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Apr 28, 2013 09:58 AM

Carmel/Monterey - 4 great dinners!

We'll be in Carmel for 4 nights next month and would like 4 terrific dinners in Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove area. We would like to avoid Asian restaurants (we have great Asian at home), prefer American, Seafood, French or Italian. Nice ambiance, good cocktails, and not too loud are all plusses. In the past we've enjoyed Marinus at Bernardus, Fandango in Pacific Grove, and La Bicyclette (but only for lunch). Aubergine would be fine for 3 of us, but the menu would not be good for one of us who is pretty much a meat (or fish) and potatoes person. What 4 restaurants would you pick?

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  1. Mundaka for dinner-sufficient tapas and sangria in Carmel. Lovely courtyard setting. Tapas better than what we later had in Barcelona.

    1. Second Mundaka and I would also add La Balena and Basil. It's too bad Aubergine won't work.

      20 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          We had dinner here in late March. It's located where the former Carmel Food Company was. We sat on the front patio with our dogs. I recognized the owner from his days at Luca. I had the gnocchi with oxtail ragu. The gnocchi had a nice char and the oxtail was rich and flavorful. My husband had a pasta with crab which he also enjoyed. We shared a delicious trifle for dessert made by the owner's wife. We're actually back in Carmel. Just arrived this afternoon and tried to stop by for lunch but I forgot they aren't open for lunch Wednesdays. Here are some pics from our dinner.

          1. re: PattyC

            Thanks for the info on La Balena. I tried to get a table for four last Thursday and was unsuccessful in getting anything before 8:30pm. Definitely plan ahead and make a res for dinner here.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              We were there on a week night and they were very busy. We're planning to go back next week. This week I'd like to try 1833 (never been) and Lokal (never been for dinner) if I can get a reservation.

        2. re: PattyC

          Last Thursday I was back at the Carmel-by-the-Sea farmers market (10-2) at the Sunset Center. Basil has a booth there where it samples condiments, etc. I had a taste of duck liver pate', simple and not so gussied up with cream, butterfat or a lot of seasoning. Actually kind of refreshing to have that direct flavor. Would have liked to try taste some of the other things, but the staff were busy chatting and I moved on. I am interested in trying the restaurant some time.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            we have had a great dinner at la balena last year. very cozy place. we sat outside. meatballs and pasta is what i remember.
            has anyone had dinner at la bicyclette? they have wonderful breakfast pastries.
            or basil or portabella or casanova?
            I am looking for a spot to have a large group dinner (20-25) for a 50th wedding anniversary. ideally family style.

            1. re: sf2006

              La Bicyclette has been uneven for us. Sometimes it's great, sometimes not.

              Basil is excellent. I think you would take up the whole restaurant (at least the inside).

              Casanova is very good. The restaurant is divided into different rooms and sections that might work well for your party.

              Portabella I haven't been to in a couple of years.

              Why not La Balena? Too small?

              1. re: PattyC

                we are looking for space on Monday, Feb 17th. La Balena would be ideal but is usually closed on Mondays. They are trying to find staff for that night but not enough workers so far :( we would have the whole place which would be awesome.

                i know casanova is the sister prop to La Bicyclette. Read somewhere they changed chefs last year. Is the food still good? looks like a good spot. quaint.

                any other suggestions in carmel valley, monterey or pacific grove?

                il vecchio? montrio bistro?


                1. re: sf2006

                  I think John Cox left to go to Sierra Mar 2 years ago. Yes the food is still good and they have been making tweaks to the menu. Many of the old standards (which my husband refuses to stray from) are still there. I have really been enjoying some of the newer additions. I think I actually like it better than before.

                  1. re: sf2006

                    La Balena would clearly be the best choice, but I've never had a bad meal at Casanova, so for me, that would be my back-up.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      thanks for the info.

                      the event person will get back to me about la bicyclette and casanova.

                      i looked at the menu for basil and looks like it is up our alley. so will contact them as well.

                      any thoughts on el vecchio? the do adventure dinner night on mondays...

                      1. re: sf2006

                        Here's my report on the monday night dinner at Il Vecchio. It's a good choice for a crowd, particularly since you want family style.

                    2. re: sf2006

                      Wow, that's coming up fast.

                      Point Pinos Grill in Pacific Grill is not normally open for dinner this time of year. But it does special events, so you might give 'em a call.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I know. La Balena has keep me waiting for a while know to see if they can get enough staff.

                        My fall back if need be is the restaurant at Carmel Valley Ranch. They have the space. But would just be steak dinner. Would prefer something bit more casual while still food fun.

                        Thanks for the suggestions.

                        1. re: sf2006

                          I would think that there are far better choices for your group than a boring steak dinner at the Carmel Valley Ranch. If La Balena doesn't work out, there are at least a half dozen places I would consider...Casanova, La Bicyclette, Cantinetta Luca, Fandango (in Pacific Grove), Tarpy's Roadhouse, Montrio, etc. Hopefully some locals will expand on this list!

                          1. re: josephnl

                            I agree. Steak dinner is a bit boring!

                            I am waiting to hear back from Basil, Casanova/La Bicyclette and il Vecchio.

                            And considering Mundakas.


                          2. re: sf2006

                            Sorry but i attended a few functions at carmel valley ranch and the food was really disappointing....

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              i think we have narrowed it down to mundaka and basil...but leaning towards the former.

                              la balena couldn't get enough staff that night :(

                              1. re: sf2006

                                Oh, too bad about La Balena.

                                If you're seriously considering somewhere in Carmel Valley, I'll mention that Toast annexed the space next door. That could be a great spot for a party your size. And there's plenty of parking.

                    3. re: sf2006

                      Here's my post on La Bicyclette from two years ago. Kind of a rabbit warren space. I guess it would have been fine if the pizza had been served to us promptly.