Restaurant of the Year
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Paradise Beach Grille
Restaurant of the Year,
Best Restaurant (Capitola),
Best of 2007
The restaurants lined up on Capitola’s esplanade all have the same advantage: an ocean view. If you’re looking for a relaxing scene to gaze at during dinner, it’s really hard to go wrong. But if you want to get the most from the food, the ambiance, the service and the wine list, Paradise outstrips some of its neighbors—and, this year, most of the restaurants in the county—as the best.
The interior is calmly sophisticated, feeling wealthy without turning around and making you feel poor, and spacious enough to avoid that back-to-back feeling that’s the curse of so many otherwise relaxing haunts here.
Chef Stephen Hanecak has put together a rare menu that makes you hungry just reading the dish names: Blue Lagoon Sesame Macadamia Encrusted Mahi Mahi, Goat Cheese, and Portabella New York Steak and (my favorite) Sugar and Spice Salmon, which is kicked into gear with champagne mustard beurre blanc and sweet chili vinaigrette.
The appetizers are tops in the county, too. While familiar standbys like coconut prawns and blue-point oysters are executed to perfection, it’s the more unusual ideas that make the place worth visiting, like the “firecracker” prawns sautéed in a mixture of spices and pineapple, or the “beach blanket breadalon”—sourdough bread stuffed with Gouda, garlic and onions for a concoction more ingenious than the name.
The recurring theme through the menu is a playful attitude toward fine cheeses, which, combined with the extensive wine list, makes the cuisine deeply Californian, and maybe even the signature of Santa Cruz.
Find Paradise at 215 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-4900. | Chris J. Magyar