On Point

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the Point Pinos Grill that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

The Point Pinos Grill has really come into its own over the summer. When chef Dory Ford and the Aqua Terra Culinary team took over operations of Point Pinos Grill in Pacific Grove, they signed up for what must be one of the toughest gigs in town.

A golf course clubhouse isn’t exactly known for good food, and if that weren’t enough, permitting restrictions from the city keep them from offering dinner service.

Despite these challenges, the Aqua Terra Culinary team has managed to create a restaurant that’s simultaneously laid back and elegant with sophisticated twists on everyone’s favorite clubhouse food.

It’s really the food’s refinement that sets Point Pinos Grill apart. Ford is skilled at elevating pretty humble fare — small bites, soups, salads and sandwiches — to gourmet levels.

The tostadas make a delicious meal. Or if you're generous, you can share with your fellow diners.

One of my favorites on the menu is the chicken tostadas appetizer (three for $7.95). Served on fried masa rounds with chopped cabbage and tomatoes, then topped with Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, it’s a more sophisticated take on classic chicken tostadas.

One of my Yelp friends suggested adding lime juice to the tostadas. Thanks for the tip, Shiho — that touch of acidity is the one component that was missing.

This small bite is flavorful and filling, and can easily serve as a lunch entree or shared as appetizer with dining companions.

Many of my friends come to Point Pinos Grill solely for the salads. I’m not one to order salads in most restaurants — so few restaurants in town offer anything fancier than the usual Caesar or spinach salads — but Point Pinos Grill might make a believer out of me.

One of the great salads at the Point Pinos Grill. A sophisticated mix of sweet, savory and salty in the fig, prosciutto and arugula salad.

Take the arugula, fig and prosciutto salad ($11.95). It’s a unique combination — bitter arugula, sweet figs, salty prosciutto and creamy goat cheese. I just wish the ingredients were tossed about better — I had to work to get that perfect bite of all the flavors together.

The portions on the salads are huge — without a split plate fee, several of my friends have taken to splitting the Cobb salad ($13.95) for a filling steal of a meal.

But it’s the sandwiches that have caught my eye. Recently, I tried the crispy chicken sandwich — a crispy piece of fried chicken topped with smoked bacon, avocado, Jack cheese, tomato, leaf lettuce and ranch dressing on a French roll ($10.95).

A classic sandwich is elevated with gourmet ingredients, like housemade potato chips.

Sure, it was messy, but the flavors were bold, thanks to the addition of hot sauce, which seems to be the kitchen’s favorite condiment because it shows up in many dishes.

If a fried chicken sandwich isn’t your thing, you can also order it grilled.

Service is the one thing Point Pinos Grill hasn’t nailed yet — it’s been inconsistent the times I’ve gone. Sometimes it’s friendly and fast; other times it’s painstakingly impersonal and slow. I’ve mostly experienced the former, but one peek at the Yelp reviews reveals the latter is still all too common.

The Aqua Terra team has transformed what was essentially a clubhouse catering to hungry golfers into one of the better restaurants in town for foodies of all sorts. It’s still not perfect, but Point Pinos Grill is a lot better than one would expect from a golf course.

Point Pinos Grill is at 79 Asilomar Blvd., at the Pacific Grove Golf Links, in Pacific Grove. 648-5774 or www.ptpinosgrill.com.

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