Mr. K and I headed south over the weekend to Pacific Grove, a lovely coastal town on the very tip of the scenic Monterey Peninsula, which is famous for its annual Monarch butterfly migration in the spring. We took advantage of the off-season rates and were stoked to find it sunny and warm both days we were there. Pacific Grove has a relaxed small town feel about it and is surrounded by so much stunning natural beauty. It provides entrance to the 17-mile drive, is minutes to gorgeous Point Lobos and the rugged Carmel cliffs where we like to hike. I had only one restaurant recommendation on the agenda, at the unhiply named Fandango Restaurant, which turned out to be a few short blocks from our inn. The menu features classic European style cuisine made from locally sourced produce. Much of the food is cooked over a wood-burning grill, which had a central location in the dining room where we were seated. The atmosphere was intimate and romantic with a stone fireplace blazing along the rear wall.
Crusty slices of soft baguette with butter and a dish of briny kalamata olives were brought out along with our beverages. Mr. K had his holiday party at the office that afternoon and wasn’t very hungry so we split a few dishes. The fresh giant Sea Scallops (12.75) appetizer were sauteed in lemon butter and had an aggressively seared exterior, but were tender within. The rich buttery sauce was made for dipping bread into…
Onion Soup Gratinee ($8.95), a traditional baked French onion soup. The broth was very good and richly flavored, topped with a pillow of rustic bread and covered with a thick layer of gooey melted cheese (that I almost choked on… must be careful).
The assorted greens with vinaigrette ($6.95) was crisp and fresh, but Mr. K thought the dressing was bland. Poor guy, he was recovering from a cold and his tastebuds were about halfway there. I hate that…
The sole purpose for our visit was the Couscous Lamb Shank Algeria ($26.95). A coworker swore that she comes here for this dish alone.
It was a fantastic stew made with slow cooked tender lamb shank, fresh vegetables, spicy merguez sausage and full of complex and mysterious North African flavors.
It is served with fluffy couscous, the tiny pasta-like grains that are a staple of North Africa sprinkled with tender garbanzo beans and green peas.
You spoon the spicy stew over couscous, throw in some stewed raisins and toasted almonds and mix the fiery harrisa to taste. It was deeply flavorful and full of zesty contrasts of sweet, savory and spicy, and enjoyable textures, making me an instant fan of couscous, which I’ve had before but this version really made an impression on my tastebuds.
After eating something like that, I didn’t need dessert… Vance, thank you for the recommendation, I can’t stop thinking about that couscous either!