Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Karen Petersen Dining – Dining Reviews
When your business depends on the Internet and the power goes out, you might as well go to lunch and enjoy Mother Nature’s show. This was the justification that brought us to Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille in the middle of a mid-week afternoon.
The charming hostess led us across the colorful rock mosaic floor to the best seat in the house. Adjacent to the glowing fireplace and overlooking rain-swollen Soquel Creek, we were ushered into autumn by the season’s first storm.
While we were waiting for appetizers, all manner of flotsam floated and bobbed by on Class III rapids, from patio furniture and a hay bale, to branches and whole trees. We had apparently missed sighting a floating dock with attached kayaks in tow. Seagulls facing the wind hung motionless on extended wings until blown backwards by strong gusts.
The bartender delivered a large bowl of Thai-waiian Spicy Black Mussels ($15) accompanied by a mound of sticky sweet rice. The dark broth was scented with coconut and salty, sweet, spicy Thai ingredients.
Executive Chef Stephen Hanecak’s Cake Walk ($15) presented a treasure trove of flavors. The crispy crab cake was topped with silky, smoky, chipotle aioli. A salmon cake, a deep pink patty of rich, smoked salmon, was drizzled with a light wasabi sauce. Thick hummus-like mango aioli embellished the third cake of chopped shrimp and herbs. A squeeze of lemon, peppered with ground red chilies, added a tart and spicy touch.
At lunch, a From the Fields menu presents a long list of salads. Choose from nine flavorful dressings including Danish Bleu and Toasted Sesame Miso Vinaigrette. Sandwiches from the Bread Board also offer an array of flavors and fresh textures. House-roasted Turkey Breast ($14) includes Swiss cheese, avocado and bacon. Chicken breast with a citrus marinade is accompanied by tangelo aioli and caramelized pineapple in the Fire-roasted Kona Club ($13). Entrées include fish, pasta, and natural free-range meats.
Still slightly hungry after the appetizers, we ordered soup and salad. A large cup of Paradise’s New England Clam Chowder ($6) was rich with dairy cream, and made multi-dimensional with herbs, white wine, and a touch of cream sherry.
A huge Louisiana Steak Salad ($15) arrived with steaming Angus skirt steak, soft ingots of roasted potatoes and firm asparagus. Served over fresh, diced tomatoes and mixed greens, it was dressed with light Cajun-style vinaigrette. The topping of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese softened, and then melted onto the meat.
The weekday happy hour was in full swing as we donned our overcoats. Neighbors gathered and joked with friends and strangers alike, and enjoyed $3 pints, $4 well drinks and half-price appetizers. Paradise awaits you, even in the middle of a storm.