Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 2 Continued: Passionfish

We made the long drive down from Healdsburg to Monterey Bay in about 4 hours, 1 hour longer than it should have taken, due to some Friday rush hour traffic around the Bay Area.  We made it in time to check into our hotel, the Deer Haven Inn and then in time for our dinner reservation at Passionfish.  All the hotels in the area were fully booked or charging exorbitant rates (like $500 for a Best Western) due to the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach.  We lucked out with the Deer Haven Inn, as the location was convenient and the price was reasonable, even if the accomodations were a little shabby.  At least there were deer in the vicinity as the name suggests.
Most importantly though, we were only a mile from Passionfish which has to be one of my favorite restaurants ever (Thanks Michael for the suggestion!).
For me, Passionfish even surpasses Le Bernandin in New York for seafood, which is often cited as the best fine dining seafood restaurant in the country.  We visited Passionfish last year and were so blown away that we knew we had to plan our trip around another visit this year.  They make seafood exciting, with big, bold flavors, and moreover are committed to only serving sustainable seafood (and educating their customers about it, which I think is great) and also offer an incredible wine list that is marked up just a touch over retail.  I find the prices to be reasonable for the high quality of food.  The decor is clean and modern with some nice aquatic photography and the staff is extremely knowledgeable, warm and attentive.  Now onto our meal:

We started with the dungeness crabcakes with lime relish and mussels steamed in a spicy tomato cilantro broth.  The crabcake was cooked perfectly and served on a bed of chilled tomato, onion and lime with just a hint of spice. The contrast of the warm fried crabcake with the cool acidic tomato salsa that was just a little spicy and oniony was refreshing and delicious. The mussels were so delicious and served in a wonderful spicy cilantro tomato broth, with just a hint of lime juice for some acidity. We meticulously sopped up every last drop of that broth with bread.
For our main courses, I had the scallops in tomato truffle butter with a risotto custard and minted celery.
Wow, I've never had better scallops.  It was seared in a way that the top and bottom was almost crispy flaky, but the inside was smooth and almost perfectly raw.  The tomato truffle butter sauce was so indulgent and the risotto custard was rich and creamy.  I didn't like the minted celery at first since it was such a strong flavor, but it definitely grew on me and provided nice contrast with the rest of the dish.  K. had the poached halibut, wrapped in proscuitto with a mushroom soubise and portobello fries and a tarragon emulsion.
The halibut was very delicate and mild, so the proscuitto added important flavor and saltiness, and the mushroom added a nice woodsy and earthy touch with some cream for richness.  The portobello fries were very tasty as well.  Both dishes were outstanding, I'm still dreaming of them today and will be for a long time.

For dessert, we had the white peach raspberry crisp special, a glass of Sanct Valentin 'Comtess' 05 Passito from Alto Adigo, a dessert wine made from gewurtztraminer, reisling, sauvingnon blanc and pinot blanc, where the grapes are dried on mats to give it its sweetness, and some coffee.  The crisp was a beautiful expression of summer, a little on the tart side, which I like, but with some nice vanilla ice cream to smooth it all out.  The dessert wine, which was sweet with strong notes of stone fruit, went perfectly with the crisp; perhaps a little too well, as it was finished quickly.
For the wine with dinner we went with the waitress' recommendation.  Last year, we had a Cobb's Diane Cobb vineyard Sonoma Coast pinot noir which was just outstanding.  While I would have liked to try out some more local pinot noirs, our waitress recommended a detour to Burgundy, the 2004 Chateau Fontaine Gagnard Volnay Premier Cru Clos de Chenes.  I don't have French burgundy wines often, so we took her recommendation.  It was lovely, delicate with a little acid on the finish, and went very well with all our food.  I'm not sure it was as memorable as the Cobb pinot noir last year, but good nonetheless.
I adore Passionfish and highly recommend it to all who are in or near the Bay Area.  It's definitely worth a special visit and I hope to be back soon.  Next up: Pebble Beach and U.S. Open, Big Sur, and a visit to possibly my new favorite steakhouse.

701 Lighthouse Avenue,
Pacific Grove, CA  93950
(831) 655-3454


  1. Glad you still like it! I recall we had a peach dessert too. Some sort of cobbler? And a wonderful Peay Scallop Shelf Pinot. The owners of the restaurant are also connected to Peay somehow.

  2. Passionfish is becoming an annual tradition; definitely worth a special trip. I think next time I will definitely stick with local pinots; more fun that way.



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