Monday, August 06, 2007

47 restaurants in 47 days: #17, Montrio Bistro

Montrio Bistro
414 Calle Principal
Monterey, CA

Montrio Bistro was once a firehouse, but no traces of that past remain. The interior is clean and modern yet warm, with copper accents and a wrought-iron grapevine and trellis overhead. Puffy white "clouds" hovering near the ceiling reminded me of rising bread dough. Guess I was hungry.

Chef Tony Baker's food is far from firehouse chow. Dishes are creative and playful in their presentation. The menu offers a lot of choices, listing appetizers, "small bites," salads, entrees and "casual fare."

The fire-roasted artichoke was deemed "the best I've ever had" by my partner in dining -- not surprising, considering that Monterey is surrounded by artichoke farms. The apple-basalmic vinaigrette and Mediterranean relish were almost too sweet, an unusual pairing with the artichoke.

We also enjoyed the crispy-crusted avocado with ceviche (bottom right, minus a few bites). The Dungeness crab-mango cones didn't quite live up to expectations -- not enough flavor of either crab or mango -- although I had to admire the presentation. The cone was a little sweet, like a waffle cone for ice cream, which suited the other flavors.

Then I tried a pork chop with apple-currant compote -- thickly cut, almost a little roast on the plate -- served with a yummy cheddar-jalopeno corn cake, like a very moist cornbread in consistency. I admired but did not sample the Muscovy duck confit, served over a mixed-bean cassoulet.

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