Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Portola Restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium #2

This week is Spring Break for the kids so off we went to Grandma's, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and lunch at The Portola Restaurant. The menu is always a treat that makes the most of seasonal and local produce and, naturally, make seafood choices for healthy oceans.

Our meal started with the bread basket above. The cheesy crackers are spicy and addictive! Bread is served with butter, EVOO, and butter with charmoula.

Nearby Castroville is known as "the artichoke capital of the world", so it's no surprise that artichokes feature prominently on the menu. Being an artichoke lover who always prepares her artichokes in the exact same way, I nevertheless can't resist an inventive artichoke dish. Happily, there was an Artichoke Tasting dish on the menu:

Left to right: Grilled Artichoke with Artichoke Pesto and Crispy Shallots; Marinated Artichoke with Preserved Lemon and Almonds; Poached Artichoke and Fennel Marmalade with Midnight Moon Cheese and Tomato Confit (a close-up of this below). They were all delicious and I'd loved the Midnight Moon Cheese! Other delicious sounding starters included:Three Cheese, Fava Bean and Morel Mushrroms Raviolis (with Roasted Fiddlehead Ferns) and Cypress Grove Fog Light Goat Cheese Salad (with charred asparagus, roasted beets, and mâche).

Although the menu's focus is on seafood, three of the entrées were vegetarian. I chose the Pan Seared Marinated Tofu with Fava Bean Stuffed Artichoke Heart, Vidalia Onion and Sugar Snap Salad, and Minted English Pea Puree:

The stuffed artichoke heart was superb!

I really enjoyed the combination of the soft juicy onions with the crisp julienned snap peas.

My only issue was there wasn't much tofu, so it seemed overwelmed by the onion salad. That said it was very tasty, inventive, and attractively presented. The two other vegetarian entrées were Vegetarian Whte Bean and Spinach Salad (with English peas, zucchini madeleines and tomato vinaigrette) and Dandelion Greets and Beet Top Strudel (with herb ricotta, swiss chard, and trumpet royal mushroom).

And, of course, dessert...

This beauty had a crunchy chocolate crust, a chocolate-caramel cream filling, and caramel ice cream.

I highly recommend you enjoy the Portola Restaurant on your next visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's a wonderful location and the food is really exceptional. And, check out this special event, Cooking for Solutions, that the aquarium is hosting in May.

Here's my post from last year's visit.


Blogger Chris said...

Great post! I have to forward this to my sister and tell her to go. Thanks!

1:12 PM  
Blogger aquaken said...

Glad you enjoyed the meal! The Portola always has at least one vegetarian and one vegan entree on the restaurant menu, and vegetarian appetizers. The desserts are created by our in-house pastry chef & her team, and the ice cream and sorbets are homemade in our kitchens.

Bon Appetit Management, which runs the Portola Cafe, is also championing a Low-Carbon Diet -- sourcing food in North America to reduce shipping, auditing its kitchens for energy efficiency and other steps. Their website,, has more details.

Ken Peterson, Communications Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium

9:00 AM  
Blogger Cooking said...

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5:59 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Oh wow, I had no idea the Portola Restaurant had so much to offer! My husband and I just moved to Monterey, and we're actually only a couple blocks away from the aquarium. After seeing this review I can't wait to go try them out!

9:36 PM  

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