Down By The River
Big Sur’s River Inn serves up yummy food in a natural setting.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Rustic, cozy ambience and good food sum up why I like to eat at the Big Sur River Inn. I especially like to eat here during the winter months when the restaurant is less crowded and the redwood interior seems all the more inviting.
On our most recent visit, my husband Laurent, my daughter Florence and I celebrated my birthday. I started our meal with the portabella appetizer ($9). This is one of the most delicious dishes that I have eaten anywhere. The base of the appetizer is a slice of toasted brioche spread with warm goat cheese. Grilled portabella mushroom slices come next with delicate lamb’s breath lettuce and caramelized scallions sitting on top of it all. The chef made a hatched pattern around the brioche with a mixture of white truffle oil and Balsamic vinaigrette. I savored every bite and almost wished that I had ordered a second one instead of my main dish.
Laurent had a cup of the chicken tortilla soup ($4.50), the special of the day. The soup tasted liked roasted corn and chicken and warmed the soul on a crisp, winter day. It had a wonderful aroma that piqued the appetite. Laurent liked it very much.
Florence ordered the triple decker sandwich ($12) that came with turkey, ham, bacon, and a side salad as her main dish. She ordered it without the cheese. The ham was not too salty and the turkey had a real poultry taste. The fresh, crisp lettuce made the sandwich taste great.
Laurent chose a real winner of a dish—the Pasta Castroville ($18). A generous helping of artichoke hearts along with chicken got added to this fettucine dish. The fresh basil added a pungent flavor to the creamy pesto sauce. The artichoke hearts had a mild, tangy flavor. The chef cooked the pasta so that they were firm and easy to wrap around a fork.
I ordered the almond encrusted trout with mango salsa ($16). The sliced almonds and slightly sweet mango salsa complemented the flavor of the trout without overpowering it. The mango salsa was so tasty that I could have eaten it alone. I liked my fish, but I preferred the Pasta Castroville. The rice that came with the trout was a little salty and the cooked carrots and green beans retained too much of their crunch for my taste.
We drank a Sauvignon Blanc with our meal. River Inn is one of those wonderful restaurants that offers split bottles of wine for those of us who want more than a glass, but less than a bottle of wine. We chose a 2003 Work Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley ($24) to go with our meal. The wine had a slight citrus flavor that went well with the artichoke hearts in Laurent’s pasta and the mango salsa with my trout.
For dessert, Florence had an ice cream sundae ($5) that came with homemade chocolate sauce. The sundae disappeared rather quickly, so I assume it was delicious. Laurent ordered the homemade apple pie ($6). The apples had a sour-sweet taste and the flaky crust could have been made by someone’s grandmother. My crème brulée ($6) came with a birthday candle in it. The staff sang for me, which made my vanilla cream dessert with a crunchy crust taste even better.
Last summer we came for dinner and sat on the outdoor terrace with a big Redwood growing out of it and listened to Pheneger Creek bubble by. Blue jays hopped around and people speaking languages from all around the world made their own Big Sur memories. We learned then that you can come listen to music on the weekends and even soak your feet in the river as you eat, while sitting in one of the peacock-backed benches.
On that occasion, Laurent ordered the surf and turf special ($29). He loved his perfectly prepared medium rare filet mignon steak with broiled shrimp. I had the equally tasty lemon roasted chicken ($17). For dessert, Laurent ordered the extremely rich Bailey’s chocolate dream cake ($6). He ate every bit of it, whereas I was defeated by my New York cheesecake ($6) that came drizzled with caramel and chocolate.
River Inn general manager Janet Lesniak wants to use the
tranquil winter months for organizing workshops designed for
artists, musicians, and writers. River Inn’s sublime
surroundings would certainly get your creative juices flowing
even if you just come for breakfast, lunch, or
Highway 1, 25 miles south of Carmel
Winter hours: Breakfast: 8-11:30am | Lunch: 12-4:30pm; Dinner: 5-8:30pm