Sneak Peek at New Menu as Carmel's Anton & Michel Prepares to Unveil Major Facelift Friday
January 29, 2013
A number of factors have me eager to see what longtime Carmel institution Anton & Michel (624-2406) ultimately does with a long-overdue update that quietly debuts this Friday, Feb. 1, without much fanfare. (They're not hot to bring in a flood of people for a draining grand opening ahead of the monster sequence that is the AT&T Pro-Am/Valentine's Day/President's Day ahead.)
1 • The fact that owner Tony Salameh (above) has been waiting to do it for five years. When a restaurant lifer like him, who also owns PortaBella, Merlot! Bistro and The Grill on Ocean Avenue, can wait out the recession while scheming and dreaming what he wants to do better for as long as half a decade, that's a good thing.
2 • The fact that it's downright daring to switch things up when your very identity is built on old-school ideals like tableside-prepped Caesar salads, rack of lamb and flambee desserts (all three a reasonable $110 for two) and Pan-Euro plates like Provimi veal chop ($39), maple leaf duck breast ($30) and Pacific salmon ($27). (Though they've sworn they're keeping many of those elements while reshaking others.)
3 • The fact that A&M's employees—including a chef, GM and server who have been there for something like 13, 21 and 25 years, respectively—are getting a rebirth. “I’m really looking forward to everybody’s reaction,” Chef Mark Simpson says, “a combination of the way the restaurant looks, the new food ideas and the way it’s recharged everybody, like an adrenaline rush.” His brother Bert's the GM who's going on two decades plus.
4 • The fact that they're not only knocking down central walls to open up the bar area into the rest of the restaurant and putting in beautiful Carmel stone-crusted pillars in their place—visible in the Nic Coury pic above—but re-pimping the patio. I have a soft spot for nice outdoor eating venues, and this one, with its amplitude, ivy and repainted fountain, is arguably Carmel's most underappreciated, and certainly one of its finest.
5 • The fact that this is the latest evidence Carmel is actually—nobody panic—getting younger. First Mundaka introduced live music and DJs to the aging restaurant scene, then Vesuvio populated a rooftop bar, a 30-something was elected mayor, a farmers market is really happening, Carmel by the Glass wine-and-fashion mini festival was a blast and now venerable, old-school Carmel spots like Aubergine and A&M are making conscious moves to attract a younger audience.
6 • The fact that creative mastermind Julio Ramirez, founder and former owner of Fishwife and Turtle Bay (and current globetrotting consultant now that he's relieved himself of duties as exec chef at Quail Lodge) is helping Chef Simpson on the new menus. Simpson sent me a peek at the working list, which appears below. Look for more on the storied A&M—and what it means for Carmel's ongoing evolution—in this week's Edible column, out tonight.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM Anton & Michel's Working Bar Menu
Peppered bacon and crisp-fried whole soft-centered poached egg, on a bed of quinoa and black beans, with crème-fraîche
Duck confit quesadillas, with microgreens and Irish cheddar cheese, served with sweet piquillo pepper aïoli and fresh avocado
Spanish-style grilled shrimp, and grilled salmon and scallops, served over microgreens on a mixed nut pesto
Two barbecued Australian rack of lamb chops, on dollops of Catalonian romesco sauce and cashew cilantro pesto, served with roasted fingering potatoes
Trio of bruschetta: Tomato and grilled halloumi cheese, shrimp and pesto, artichoke tapenade
Tuna tartare with avocado, soy citrus dressing, wasabi cream, sesame crackers
Personal whole-wheat flat bread topped with caramelized sweet Visalia onions, grilled pear, gorgonzola cheese, peppered bacon and walnuts
Shrimp-scallop-barramundi salad in a choux pastry served on a bed of cashew cilantro pesto with sweet potato fries
Grilled lamb sliders with caramelized onions, garlic mint aioli and truffle fries