Oysters on the Half Shell in Monterey update: Passionfish and Abolonetti's
Well, guess I have to eat my words or something: after claiming below that Passionfish in Pacific Grove doesn't ever serve oysters on the half shell, we go there Saturday night, and sure enough, they were one of the specials....they were served with a type of gel-like sauce on the top (didn't catch exactly what it was, all the wine I guess, but definitely some type of fruit, tropical perhaps? Sister Janet was along, perhaps she will remember) While still not for the purist (the gel absorbed or hid the oyster liquor), they were still excellent, salty and sweet all at once, and the oysters themselves were of the highest quality one would expect at PF....).
and the rest of the dinner, for seven of us, was equally wonderful. Standouts for me were two dishes that were perhaps two of the best single dishes I've eaten anywhere in a restaurant so far this year: an outstanding pea salad, with both pea pods and shoots, that was the essence of spring; and a bread pudding to die for....don't miss either one if they are available when you go.
Alas, however, my oysters craving wasn't quite satisfied, so the next night hubby and I headed to Abolonetti's, right smack in the middle of the tourist Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey.
I hadn't been to Abolonetti's in awhile, but our dinner there confirmed my belief from previous visits that this is one of the better options for those that really want to eat on the Wharf or nearby. Our dinner last night was definitely much more enjoyable than my last dinner at Massaro and Santos, by comparison (and cheaper too!). After a long day of diving and hiking, we wanted fast, friendly service, good food and unpretentious service, and got all of that.
Parking was no hassle (tip: park in the Old Fisherman's Wharf/Wharf Two lot, at the meters, which end at eight, and walk the short and scenic quarter mile or so to the tourist wharf), so we arrived early and had a drink at the bar. This was the only service glitch: the poor bartender was so slammed that by the time we got our very good vodka martinis our table was ready.
We had called at 4:30 for a 7 p.m. reservation, no problem, and I was skeptical that we would be seated on time given that it was a holiday weekend, but sure enough, we were seated at seven on the dot, and next to the windows with a water view at that.
And yes, they have very good oysters on the half shell. The price was reasonable: six large and fresh oysters were $8.95. They were served with horseradish and a standard seafood cocktail sauce, undoubtable from a bottle, but that was fine since I usually ignore all the sauces anyway...I've had more expertly shucked, but the liquor was intact, so no complaints.
Hubby had a merely ok bowl of clam chowder to start (the poor guy doesn't like oysters), but his sauteed calamari with herbs and garlic was cooked perfectly and very tasty. Like most dishes, it came with rice and steamed veges, including fresh string beans and brocolli. I was also happy with the clams linguini: ordered without the dried tomatoes described on the menu (shudder), it was basically very similar to what I would make at home, which was just fine: a simple preparation with garlic, mushrooms, herbs and lots of butter, al dente pasta. The clams themselves, still in the shell, were perfectly sweet and fresh. Sourdough bread was the perfect way to mop up all that butter.
The wine list isn't anything to write home about, but then again, it isn't pricey either. Our total dinner, including tax and tip, drinks to start, and two glasses of wine, was about $70.
Sure, I'd rather go to Passionfish for the stellar wine list, the creative cooking, and commitment to sustainable seafood, but sometimes one wants something more straightforward and simple. For such times, oddly enough given the tourist trappings, at Abolonetti's one can indeed eat well.
lol...when the special was described all I heard was "oysters on the half shell" and made up my mind before I even heard how they were served. That being said, I want to say it was tamarind in the sauce. They were excellent. And I agree with Susan about the pea shoot salad and the bread pudding. Man, that bread pudding was totally worth the calories!! I had planned on just having a bite of hubbies, but to his consternation ate at least half! (Hubby loves bread pudding. He's talking about a return trip just to have more. OK with me.) For a main course at Passionfish I had the halibut in a cilantro sauce. Good but not for those who don't like cilantro. The fish itself was excellent. There were seven at the table, and all enjoyed their meals. Thanks for introducing us to Passionfish, Susan. We'll be back!