Carmel Food Company Gets Cute on Junipero
June 9, 2011
Sam the server brought out a surprise plate. “This is from one of the other tables,” he said. “A bite of the hanger steak...”
That’s a little strange, I thought, but hey, sharing is caring, and it’s got a nice Madeira sauce. “...for your dog.”
You can’t script a more quintessential Carmel moment. It also functions as a fitting fractal for the new Carmel Food Company (624-0300), where I sat down for a press dinner Saturday: Tucked off the street on Junipero between Fifth and Sixth, the fledgling spot enjoys a range of thoughtful details.
Take the striped decor of the cute little dining room, the water bowl for the pooch on the patio...
...the three choices of bread spread (two butters and a caramelized onion oil) and the bourbon vanilla sauce on the warm Danish bread pudding.
Exec Chef Sven Hoffman, a Germany-trained lifer whose international credits include Tuba Garden in San Fran and Aubérge du Soleil in Napa, had a beautiful baked brie “Paris” ($9) up on his tiny kitchen counter when I passed by, so one for the table was mandatory.
Once we cracked its fried shell the wedge exploded, pouring out all over the plate with surprising soupiness. With sips of 2009 Coppola Pinot ($48), we ate it—and the accompanying lingonberry compote and crispy parsley—but because of its liquidity and an equally surprising bitter aftertaste I wouldn’t order it again.
Not so for the simple and tender butter lettuce salad with citrus, chives and an ah-yes maple vinaigrette ($10)...
...or the excellent arancini ($7), three savory and cheesy spheres of expertly fried rice.
...or the creamy deliciousness of the asparagus-mushroom soup.
Same goes for the sockeye salmon special ($29, and Hoffman plays by Seafood Watch rules)—it’s spendy but enjoyed a dynamite mint-white pepper-lemon zest zing...
....and the coq au vin ($25), another special, a tender, rich and worthy version of classic French comfort food.
They also do lunch, with items like an asparagus-artichoke-gruyere-veloute crepes ($10), French omelets ($11), croque monsieurs ($12) and a recommended charcuterie plate with cured meats, pate and olives ($15)—and on Wednesdays there’s a “get haute” summer promotion through Aug. 31: 11:30am–2:30pm a choice soup or salad, choice of two main course items and chef’s dessert runs $14.95 (with wine $20) plus tax and gratuity. Lunch and dinner sittings happen Wednesday through Sunday.