MONTEREY'S FISH HOUSE IT REALLY IS WHERE THE LOCALS GO
When you do the food thing people turn to you to help find places to eat, which, when they are in San Francisco, is something I can do. Thing is, even when you go out of town folks still ask if you can find a place and this is where it becomes a bit of a challenge. Such was the case on a recent trip to Monterey Bay with the SO and his folks. I hadn't been there in a while and the few places I remembered were on the wharf area that the tourists go to (much like Fisherman's Wharf here) and they were just okayish. Thus I feverishly poured over every food website and review I could find to try and figure out what would be a good place to chow down. Eventually I stumbled across this place called Monterey's Fish House (oddly no website for these folks, but then they don't seem to need it).
Off the beaten track and far removed from the Cannery Row hustle and bustle, we nearly drove past the place on our first pass. A few days before we had come down I'd called and asked about reservations and the guy on the phone was like sure we've got room thus I had him put us down for 4 folks. He seemed pretty blasé and I was...um...okay. Of course when we got there the place was packed and I was glad I had made a reservation. Turns out this was one of the places to go for seafood in town from the locals to random tourist (like us) if you don't mind waiting or made a reservation. It's a relatively small space that I'd call intimately homey.
We were a little early but it didn't take too long to get seated, just enough time to go over the menu and decide what we wanted. Once seated we got warm bread and soft butter which immediately made me like the place. After placing our order the food came relatively quickly considering how busy the they were. I went with the oak grilled snapper.
Grilled red snapper with sautéed vegetables and penne pasta. Snapper is something I hadn't tasted in ages, the fish brings up childhood memories from when our family would vacation at the coast and go out ocean fishing, catch red snapper, then bring them back, steam them and cover them in butter. These weren't quite like that but the sweet flavor of the fish was the same and the flavor of the oak grill was really nice. The large portion of fish was perfectly cooked, flaky, fresh and no bones! Kudos for filleting. Slightly crispy along the edges and lightly seasoned to let the flavor of the fish shine through. It had a bit of green pesto chutney on top that, well, tasted green. I liked it more mixed with the pasta as opposed to the fish. The sides while not spectacular were still decent and cooked well. The vegetables had a little bit of crunch and weren't overcooked and the pasta was pleasantly al dente with a light cream sauce. Good sides, tasty compliments, but it's the fish that stands out in this dish.
The SO got the prawn pasta. Prawns sautéed in vodka cream sauce with tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, and red peppers on a bed of house made pasta. Again, perfectly cooked al dente pasta in a lovely light cream sauce with a generous portion of tender yet firm large prawns. This was a well balanced, flavorful dish and we even used the bread to soak up some of the sauce. Garlicky, cheesy, creamy, what more could you ask for--besides more bread. There was also a spoonful of that pesto-ish thing again, I think it was a running theme on all the dishes for the evening. All around a well executed dish.
Between these dishes and the bread (and the glasses of wine--they actually had a great Reisling) we were full and skipped dessert. Yeah, I know, I skipped a dessert, go figure. But really, the fresh off the boat seafood (literally) is the thing here and because they cook it just right, it's no wonder the place is packed on a Wednesday night. I guess the old saying holds true (most of the time) if the locals like then you will too. We all enjoyed it and if you happen to be in the Monterey Bay area they are worth dining at--though make a reservation--it's highly recommended.