The term “embarrassment of riches” is often overused, but it is hard to come up with a better descriptor of the dining options on the Monterey Peninsula. Just the Lighthouse Avenue area of Pacific Grove alone has a dozen or so choices. Here are a few that we enjoyed.
Max’s Grill is on Forest Avenue just off of Lighthouse. Chef Hisayuki “Max” Muramatsu opened Max’s almost 20 years ago with his wife Yuko, after a stint as Executive Chef of Carmel’s Anton & Michel, among other prestigious establishments. The menu reflects his classic training as well as the best that the region has to offer. We had the pleasure of being taken care of by Yuko herself on the intimate patio. From our delicious starter of Tempura Prawns to the Karen’s Garden Salad and Michael’s Caesar [Michael couldn’t pass up the anchovies] through our entrees of Petrale Sole (the catch of the day) and the Duck Our Way (confit duck leg and duck mousse ravioli), everything tasted so fresh and delicious. As well it should, as Chef Max prides himself on making pretty much everything from scratch, even the bread!
Max’s Grill www.maxgrill.com
209 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove California 93950
Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar has been a fixture on Lighthouse Avenue for about ten years, serving owner Thamin Saleh’s extensive menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes to happy locals and tourists alike. We’d actually been planning the restaurant a visit for some time, but when we did, we discovered that it was in the process of changing hands. But not to worry. New owners, Jerry Regester and Gail Grammatico, bring their own impressive chops to the table and changes are planned only gradually. We had the pleasure of dining there while Thamin was still involved in the transition. We shared the octopus in a leek-fennel sauce. Karen had the skillet seared tuna with whipped potatoes, green beans and a chardonnay-mustard sauce while Michael couldn’t pass up the pork belly with creamy polenta and roasted grapes with saba syrup. The dishes deliciously reflected combinations of Mediterranean, French and Spanish influences. We can’t wait to revisit Jeninni and see what changes the new owners make.
Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar www.jeninni.com
542 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, California 93950
Wild Fish is, as the name implies, a seafood restaurant in Pacific Grove, specializing in locally sourced seafood and produce. Kelvin and Liz Jacobs initially opened the restaurant in Mendocino County in 2011 and subsequently moved it to the Monterey Peninsula. Starting with the Sweetwater oysters on the half shell from Tomales Bay, the Santa Cruz halibut with soba ramen and the bouillabaisse teeming with rock cod, squid, octopus and various shellfish, everything screamed freshness and deliciousness.
Karen thought that the bouillabaisse was the best she ever had. The saffron rouille was amazing. The menu for the day even identified which captain and boat brought in the catch. The enthusiasm of the wait staff was evident, as they described the process of receiving the fish and processing it all by hand at the restaurant, even using the bones for broth.
545 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove CA 93950
We also found a couple of great places to grab a bite for lunch while out and about.
From Scratch Restaurant at The Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel specializes in fresh, made-to-order breakfast and lunch entrees. As our server assured us when we were concerned about making too many substitutions, “Don’t worry. We make everything from scratch.” We actually ate here twice, enjoying the Big Sur Omelet and BLAT Sandwich the first time and the Club Sandwich and perhaps the best patty melt anywhere per Michael when we went the second time.
From Scratch Restaurant www.fromscratchrestaurant.com
3626 The Barnyard, Carmel, California 93923
Finally, we found delicious food served by really nice people at C U Sushi in The Crossroads Shopping Center, also in Carmel. We enjoyed the salmon sashimi salad, gyoza, bulgogi bibimbab and the eel roll. The service was very quick and friendly and everything was made fresh.
C U Sushi
173 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93923
The Monterey Peninsula has a wealth of excellent wineries and wonderful restaurants all within half an hour or so of each other. The area is beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. We had a fabulous time and are looking forward to coming back to the area to explore and have new adventures. There is something for everybody from Michelin restaurants to up and coming winemakers.
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers