Need to getaway but already burned up your vacation time? Escape reality for an evening and wind down scenic Highway 1, pass over the iconic Bixby Bridge, and ultimately pull into The Restaurant at Ventana.
This dining destination nestled within the posh Ventana Inn & Spa is surrounded with views of Big Sur's rocky coastline to the west and lush rolling hills of the Ventana Wilderness to the east. The panoramic views are sure to put your mind ease; but don't take it from me, just ask the chef.
Executive Chef Paul Corsentino moved from his swanky digs in midtown Manhattan after experiencing the serenity of California's Central Coast during his honeymoon; and we couldn't be happier! His carefully crafted prix-fixe dinner menu is particularly impressive with an array of options using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.
Needing a mini-vacay, I decided to head down the coast and try some of Paul's new Californian creations.
One of the hardest decisions you will have to make once you arrive is whether to sit inside their sophisticated and cozy dining room or their more casual and kick-back outdoor patio.
When dining for lunch I tend to opt for their lavender laden outdoor patio but on this particular dinner occasion I chose to be wined and dined inside near the luxurious roaring fireplace.
An impressive (and affordable) wine and dinner menu was presented by a friendly and hospitable waiter. After a few sips of Pinot Noir I dove into the menu for my carefully selected four courses. Word of caution, it's difficult to choose just one dish in each course with tantalizing items like roasted foie gras, soy glazed turnips and ricotta gnudi.
After placing our orders the waiter presented us with complimentary bread and the chef's special pickled rhubarb dip, which was like nothing I have ever seen, or tasted. The magenta rhubarb made this dish pop in both presentation and flavor, a great accompaniment with the fresh feta cheese and earthy olive oil.
The first course of local halibut crudo soon followed and started things off with a bang. The ginger miso vinaigrette had an incredible kick that was offset by the pickled seaweed. The raw fish was clearly fresh and the consistency was spot on.
The second course provided another local delicacy from the sea. The grilled octopus was, may I dare say, one of the best I have ever had. The charred tentacles were crispy yet tender and the lemon zest added a pleasant burst of surprise.
Switching things up I opted for an entrée from the land. The pork chop dish was huge, especially for a tasting menu; no skimping on portions here. The well-seasoned pork was delightful on its own but the sauce with juicy bacon slices, cannellini beans and sweet artichokes certainly earned additional points in my book.
Even though I was stuffed at this point I was not going to miss out on the fourth course, and the most important meal of the day, dessert! The bannoffee cake was a slam dunk with a creamy banana pudding served over a graham cracker crust and topped off with caramelized bananas and crunchy heath bar. Talk about indulgence!
The Restaurant at Ventana is sure to nourish your soul and your appetite.
Reservations for dinner are highly recommended, 831-667-4242. The four-course tasting menu is offered daily from 6pm-9pm for $75 per person. Dishes may also be ordered a la carte.