Pacific’s Edge – Carmel

Pacific’s Edge
120 Highlands Dr, Carmel, CA 93923

We first ate at Pacific’s Edge in the Fall of 2007. I’m a Hyatt Club member (we picked a hotel chain to stay in regularly to earn points) and once a year or so they give me a free night. So, of course, I redeem it at one of the highest priced hotels they have, The Carmel Highlands Inn! The rooms have gorgeous views and the restaurant’s not half bad. So in ’07 we got the chef’s tasting menu. We weren’t impressed. Knowing this, we took a safer route this time and ordered things we thought they could do well. We have learned not to order things that I make. I make them to our taste, when others make them we are repeatedly disappointed. So we jumped right past the Ahi Tartare and Butternut Squash Soup!

When we’d figured out our dishes they were all very white-wine-friendly so we started trying to tackle the quite impressive wine list. We found what we thought we wanted but when the sommelier came over we told him what we were looking for and the bottle we were considering and he steered us away from it. It wasn’t the acidic, crisp wine we wanted. Mark Buzan is one of the best sommeliers I’ve dealt with. Well, at least he agrees with our taste in wine!! We ended up ordering a bottle of 2006 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru White Burgundy. What a fantastic bottle of wine!

First up was a 1/2 Dozen Maine Oysters. Briny, tender, slurpy, oystery…yum. They were served simply with sides of lemon, shallot vinaigrette and little baby bottles of Tabasco (which I didn’t put on the oysters, I wanted to taste them!!). A beautiful start to the meal.

Next up was supposed to be the Hamachi. We’d laid out the menu from lightest to heaviest but our waiter didn’t get that part of the ordering and next out was the Monterey Bay Red Abalone with Garlic Flan and Lemon Coulis and the Highlands Inn Chowder with Littleneck Clams, Bacon and Chive. The abalone had great, tender texture but it was covered in a lobster sauce which completely obliterated the flavor of the abalone. It was a great sauce but I felt sorry for the poor abalone who couldn’t be appreciated! The garlic flan though, wow! I wanted to take this home with me. It was less like flan and more like a mousse. It wasn’t gelatinous or springy, it was quite spreadable…I wanted to spread it on anything!

The clam chowder was a good, classic bowl of clammy-porky goodness. It was comfort food. It wasn’t fancified, spruced up or overly gourmeted. It was just a good bowl of chow-dah. We ate every last drop and enjoyed each bite (even with the obligatory sandy clam that every bowl of chowder is bound to have).
Next we finally got the Marinated Hamachi with Pickled Ginger, Scallion and Rice Wine Vinaigrette. The fish looked amazing. I’m sure it was. I’ll never know, it was covered in cayenne. I couldn’t taste a thing, my tongue was on fire. I was so sad. Luckily we had limes for our sparkling water so we could put out the fire. This could have been a stellar dish. The cayenne needs to go.

The highlight of the meal was the Endive Salad with Candied Pecans, Port-poached Pears, St. Agur Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. It wasn’t overly dressed, it was a great balance of bitter and sweet and it paired perfectly with the wine. I’m not sure what it says about the restaurant when the best dish is the salad. I think on the other dishes they try too hard. A common problem really. But this course was stellar.

We originally ordered the Wild Mushroom Raviolis after we verified that the mushrooms in them were actually wild. Being the mushroom snobs we are, a pet peeve is the “wild” shiitakes, creminis and portabellos that have appeared on menus everywhere. What’s wild about cultivated mushrooms? Anyway, this dish had chanterelles and hen-of-the-woods but it also had cheese so we changed our order, reluctantly, to Pan-seared Day Boat Scallops with Bloomsdale Spinach, Crab Whipped Potato and Blood Orange Emulsion. I have issues with scallops. They taste like tin-foil to me. I don’t know why. So, well, these were fine. There wasn’t anything wrong with them. The blood orange was great, not sure why the crab was so upset with the potato and had to whip it but it was good. Most anyone else would probably think this dish was great.

Now, dessert! KUDOS to the pastry chef! I can’t find the name of this person anywhere but whoever he/she is, YUM! I got the Highlands Inn “Kit Cat” Bar – Chocolate and Hazelnuts, Caramel Crunchy Pearl Ice Cream. It sounded decadent, rich and really bad for me. It was! Soooo good. Rich chocolate, little crunchy bits, fantastic ice cream. And my lovely sommelier, Mark, brought a glass of 20 year Nieport tawny port to accompany my dessert. I hadn’t had port in ages. When I used to drink it a lot, it was 20 year tawny. I don’t know how Mark knew but, like I said, he was great! It was a beautiful pairing.

My husband got the Warm Pear and Cranberry Crisp with Cinnamon Whipped Ganache which Mark paired with a 2006 Auslese. The tart wasn’t too sweet, the ganache a creamy spice. The Auslese was a heavenly match.

There is one part of the evening I left out. So, we ordered this STUNNING bottle of White Burgundy. It’s amazing. It’s something I need to make sure I remember so I grab the bottle to take a picture. As I was putting the bottle back, I managed to clip the top of the decanter and shattered it. Thank god it broke above the wine and the body of the carafe remained in tact! Mark poured it through some cheesecloth and saved the liquid gold from a glassy death! You can see a remaining shard next to the bottle. Near disaster averted!!

I think Pacific’s Edge would be a great place to go with someone visiting the area for the beautiful view. But order wisely. Look for too many ingredients in the description. Definitely get wine and dessert! I’m sure we’ll eat there again next time I earn a free night from Hyatt! ;-)