Here’s an off-the-menu treat for you–an in-depth, blow-by-blow take on opening night at Restaurant 1833. You got the highlights in my column this week, but there’s only so much my editor will let me ramble in print. Luckily, the world is my oyster here online, so I’ve got some extra bites for you here!
Ever since I stepped into Cannery Row Brewing Company more than a year ago, Coastal Luxury Management has been hyping the Brewing Company’s “coming soon” sister restaurant, Restaurant 1833, in the historic Stokes adobe. Since that fateful dinner, I’ve been keeping an eye out on Stokes, watching and waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.
Restaurant 1833 appeared to be doomed–from permitting nightmares to bailing chefs (they lost two before teaming up with Levi Mezick earlier this year), foodies were wondering whether Restaurant 1833 was ever going to open. Then came cryptic news that they were indeed “coming soon”–for real this time. Needless to say, I about jumped out of my Chucks when I saw the official news on Facebook: Restaurant 1833 was opening on Friday June 24–they were *even* taking reservations, so I knew it was official this time. Finally.
I immediately sent out mass text messages, emails, phone calls and carrier pigeons (OK, maybe not that last one) to rally my fellow foodies to dinner. Every single one of them answered the same–“Are they *really* opening?” “YES!” I told them. And they were in. I rallied five friends to head over to Restaurant 1833 after work.
We were seated upstairs, in Hattie’s Room. We spent about 15 minutes just reading the menu. Everything sounded delicious! We decided we’d put our stomachs to the test tonight and order as much of the food as we could.
The true standout of the small bites and appetizers was the bone marrow ($15). I haven’t eaten red meat for more than 10 years now, but I broke down Friday night and tried the bone marrow. My foodie friends were raving about it, and I just couldn’t take the suspense any longer—I had to try it for myself! Sure enough, that bone marrow was superb!
A big chunk of bone split into two, roasted with brioche crumbs. The marrow was so buttery smooth. One of my friends did his best cave man impression, scraping the last bites of marrow from the bone. I’d order this again in a heartbeat! (And hey, it’s technically not meat, just bone, so I can still say I haven’t eaten red *meat*, right? Ha!)
The crispy pork ($5) was also delicious—I mean how can you wrong with pork that’s breaded and fried? (Needless to say, this was not a low-calorie dish.) And we appreciated the hint of Dijon in the pork that gave extra richness and body.
The bacon cheddar biscuits ($3.50) were also a hit—light and crumbly, not heavy and greasy as you might fear.
The warm goat cheese custard ($12) was nice and fluffy, but one of us remarked this might be a better match for the dessert menu.
The caramelized endive ($6.50) felt more like a salad, but had a nice sweet yet savory flavor.
I have to say the boneless chicken wings confit ($6.50) disappointed—and only because I was expecting something with a crispy bite of skin outside, but just got tender meat. (Though that meat was nicely seasoned, with a little kick of heat—I’ll give them that.)
Next course became an egg course—we had the crispy hen egg (wrapped in prosciutto, breaded in panko and fried, served with asparagus, cornichons and trumpet royal mushroom for $12) and the wild mushroom and prosciutto pizza, with Parmesan and three soft-poached eggs ($16).
Who says eggs are just for breakfast? These were outstanding dishes, in fact, probably some of my favorites of the whole meal. The crispy hen egg was like breakfast for dinner—a bite of rich prosciutto and a runny egg.
The pizza had a perfectly thin wood-fired crust and the eggs really pulled the flavors of the earthy mushrooms and salty prosciutto together. I just wish our server had let us break the egg yolks ourselves—he took all the fun out of it!
Everyone ordered a different entree and shared bites with each other.
I had the Parmesan-crusted halibut, with farro, spring garlic and fava beans ($25). The flavor of the Parmesan and herb crust was nice, but the fish itself was overcooked and mushy. Served on a bed of flavorful farro with fava beans, colorful spring vegetables and white cipollini onions, the plate was beautifully presented.
I wish I’d ordered the roasted chicken breast (with artichokes, bacon, black garlic and Arbol chile for $23). The chicken was juicy and tender, and the skin was so rich and crispy. The sides were decent enough, but paled in comparison to the crispy chicken breast.
I sampled some of my friend’s English pea ravioli ($18) and was disappointed—it tasted too strongly of pea shoots. I don’t think I’ll be ordering this one again.
Likewise, I was underwhelmed with the much-hyped bacon-wrapped sturgeon ($25). However, I appeared to be in the minority on that one. One of my friends remarked that the fish meat itself tasted like bacon—”baconfish,” he declared.
As if seven small bites and five entrees weren’t enough, we rolled up our sleeves and eagerly ordered desserts.
Again, we each got something different to check out as much of the menu as possible. The dessert menu includes an eclectic selection, and I appreciated the diversity of options—it’s refreshing when menus aren’t just packed with chocolate cakes and creme brûlée. (And if you’re a fan of either, don’t worry, they’re still on the menu.)
The almond gateau with cherry marmalade and butter pecan ice cream ($8) was easily our favorite. The almond flavor was so rich and the inside of the gateau was smooth as velvet.
The orange olive oil cake, with Muskat sabayon and caramelized peaches ($8) was also a favorite. The light and fluffy cake, with a unique blend of flavors. The Muskat sabayon pulled together the sweet peaches and savory cake perfectly.
The housemade stacked s’more with graham, toasted marshmallow, chocolate ganache and almond toffee ($8) was nice—rich dark chocolate with light and fluffy marshmallows. It was a sophisticated takes on this campfire classic.
The lavender brûlée with citrus compote infused with lavender simple syrup and lillet ($8) was more savory than I had expected. I thought it was too light—I prefer a good old-fashioned thick and creamy creme brûlée, personally. Likewise, the brûlée top was too thick and someone in the kitchen got a little heavy-handed with the torch.
My apple tartin (with vanilla salt and vanilla bean ice cream, $8) was a disappointment. Our server had described it as apple tarte tatin—one of my all-time favorite desserts. But it fell short of my expectations—I wanted the apples to be softer and more tender; the crust more buttery. The vanilla salt was a nice touch when you got a bite of vanilla, but I got more than a couple bites of rock salt, which was too strong for the delicate sweetness of the apples.
Everywhere we went, servers were saying hello to diners, welcoming us into the new restaurant. Our server was attentive, offering us detailed descriptions of everything we ordered, giving us helpful tips on wine pairings or specialities on the menu. Along with a team of bussers, he was prompt to refill water glasses, clear dirty plates and bring fresh cutlery. (Seriously, no sooner did you finish with a fork or a spoon, and a fresh one was on the way for the next course!)
Making our way out of the restaurant, everyone wished us a good night, and the hostesses gave us copies of the opening night menu autographed by executive chef Levi Mezick.
The atmosphere was as impressive as the food. The rooms were dark and intimate, with the gentle pulsing of French club music. From Hattie’s Room with ample seating for large groups to the small Gallatin’s Room with a single round table underneath a stuffed boar’s head, they clearly were trying to recreate the vintage adobe experience inside the restaurant. The oversized white chairs felt a little much—and I have to wonder what their cleaning bill is going to be.
It’s a maze inside the building with lots of nooks and crannies for tables. And that central staircase is a death trap! I can imagine it’ll be dangerous for those who’ve had more than a few cocktails in them! Tucked away upstairs, it was certainly an expedition to get from our table upstairs through the rooms and staircase down to the bathrooms.
And let’s talk about the bathrooms, arguably a source of a lot of discussion at our table. Unlike most restaurants in these parts, Restaurant 1833 eschews separate men’s and women’s bathrooms—ladies and gents instead get to commingle in a bathroom that’s got individual locked stalls and a communal sink. I can see already that these shared bathrooms might be an unwelcome change for some—especially when the late-night crowd gets some libations in them. So remember gents, let’s keep it classy in shared accommodations.
But I appreciated the quirky little twists at Restaurant 1833, like serving the check in vintage book. It was cute—ours arrived in Unguarded Gates and Other Poems, which provided us endless entertainment reading a few around the table. But it also wasn’t terribly practical—fitting credit cards and pens inside books doesn’t really work.
Will Restaurant 1833 change the face of food on the Monterey Peninsula? Doubtful. I really didn’t see much of a difference—yet—with the food compared to other local hotspots like Mundaka or Montrio Bistro. The atmosphere is refreshing and new, but not groundbreaking in these parts either. But Restaurant 1833 is a welcome addition to the culinary scene in these parts.
However, so was the Cannery Row Brewing Company—and look at the state of affairs at the Brewing Company now. I have to admit, on opening night, the Brewing Company plied me with truffle fries, buffalo wings and fried dough and I was singing their praises to anyone who’d listen—and even those who wouldn’t! But now, a year later, the Brewing Company has decline significantly. Sure, it’s a great place to grab a beer, but the food is below lackluster.
Will Restaurant 1833 suffer the same fate, resting on its laurels after opening? That’s the biggest concern I have—it was great on opening night, but can Restaurant 1833 sustain the quality of food and service? They’ve set a pretty high bar with the pre-opening buzz and energy of opening night—can they keep up with diners’ expectations now? And they’ve still got big plans—the lunch menu will be rolling out in a month or so, and a weekend brunch a couple weeks afterwards.
Only time will tell how Restaurant 1833 evolves and whether it maintains the buzz and excitement of opening. And I’ll be there watching—and eating.