La Balena tops our favorite restaurant list for a few of different reasons: (1) we adore the owners, Anna and Emanuele; (2) Chef Brad Briske is a culinary genius; and (3) it doesn't matter what you order, it's going to be amazing. La Balena is our pick for celebrations - my 40th, Easter lunch, capodanno, and more - and for delectable, romantic meals.
But I'm glad they were booked because we had a fabulous, low-key dinner at Il Grillo and got to chat with Jay who gave us the scoop on what day of the week to come back. It's the day that Brad plays with ingredients and tests out things for the menu. Ummmm...yeah...count us in!
We started off with the octopus carpaccio plate. You can click to read the post I wrote for Edible Monterey Bay before Il Grillo even opened: Il Grillo Delights in Carmel. Back in June, the octopus was served with grilled watermelon, chili oil, lemon, and mint. This week it was topped with marinated white beans, escarole, and crispy prosciutto.
Jay suggested the butternut squash involtini. [photo at the top] Butternut squash, chevre, apple, fennel, walnuts, and saba. What a great dish that felt like simultaneously Spring-y and fresh and an homage to the Autumn season with the squash.
Then, we ordered - my favorite! - whole roasted branzino. It's not that branzino is my favorite. I just love getting the entire fish with the head, eyeballs, fins, and tail all there on the plate! It was so tender with the peppery bite of arugula, and tang of the capers and golden balsamic butter
We made light work of the sea bass, eating it down to the bones! I refrained from licking the plate.
We ended the meal with an Italian caffé. Potent, dark, and delicious.
Well, I planned to end my dinner with just the caffé. But Jay brought us a chocolate tart with a hazelnut crust. It was rich and delicious. I know my husband wanted to scrape the plate clean - with his tongue! - but people were watching!
If you're local...or visiting the area...don't miss this!
Mission between 4th & 5th. East Side. Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monday — Friday 11:30 am — 9 pm. Saturday 5 pm — 9 pm.
Mission St & 4th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea