The Big Sur Roadhouse delivers meals to match its locale.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
A long, long time ago, I can still remember when the music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while.
Don Maclean said it back then in “American Pie” (for you youngsters, I’m talking about our song, not your movie). He seemed to capture the essence of an artist’s—in this case a musician’s—desire to make people happy…make ‘em dance.
I’m sure that when Marcus and Heather Foster were working together at Sierra Mar, the all-world restaurant at Post Ranch Inn, they knew that if they had their chance that they could make the people dance in a restaurant all their own…and maybe they’d be happy for a while.
It’s been two years since this delightful, dedicated and talented couple opened Big Sur Roadhouse, and it has become just about the perfect Big Sur restaurant. It expresses the owners’ collaborative vision and artistic down-to-Earth style.
Perfectly blending into the majestic landscape surrounding it, everything is an understated work of art, from the views outside the windows to the views on the plates.
From the corner fireplace to the wonderful copper-topped bar and family room style dining area, every seat cooperates with its surroundings, coercing your senses—as many as you care to use—into a hypnotic state of complete happiness. It’s the kind of happiness that cleanses the spirit and rejuvenates the soul.
Everyone loves this restaurant. Since the day it opened, locals swarmed (if you can consider the sparse Big Sur population a swarm) here and immediately made it their favorite. It stems from the character of its two owners.
There is a grace and elegance underlying everything at Big Sur Roadhouse, from the unobtrusively high-class service to the beautiful local artwork and décor to the haute level of the cuisine…yet never does the place feel even remotely pretentious or haughty.
Consequently, we have at our benefit, a disarmingly profound restaurant experience right here in our own Big Sur backyard, whenever we want it—that is Wednesday through Monday from 5:30 until closing time—which changes throughout the year, depending on the variant visitor index for the Highway One corridor from Cambria to Carmel.
Getting folks to drive the 40 to 45 minutes to the Roadhouse on a regular basis is not easy.
But check out this meal: First, Dungeness Crab Cocktail with Avocado and House Made Potato Chips—Sweet Thing called it “an avocado crab sundae.” Along with that we had Plantain Tostones with Tiger Prawns, Black Bean Puree, Garlic and Lime—she called that one, “Shrimp on a Lily Pad.” Each was a sensory splendor, from first glimpse to last gulp. Delicately prepared, fresh and fascinatingly spiced. In fact, much of the menu is infused with a wonderful level of zippiness.
I’m a big believer in zestiness as a component of a well-created dish. Chef Foster uses subtle delicious heat spices in many forms. The result is an underlying spiciness that massages your taste buds like a good corner man massages a fighter’s muscles between rounds, preparing “Big Buddy Taste Buds” to reenter the ring fresh and ready for more action.
An intermezzo of Tortilla Soup, simply made with white cheddar, avocado and a little tomato, along with a simple salad of Baby Greens with Grilled Red Peppers, Corn, Tortilla Strips and Honey-Lime Vinaigrette carried us along like babies in a double stroller, each of us sublimely serene. The salad, with its fabulous colors and textures, looked like a Salvador Dali painting. Perfect ingredients and the delicate touch of a special chef made it one hundred percent right.
Entrees of Pan Seared Salmon with Green Cabbage-Mango Salad, Toasted Peanuts and Coconut Broth Thai-ed together the “California Fare with a Latin Flair.” As expected, each component of the dish was perfect: wild salmon from our bay cooked to perfection atop delicately shredded tender cabbage with ripe mango slices swimming in an airy aromatic coconut nage.
As a contrast we had the substantial Sweet Corn Risotto Cake with Grilled Vegetable Salad. The Risotto Cake looked like one of those Rice Crispy Treats, a rectangle of rice. It had a beautifully crusted top and when pierced, unfurled, spilling its fresh sweet corn and risotto goodness into a trio of reduced sauces that had me baffled but finger swabbing. The delicious grilled vegetables—asparagus and squash—came stacked in Napolean style and provided the perfect fresh foil to the richness of the risotto.
All around us, diners attacked Adobo Marinated Skirt Steak with Grilled Corn on the Cob and Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes; Honey Cumin Glazed Chicken Breast with Sautéed Green Beans and Corn Bread and other delights with a gustatory gusto that gladdened my spirit.
Rich, homemade desserts like Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake, Dulce de Leche Custard and Sopapillas with Honey, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream finish what is guaranteed to be a great meal every time you come here. And please, for the sake of the Big Sur’s guardian angels, come here whenever you can, I promise you’ll be glad you did.
BIG SUR ROADHOUSE
Highway One just past the River Inn on the right.
Weds. through Mon. 5:30pm until closing.