Monday, April 20, 2015

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto

This year for our dinner out to celebrate our anniversary we chose Monterey Bay Fish Grotto on Mt. Washington. MBFG recently underwent a $2 million renovation. Not only did we read about it in various newspapers and on blogs, but we heard all about it from my parents. They live in the same building as the restaurant so they had a first hand view of the renovation action. The restaurant just re-opened a few weeks ago. Neither of us had dined at the old version of MBFG, nor had either of us ever dined in the space when it was Christopher's (long, long ago).

Our reservations were for 5:30 pm and sadly, we were about 15 minutes late thanks to traffic from the Parkway West closure. Grrr. Fortunately, the couple we were joining for dinner arrived on time. We used the valet to park ($6) and rode the elevator up, enjoying a terrific view of the city. Sadly, we were not seated next to a window, so we didn't have the best view, but it wasn't "no view." I could see bits and pieces of Heinz Field, the UPMC Building, and PPG.
A celebratory bottle of 2009 Bjornstad Cellars Chardonnay (Russian River Valley in CA). Normally, we do not order an entire bottle of wine because we cannot drink it all (we were sharing this time) so I do not know what an entire bottle usually costs, but after looking at the list of bottles of chardonnay, I think it's safe to say you can expect to spend quite a bit on a bottle here at MBFG ($75+). There are some for less than that, but... I'd be curious what the retail price is on these bottles.

Our bottle ended up being decanted because there was some sediment in it, and even after decanting, there was still some sediment, which was a bit disappointing given the cost of the wine.
To start, we shared an order of Calamari with scallions, red & yellow peppers, and mango-cilantro sauce. This is some of the best calamari I've had. Definitely in the top 3 that I can remember (one other being in Mystic, CT and the other in Monterey, CA). Not at all tough, rubbery, or chewy. Just soft and lightly breaded and just so good.
As soon as the special soup of the day was mentioned, I knew SP would order it: She-Crab Soup. When it arrived, there was a mound of crab in the center of the bowl and the soup broth was poured over the crab. This was one of the best she-crab soups we've ever had. I tried just a couple of bites. There was a bit of a peppery spiciness, but it was so flavorful, not just cream flavored and a generous amount of crab.
Krim Tomato Salad (artisan greens, krim heirloom tomatoes, cucumber-sour cream sauce, balsamic vinaigrette). I was a little nervous because it's not tomato season, but this was a flavorful, ripe, juicy tomato. The cucumber-sour cream sauce was cooling and creamy and the greens crisp, chopped small, and lightly dressed. Really good.
House Salad (mixed greens, heirloom teardrop tomatoes, parmesan crisp, carrot, passionfruit vinaigrette). The salad was a nice size, definitely more than I could eat so I'm glared SP & I shared. It was very lightly dressed, which I liked, and everything tasted fresh. Not a limp, soggy, hanging out in the chiller for too long salad.
I knew SP wanted to try MBFG because he loves fish. I was a little surprised by his fish of choice: Grouper prepared Monterey style (chargrilled with kalamatas, artichokes, tomato, onion, mushroom sauteed in marsala wine sauce). He said he chose grouper because the accompanying vegetables appealed most to him. SP said the fish was nicely prepared, moist, a nice char, and the tangy olives and artichokes and marsala sauce were really good.
I chose Jumbo Shrimp (stuffed with their signature crab cake, lobster thermidor sauce). The shrimp were tasty, stuffed with a generous amount of tasty crab cake filling that was a lot of crab and little filler. I like that the lemon garnish was grilled. The sauce was quite tasty, too, rich, but there wasn't a lot of it so it wasn't overpowering.
Dessert time! We shared 3 desserts. One was Angel Food Grilled Cheese Sandwich (caramelized angel food cake, cream cheese filling, seasonal berry compote, vanilla ice cream, toasted sweet and salty almonds). This was very good. I really liked the caramelized sides of the angel food cake, a nice, sweet crunch, but still soft angel food cake, and the creamy cheese in the middle.
Blueberry Shortcake (lemon pound cake, blueberry compote, vanilla cream custard, whipped cream, tuile cookie, blueberry coulis). Delicious! I really liked the crispy swirl of tuile cookie. Not too lemony. SP's favorite of the desserts.
Pineapple Upside Down Bread Pudding (warm pineapple crème cake, sour cherry compote, cinnamon ice cream, pineapple chip, dark rum sauce). I didn't try this one because I do not like pineapple very much, but it was a big hit with everyone else. Now that I am re-reading the description, I wish I'd tried the cinnamon ice cream. Oh well!
We ended up with a fourth dessert because of a wee mix up. Instead of the Blueberry Shortcake, the Rocky Road (moist chocolate marshmallow walnut cake, chocolate ice cream, walnut praline cookie, chocolate fudge sauce) arrived. Our server said to just go ahead and enjoy the mistake, so we did. Everyone thought I would order this because of the chocolate and marshmallow, but I didn't because of the walnut. I'm not a fan of nuts with my chocolate. Also, I fear such chocolaty desserts these days. They are usually too rich and too decadent and I feel kind of icky after eating them. 

Despite the rich appearance, the cake was actually pretty light. It was definitely moist and chocolaty. Thankfully, it wasn't drowning in sticky sweet fudge sauce. The marshmallows were small but light, moist, & fluffy, not hard and dry.This ended up being my favorite dessert! 

Overall, I really liked MBFG. For us, it's a special occasion restaurant. If you eat the way we ate (wine, appetizer, salad, entree, dessert) it's a pretty pricey meal, so not an everyday (or every weekend) meal. The food was very good. The service was above good but there were a few small hiccups. At first, the wrong bottle of wine was brought to our table (a Pinot Noir instead of Chardonnay), then there was the sediment in the wine (it was fine, it tasted good, but I wondered if it really should have been replaced by a fresh bottle; I'm not sure what proper wine etiquette here is), and the wee dessert mix up (but free 4th dessert - whoo!). It's soothing inside, the chairs looked comfy and were cushioned, not hard wood, and the view is fantastic. 

Definitely a place we'll go again for a special occasion.

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto on Urbanspoon

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