon with cilantro pesto served on a corncake was pretty good. Chicken pot pie had an alarmingly bulbous pie topping which did not cover the expected steaming bubbling rich and creamy interior that you can gently knock the flakey crust into. Instead we encountered a solid mass of thick gelatinous glop. The butternut squash ravioli with balsamic dressing and walnuts was also pretty non conventional, dry and nonstellar. The service was very enthusiastic.
I would definitely recommend the Ripplewood Restaurant for breakfast (well except for the latin disco music first thing in the morning). Everything is cooked well, seasoned well and they have friendly and attentive service. Good coffee. I ordered a mini omelette with half a sticky-bun and everything was spot on delicious. They used a piquant, spicy salsa in the omelette that didn't get runny, and the sticky bun was perfectly warm, fragrant and had the right amount of goo.
We stayed at the Big Sur Lodge and had breakfast at their restaurant-what a polar opposite experience. While waiting for service, one of our party noticed an unpleasant old sponge smell, which turned out to be the polyblend napkin holding her silverware. Bad first impression. The service was rushed and distant, I had to ask for water twice, coffee was not very good (although they did get extra points for leaving a thermos full of it), eggs overdone when requested not too overdone, potatoes soggy and dry (yes it is possible), bagels looked like Lenders frozen. Their famous homemade cream biscuit falls more in the category of bisquick home-made and doesn't compare with the those served at Bubbas in San Rafael (although it's been a while since I've been there).
Went to Nepenthe when it was so foggy it looked like they pulled up a white curtain past the trees all around. Somehow when it's socked in like that, you feel that they ought to pull out the fogged-in/no view pricelist, as it is pretty well agreed that you are paying for the view... Basket of fries was $6.75 and a plain cup of coffee was $3. We also ordered a very ordinary salad, soup and veggie burger, all of which was served with a 70's style flair: alfalfa sprout garnishes and big lengthwise slices of carrot. We had to make a second attempt for the view, which was there the next time and we went to Cafe Keva downstairs for chips and quesadilla, as it was pretty competitive upstairs for seats with a view. Good chips, neither guacamole nor salsa was very spicy or piquant, and the quesadilla had too much cheese and wasn't charred on the outside (microwaved or steamed?)
Dinner at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn was fabulous. We made very early dinner reservations so that we would be able to see the sunset, which was really spectacular. The view looking out from the restaurant makes you feel like you are perched up in the clouds. Excellent quality food and service, the waiter did not bat an eye when my menu caught on fire and very discreetly helped me put it out. Expensive (but not bad compared to French Laundry), fixed price 4 course meals were $73. One in our party ordered the imported caviar first course for an additional $55. If you are into wine, they have won numerous awards from Wine Spectator for their wine menu and have a very knowledgeable sommelier, who was very helpful and friendly. For the first course, I ordered oysters on the half-shell served with a mignonette, all were bright and clean tasting - did not kiss the hippo once. Another friend had the seared fois gras served on sauteed pear with vanilla gastrique that was really decadent and gooey. 2nd course I had salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette, julienned apple, goat cheese and croutons. Too much dressing was not quite mellowed by the goat cheese and the apples seemed to capture and accentuate the tartness. The roasted butternut squash soup with vanilla creme fraiche was bland and on the sweet side which was not to my taste. My SO ordered a Bourride (traditional fish stew) garnished with a blob of aioli that was amazing - probably the most memorable and talked about dish of the evening. It was a plain looking white creamy soup, although the richness was not of cream or butter, with flakes of halibut that was incredibly flavorful. 3rd courses tasted were the seared black sea bass with reduction sauce served over pureed artichoke and topped with thinly fried slices of artichoke heart and fresh chervil garnishes, a lovely vertical presentation which still looked lovely smashed and devastated while being ravaged. Also tried lamb noisettes with pearl couscous and wilted spinach served over a garbanzo bean pancake (the sole non-worthy item in the entire meal), which was very tender and lip smacking (except for the pancake). We combined forces and 2 ordered the cheese plates which ended up being an additional course. The cheeses served were flavorful and somewhat tame (none very gooey, pungent nor flame producing): Brie, Explorateur, a hard aged one, a soft cheese made by Trappist monks, all served with fruit. I ordered pear sorbet with croquembouche, the latter of which was filled with a pecan cream to die for. By this point, after several bottles of wine, I can't remember any other details, although we did go out to the terrace where they had a telescope set up where we viewed Mars, stars and constellations including Andromeda and Vega, which is 2.5 million light years away...
On the way back up north, we stopped at the California Café at Highlands Inn in Carmel for a light lunch, very nice view. Food's not bad either. Had a much better than average French onion soup, an elegantly built BLT, an underdressed salad, and fish tacos that were better the last time we were there.
If you are looking for a good burger in the Monterey area try Duffy's Tavern in Monterey. Granted it's right outside the gate of the local Military base, but the
croud is polite for all it's roughness. Outstanding burgers, juicy and flavorful, with any toping you want. Also the onion rings and fried mushrooms are fantastic. Granted you get a charming view of Evelyn's cleaners and the base checkpoint....
Anyway, start at the Marriott hotel. Go out the front door, turn left to the corner, turn left to the next light, turn left again to the light at Franklyn (thereby almost going around the block, and navigating the one way streets downtown) turn right on Franklyn and go through the next two lights at Van Buren and Monroe. At High street, look for the church on the corner, turn right. Duffy's is at the end of the street, right before the Base Gates. If the MP's give you the eye tell them you're going for burgers, they understand.
I was born and raised in the area, and stil live here.