It is exhilarating to explore a new restaurant. With positive anticipation we ventured to the newest Seafood and Cajun joint, Crawdaddy’s SLO in San Luis Obispo. The tables are new, the menu is inspired and owner John Kim is putting out some amazing culinary treats.
We started with 12 Blue Point Oysters on the half shell served with lime and Crawdaddy’s house made cocktail sauce. The oysters were attended on a platter of ice and the freshness assured us that a true professional was in the galley. Cajun jazz music pulsed thru the air as we shared a bottle of Castoro Chardonnay and our first of many fish tacos. The tacos are offered fried or grilled with cod, shrimp or crawdads. The shredded cabbage is mixed with a bit of sweetness, a slice of avocado and just one corn taco shell made the fish ratio precise and absolutely delicious. These delectable goodies are only $2.99 each, so Gary vowed to come here weekly for a 6-pack.
The setting is fast casual at Crawdaddy’s, you wander to the kitchen counter to order what you want and then they bring it to you. The Seafood Specialties are served in a boil bag with a mixture of spices, like they do on the Bayou. They are sold by the pound and they offer what fish is in season, but you can choose from shrimp, mussels, clams, crawdads, king crab legs, dungeness crab, snow crab legs, blue crab or lobster. My first was shrimp and I was elated that they were served in tact, thus saving the most delectable part- the brain for me to inhale. You choose your seasonings; Garlic lemon butter, garlic butter, wet Cajun style, dry Cajun rub or The Kitchen Sink- which is all seasoning mixed together. I choose the kitchen sink and the blends were so good, we ordered garlic bread to sop up every morsel. You can add corn on the cob, potatoes, and Andouille sausage to swim with your main meal and have more vessels for that amazing seasoning. The food arrived in the special boiling bag with a bib and gloves. You them dump it on to the platter and dig in. There is something so visceral about eating this with your hands I was in epicurean heaven.
John came to join us and talk about his plans for special nights (Mustang Monday’s with $1 tacos) and his plan to get everyone to try “sucking the head” off the delectable crawdad, which is a southern tradition. John used to own the sushi bar Kai Lana’s in Atascadero, so he knows his way around seafood and I adore his new southern inspired menu which includes fried or grilled seafood like oysters, Ahi, scallops, calamari, catfish, crawdads and a variety of hearty salads and Po’boy sandwiches. This is a place where you can come blow the rent money on lobster or spend under $10 on a team of tacos and leave delighted and content. I adore this concept.
The next visit we had a Cajun fried catfish Po’ Boy (A sandwich extravaganza that began as a five-cent lunch for poor boys. Always made with French bread, Po' Boys can be stuffed with fried oysters, shrimp, fish, crawfish and more). This was served on soft Farb’s bread with a combination of savory and sweet accouterments. While Gary inhaled the sandwich, I started with garlic fries and then I went for the Crawdad boil with the kitchen sink. It has been 10 years since I twisted a head off a crawdad, sucked its head and slurped the succulent tail meat of the tiniest of lobsters and I was in ecstasy. Gary, who had never tried this Cajun way of eating, was hesitant until he experienced the amazing flavor that only comes with this style of consumption.
Our next trip we had a “Taco Off” as Gary believed that grilled fish was better than the fried fish. We both ordered one each of fish, shrimp and crawdad tacos fried and grilled. I preferred the fried with its cornmeal crunch, while he preferred the grilled. It was a proper Fais do do.
After discovering this restaurant, we ate there four times in one week; I would say that is an A+ grade for Crawdaddy’s SLO Cajun/Creole Cuisine. They located at 1761 Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo and are open from Monday thru Thursday and Sundays from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm. You can call them at (805) 547-1620. Go and expect at Lagniappe (Cajun for a unexpected nice surprise).
In my mind a chef is an artist. If you let artists create on their own terms, the end result is magical. Chef Gregg Wangard of Marisol is a Five Star artist and I am happy to be his canvas. This chef shines when you tell him, “Surprise me, bring 5 courses of your choosing”. Pairing him with a master sommelier like Jeff Chaney for the liquid part of the meal creates a canvas of culinary rapture.
With the sweeping backdrops of the waves rolling in, the sun setting in a Technicolor display that made the ambiance resonate, we dined at Marisol at the Cliff’s Resort in Pismo Beach. A soulful sweet sound of acoustic guitar surrounded is with the new addition of a masterful sound system. David Kline set us with menus and a delightful quip, but they were swept away as Chef did what he does best: Create perfection.
Our first course was complimentary and a dream that I have so missed in California. Seared Goose Liver was attended on white bread that was buttered, toasted and topped with micro greens. It sat upon a reduction of Hildalgo Pedro Ximenez sherry. Jeff came out with our wine selection for the course and mine was the same Hildalgo Pedro Ximenez sherry, which fiery sweetness offset the savory flavor of the liver. The simple butter soaked white bread was a brilliant vessel to present this rare treat. It was also attended with cheese plate of smoke goat Gouda from Paso Robles, with crostini’s, quince cubes, golden raisins, dusted almonds and candied pecans.
Gary started with his tradition dessert, the beloved Stout cake that Jeff paired with a Saucelitio Canyon Late Harvest Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, 2012. The Chocolate Dream Stout Cake is a daring combination of Napa Smith Oatmeal Stout beer and cocoa. It was served with a tangy mango sorbet that rested on a bed of graham crackers so it wouldn’t melt as fast (brilliant). Gary has declared this the best chocolate cake ever and proved that declaration by ordering it often. For the accompanying Mango sorbet, Jeff poured a Jorge Ordones & Co Old Vine Moscatel, Malaga, 2007. This was the first time Gary had 2 wines pairing with one dish, and he was overjoyed had just how perfect the combinations worked. Wine connoisseur Jeff was brave and passionate with his choices and they surprised and served us well.
Our next offering came from an unlikely source from the sea. It’s called Skate Wing and it resembles angel wings in both appearance and taste. Skate is a fish that usually gets thrown back by fisherman (picture a manta ray). But this chef knows that the wing part is very delicate and has the consistency and flavor like crab, only better. Because of its short shelve life (24 hours) it is rarely served. Chef Greg used the fresh form the sea wing, dipped in brown butter and breaded. Then he pan-fried and served it with a Meyer lemon sauce, and shaved fennel. To say this was outstanding is an understatement. It was soft and rich, with a buttery texture. Served with an Alban Roussanne, Edna Valley, 2010, the heritage of the wine and the knowledge of a chef to make this delicate fish come alive married a fantasy mixture in my mouth.
The next course was simple wild mushroom and mascarpone soup. 6 different kinds of exotic mushrooms thickened into a soup using mascarpone cheese with a crostini resting atop with a smattering on wild mushrooms. The savory richness harmonized nicely with a Presqu'ile Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2009
Our next course was simple and impeccable. Roasted golden beets with fresh burette, arugula, balsamic vinaigrette sprinkled with roasted pecans. This shall thus be known at “Teri’s salad”. We broke all the rules and opened a Scarpertta Pinot Grigios, Friuli, 2010 and it tasted like exceptional.
Last course was rib eye steak, rare and swimming on a béarnaise sauce with truffle croquets with asparagus tips and a spicy aioli pottage. Served with a delectable Quintessa, Rutherford, Napa Valley, 2009- the meal was one that will be remembered.
We punched a whole in our tummy with a shot of Fernet Branca (an Italian bitters) while we enjoy bananas foster with fresh strawberries and a vanilla bean ice cream.
Jeff shared with us memories of flavors and how you let the wine speak to you, not pass judgment. His passions for wine and making the most of the meal, shine thru with every sip.
Chef, sommelier and staff are fervent in their delivery and creation of an impeccable meal. Besides watching the sunset on the ocean, there is no other textbook experience. But Wait! You experience them both at the Cliff’s Resort at Marisol – every night!
A day of wine tasting inspires your taste buds to rejoice. A day that is celebrating yet another trip around the sun of mine (my birthday) calls for a great meal to go with newly purchased wine. This celebration calls for an excellent chef in a stunning restaurant with an attentive wait staff and a delectable menu. The Sea Venture in Pismo Beach was our culinary destination for my birthday this year.
If the past, many of my after-work hours has been spent sitting at the Sea Venture watching the waves roll in, surfers float and the sun set. My girlfriends and I meet here for Mai Tai’s, Sunday brunches or just to impress an out of town guest. While the bar boasts one of the most seasoned tapa’s cook (Craig) and amazing bartender (Krista), the restaurant has at its helm one of the best and brightest chefs in the area, Casey Walcott. The entire staff here is one of seasoned professionals that truly enjoy their jobs and provide an unsurpassed dining experience. Simon Kovesdi (Restaurant Manager) has always been the perfect host and has turned a blind eye when our celebratory mood was an octave louder than the rest of the diners. I am a fan.
I told Casey to surprise me and bring me what he thought I would enjoy and he was spot on with each and every dish. Because Gary had stopped at the Apple Farm to consume a dozen Christmas cookies on the way to the Sea Venture, we both started with the appetizer. Large Seared Bacon Wrapped Scallops that sat atop of fried Brussels sprouts with a delectable lemon aioli and goat cheese spread around the plate for visual stimulation as well as palate pleasing. The scallops were over a silver dollar in size and perfectly cooked with the essence of the sea shining thru the crispiness of the bacon. We paired the dish with a bottle of crisp Barton Label Blanc y Blanc, a white blend that is a new and delicious offering from Joe Barton of Grey Wolf.
Next was the Beef Carpaccio, cut thin and spectacularly prepared resting on mustard vinaigrette and capers dotting the top adding a perfect blending of flavor. Resting beside this heavenly dish was a baby arugula leaves with shaved Parmesan and sprinkling of Black Sea salt to enhance the flavor. This deconstructed dish was pleasing from every perspective that we launched it into our mouths.
The next dish was a subtlety delectable Lobster Vol-en-Vent (French for everything is better between puff pastry). This amazing shell shaped and multi layered tartlet was swollen with sautéed lobster, grilled asparagus and cubes of fingerling potato, it sat upon a cloud of lobster cream sauce and green onions. Every bite was a perfect and rich creating a harmonious experience. We deemed it 50 shades of lobster, liking the cream sauce to bisque and the meat inside tasty morsels of the tail of kings. It was absolute flawlessness.
Our next main course was a large Confit of Pork Osso Bucco. A succulent meat shank from the thighbone cooked for hours in its own fat is a favorite of any food-obsessed creature. Add to it sheared fried beets and carrots all resting on a puree of cauliflower, oven roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, spinach, and a thyme jus can make for a very quiet table. The amalgamation of flavors, textures and sauces made this a most memorable indulgence. We paired this with a Turley Zinfandel and both the wine and the meat were so impressive, we were not sure if we should or could go on eating.
Dessert was a light Apple Crostada tart with Sea Canyon apples baked to a sweetness only known to apple connoisseur with a buttermilk vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Gazing out on to the Christmas tree at the end of the Pismo pier, I was convinced I remain the luckiest girl around.
Surprising everyone, I went for another dessert. It was my birthday after all and there was all this hearty zinfandel wine left and nothing goes better with that than the Chocolate torte. The Sea Ventures version is a dense torte with a scoop of DocBurnstein's chocolate motor oil ice cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings. With the wine, obsession is too soft a word to describe my fascination with this dessert.
I was so impressed with this meal, I floated all the way home and booked our tickets to celebrate New Year’s Eve at this very spot (dinner has two seating’s one beginning at 5:00pm and one at 7:30pm). You can call for reservations at 805-773-3463. I love the Sea Venture as it is paradise and we are lucky enough to call this kind of heaven our home.
The Sea Venture Resort Restaurant is open Monday thru Thursday from 4:00pm to 9:00pm, Friday and Saturday from 4:00pm to 9:30pm and Sunday from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. They are located at 100 Ocean View Avenue in Pismo Beach just three blocks from the Pismo pier. All the restaurant specials and room information is at www.seaventure.com.