Full disclaimer – I love me some small plates. If I could live on appetizers, I would. So imagine my delight after a meal of apps and petite desserts at downtown Monterey’s posh and happening Montrio Bistro. This dinner-only restaurant sets the bar with swanky cocktails, local and sustainable fare, and haute cuisine in a historic fire house.
Montrio's entrance. By Laracee.
Montrio’s warm and trendy ambiance is a friendly reminder of the area’s buzzing downtown scene and the diversity of Monterey County’s eclectic foodie offerings. The cloud-like art installations on the ceiling solidified my interpretation of the menu: heavenly. While my crew and I tasted from throughout its beginning and end, the menu’s dinner options ranged from local Angus rib eyes to succulent and sustainable seafood.
Montrio's clouds. Photo by Bianca Francesca.
Seated at a linened table, we poured over the beverage selection. A smart cocktail assortment with exotic ingredients like crème de violette, Kubler Absinthe and pomegranate-infused top shelf tequila accompanies a diverse wine list that’s flush with local gems. Our original game plan (happy hour beverages in the lounge and light nibbles) gave way to a smorgasbord of small plates.
In what can foster an either terrifying or delightful dining experience, we threw caution to the wind and let our friendly server bring out his top recommendations from the set of choices. It was a good call! We feasted on the lobster-leek mac n’ cheese; pancetta-wrapped prawns with pickled vegetables; crab fritters with spicy rémoulade; local cheese plate with fig jam and a brie-stuffed fire roasted artichoke in a white wine, horseradish and mustard cream.
Talk about a battle of the forks! We all but vaporized the selection of would-be starters. The lobster-leek mac n’ cheese was my favorite, creamy and lightly infused with the delicate leek flavor and the textural and rich lobster. The fire roasted Monterey County artichoke was a close second with its molten brie center and phenomenal cream finish.
As if it couldn’t get any better we opted for dessert, allowing our server again to bring out the best of the best for us to share. My hopes of a pre-holiday diet dissolved as I sank my teeth into warm, luscious white chocolate brioche bread pudding with passion fruit ice cream (the highlight of my meal – and I’m not a dessert fanatic); chocolate fondue with house-made marshmallows and olive oil pound cake and a lemon curd brulée with gingersnaps.
My advice to you, fellow foodies: make haste to this superb dining establishment and bring friends to to share the bevy of buzz, appetizers and desserts Montrio creates.
414 Calle Principal
Open daily 4:30pm-10pm
Friday and Saturday: 4:30pm-11pm