The Tinnery takes its food cues from California culture.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
With its wide windows opening out over Lovers Point and the ocean, Pacific Grove’s Tinnery restaurant pleases the eye as well as the palate. The appreciation of the out-of-town guests that I like to bring to this restaurant helps me see the Cypress trees, blue Pacific, and low flying lines of brown pelicans with fresh eyes.
I remember reading about how restaurants like The Tinnery drew inspiration for their menus from California’s Mexican, European, and Asian heritage. The meal that I ate with my husband Laurent and daughter Florence last week certainly followed in this tradition.
For starters, Laurent and I had Pacific Crab Cakes and Tempura Prawns ($10.99) and Chilled Bay Prawns ($10.99). The deep brown, deep-fried coating on the tempura was light, crunchy, and delicious, if not true-to-form for Japanese food aficionados. I ate both of the tempura shrimp with relish and wished I had a few more to dunk in the sweet sauce that came with them.
The crab cakes tasted just like the ones I had eaten in Virginia and South Carolina. The California touch came from the mango fruit salsa made with tomatoes, red pepper, cilantro, and jicama. Mexican jicama tastes like an apple and gives the salsa a tart flavor that enhances the sweetness of the peppery mango concoction. I liked the mild kick in this salsa.
Laurent’s chilled prawn cocktail showed how a few new angles on an old standard can liven up a dish. The prawns arrived with paprika sprinkled on them along with chopped parsley. The peppery dipping sauce surprised us at first, but I ended up loving it.
For my main dish I had Zesty Baja Fish Tacos ($13.99) served on white corn tortillas with Napa cabbage, salsa fresca, carrots, and fresh lime juice. The salsa fresca gave the fish a sweet taste that I liked. The salsa did make the tortilla wrapping my second taco disintegrate a bit by the time I got to it, but that was a minor difficulty.
I grew up in the Midwest on Old El Paso tacos and still have a moment of California bliss each time I realize that real Mexican cuisine often features a lot of fish and seafood.
I loved the whole black beans that came with this dish. They were whole and soft, not refried, and had a spicy flavor that tasted great with the moist Spanish rice.
Laurent had the Olde English Fish and Chips ($14.50). Advertised as beer-battered Pacific Rock Cod on the menu, they did have a very crunchy light crust. The fish and chips reminded me of the ones I have eaten in London. The tartar sauce had a lemony flavor that cut the oil in the fish coating, but not the calories, I am afraid.
Florence ate a truly Californian invention—the Cobb Salad ($12.99). She ordered it without the chopped eggs and artichoke hearts, but kept the tomatoes and avocados, which have entered the Acceptable Vegetable category for our teenager.
The Tinnery uses the crisp, inner hearts of Romaine lettuce in its salads, making even my daughter comment on how fresh the Cobb was. Moist lemon-herb chicken cubes add a twist to an old theme. I thought the bacon was too salty, but all in all this was a tasty salad. The Tinnery serves the Cobb with a balsamic vinaigrette for a sophisticated finish.
We enjoyed some flavorful wines with our meal. Laurent tried a glass of Bollo Pinot Grigio ($6.50) from Venice that had a mellow, buttery flavor. I sampled a dry, crisp Fetzer Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc ($6.50). I prefer Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay, because I can taste it and my food at the same time. Chardonnay can sometimes overpower what you are eating.
Laurent and I had coffees and helped Florence with her dessert—the Chocolate Chip Cookie Fantasy ($6.50). This chocoholics dream was a five-inch chocolate chip cookie served with hot fudge, ice cream, and whipped cream. The soft cookie alone would have been a treat; it was so rich. Florence liked the ice cream on the cookie, but said there was too much hot fudge. “Some problems rate as first class,” I thought to myself.
The wobbly table top in our booth verged on being a second class problem as it distracted from our conversation and scenery watching. We did forget about it when we began to eat, but I think this is the sort of thing that the restaurant can rectify rather easily.
Tinnery owners Dave Bindel and Joe Cavallaro have been doing business for 23 years in this lovely spot. They have created a restaurant interior that gives everyone a good view in the main dining room thanks to terraced seating, and they have created a welcoming neighborhood tavern in the dining room off to the side that allows customers to benefit from the 11 PM closing time.
Don’t wait for guests to enjoy this restaurant with a view.
631 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove
8am-11pm daily; Friday night buffet
5pm-8 pm; Sunday brunch 8am-2pm