Thursday, June 3, 1999
A sparkling new interior gets paired up with a new name and where formerly there was Carmen's Place, there is now Restaurant 211. The impetus to re-invent the business was motivated by the desire to "create an ambiance and image that justifies the food," according to owners Jon and Carmen Magnusson, and the results speak for themselves. The most prominent addition is the huge still-life mural, radiating a soft glow that echoes throughout the cheery dining room. The same sun-washed colors are repeated within the decor and are inviting both to the eye and the appetite.
Along with some new items, you'll still find the same breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as Carmen's offered; the decision to change the name was based on preempting any mistaken "south-of-the-border" expectations of the food. While an occasional Brazilian dish might appear on the menu marking the influence of Carmen's native home--the seafood moqueqa, a mixture of fish and shellfish cooked in coconut herb sauce is a popular special--211 offers fresh, everything-made-from-scratch cuisine that most easily falls under the umbrella of "California."
Taking a closer look at the menu, you might also find an occasional brush with Jon's Scandinavian background. Originally from Finland, it's no accident that his house-made smoked salmon is offered in several delicious guises. His cooking career began at an early age, and as he'll tell you, somewhat by accident. "I had aspirations of being a ship captain," he recalls, "but since I was only 15, I could only get hired on a freighter to work in the kitchen. So I became a cook, instead of a captain," he laughs. After finishing hotel school, his opportunity to go west culminated in a five year stint in the chef's position at Quail Lodge, and six years more as chef at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, where he met his wife-to-be. The couple then spent time in both Brazil and Finland, returning to the area in 1994 to launch a place of their own, where Carmen runs the front, and Jon does the back.
The over-sized menus at Restaurant 211 are that way for good reason; the choices are appealingly numerous and diverse. Breakfast can be as American as homemade biscuits and gravy or as varied as Kentucky bourbon French toast with bananas and pecans, or huevos rancheros with chorizo and black beans. Omelettes are left up to the imagination--choose from a variety of cheeses, veggies and meats. The sausages are all made with chicken instead of pork, and lighter appetites are given the option of fresh fruit instead of crisp country potatoes.
As the "home of half-a-pound hamburger," it's Certified Angus you'll find on a bun with a variety of garnishes to choose from, as well as a "petite" option--a scaled down four-ounce burger, served with soup or salad, part of a list that's dedicated to dining light. A large offering of salads (classic Cobb, chicken Caesar, chicken curry, and an interesting calamari taco salad) are served family-style for two or more, as are the always in demand homemade soups.
Nightly dinner specials that include soup and salad, served family-style, are a big hit at only $12.95, and include dishes like pork tenderloin with Hungarian red pepper sauce. Braised lamb shanks, ravioli filled with duck, artichoke and sundried tomatoes, or grilled salmon with tomato ginger chutney are just a few of the ways Restaurant 211 makes dinner at the Crossroads a memorable experience. cw