By Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip
The Sardine Factory in Monterey is my new favorite restaurant. Not because it served the best pacific swordfish that I’ve ever tasted and not because it’s located in seaside Monterey, but because they made me feel special. My husband and I were enjoying a night out by ourselves, sans children, shirley temples and chicken nuggets.
Owners Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino have raised this dining establishment to legendary status, serving movie stars and famous sports figures, yet they made my husband and I feel like we were the VIP’s of the evening. From the sommelier, who helped us select the 2004 Calera Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir, to our waiter and the ever vigilant bus boy, we were welcomed into the upscale Northern California restaurant.
Our evening began in the Sardine Factory Conservatory, surrounded by lush greenery in the dead of winter, where we were seated beneath a glass-domed roof. We enjoyed the abalone bisque as much as President Reagan did at his inaugural dinner in Washington D.C. From there we were brought a refreshing blackberry sorbet served as an Intermezzo before the entree. Once again, it’s the special touches that will be remembered as the palate cleanser was served in a swan-shaped ice sculpture.
Next, we moved on to the broiled king salmon with crab meat served with a chive risotto in a tarragon beurre blanc sauce. I selected the swordfish with sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts in a champagne vinaigrette sauce. While I am a seafood lover, sometime swordfish can be dry. This center-cut piece was very moist. I also like the fact that the restaurant only serves fish approved from the “sustainable seafood” guide.
As this was a special occasion, we splurged on the warm chocolate lava cake with tahitian vanilla bean cream and fresh raspberries. Our waiter recommended that we try the “Flaming Sardine” a coffee and licorice liquor drink that is as tasty as it is showy. It was actually fun to have our dining neighbors oohing and ahhing as the waiter made the flames leap into the air, tableside.
TIP: Savvy diners order the prix-fix menu, served nightly from 5-6:30 p.m. This budget-friendly menu offers the abalone bisque or caesar salad and a choice of petite filet mignon, duck and pappardelle pasta or the scampi for a reasonable $19.95 per person. The restaurant also offers a children’s menu with kid-friendly pizza, mac and cheese and mini hamburgers.
Sardine Factory Reservations (831) 373-3775
701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940