For as long as I can remember, the Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, CA was a place we’d go on the weekends to see sea lions, shop like tourists and where my parents would eat fine seafood. As a picky child, I would order burgers and grilled cheese, and I’d look forward to the sweets at the two fabulous candy stores, but now that I’ve extended my palate I love heading to the wharf and taking in the fabulous cuisine of all the restaurants that are there.
Last week my husband and I had the amazing opportunity to dine-around two awarding-winning restaurants that I look forward to sharing with you and venturing back to in the future! Midway down the wharf you will find Cafe Fina, known for it’s homemade pasta and seafood specialties, this restaurant was also made famous on the Food Network when Rachael Ray stopped in and dined on her show $40 a Day! Walking into the restaurant you find a cozy, yet welcoming space with photos on the walls that include Ray and many other celebrities, you immediately know you’re in a great company.
We were taken upstairs to a corner table that overlooked the sunset on the harbor and we were delighted with a sea lion show below and were amazed at the millions of jelly fish visible. It was a Thursday night and the restaurant had quite a crowd, another good sign. We were greeted by the wonderful Roxanne who let us know that we’d be enjoying our first few courses there then would be taken over to Domenico’s across the wharf for our next selections and dessert. Roxanne was a delight, very attentive and full of rich history of the restaurant as well as the food preparation.
We were started with fresh french bread and homemade garlic butter they make in the restaurant, and sadly do not sell. If they had, I’d buy it in bulk, spread on warm bread the scent was pleasantly pungent and the taste creamy and delicious. Soon after our Heirloom Caprese came out, and I was shocked at the size of the home-grown tomatoes! Topped with soft fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, basil, oil and an anchovy, I immediately dipped my bread and soaked up all the goodness before I took to the tomato which was juicy and perfectly ripe. My husband headed straight for the anchovy that was a signature salty touch to this italian favorite.
Knowing much more was coming our way, we held off on too much bread and soon the Mussels arrived. Cooked perfectly, the mussels were tender not chewy and were in a tasty wine and tomato sauce with a kick, perfect for bread dipping as well!
This restaurant has a great bar and lounge area for those wanting to start the night off with a drink, if you’re a sports fan you can also sit on a couch by the fire and watch the game before or after dinner! Both restaurants are so relaxed, you need not be dressed to the nines, but can expect high quality service throughout your evening. My husband ordered some local wine from the gracious Burgess, and our next course was served, Pasta Capri, a Domenico’s original featuring baby bay shrimp, fresh tomatoes, black olives and green onions over linguini in a butter and clam broth. This dish was light but full of flavor with a generous portion of shrimp, and felt like a hearty soup. I will order this dish next time!!
Our last course was something that was new to me. My dad has been making, smoking, and eating salmon for years and I have never had it until this evening. We were treated with the Cedar Plank Wild Sockeye Salmon, which by this time of the evening we were feeling really full from all the fabulous dishes. Cooked directly atop the cedar plank above rosemary and topped with a honey glaze, my first experience with salmon was amazing. The fish was so moist and melted in your mouth. I anticipated a “fishier” flavor, but experience the complete opposite. Lastly, Roxanne returned from the sister restaurant and delighted us with more history of the dessert we were presented, cream puffs, a recipe given to the owners from a local bakery that has since closed.
Our experience could not have been any better, we sampled some of the two restaurant’s best dishes and left satisfied in more ways than one. The service was impeccable and the food was fresh and has made us fans for life. We’re proud to have had the experience and hope you will visit on your next trip to Monterey, CA!
Our meal was compensated in exchange for our tried-and-true experience, thank you David, James, Roxanne, Burgess and the staff of Cafe Fina and Domenico’s.