Monterey, California, January 25, 2014—
WHAT, YOU WILL SAY, surely you're in a rut, Charles. I can only agree, but plead in my defense that I'm a red-blooded American boy, and I need my red corpuscles. Besides, I've been reading about Alexander the Great, and while I have no illusions I'm in that company, still, he's pretty inspiring, and an occasional beefsteak did him no harm.
So here we are finally back toward our end of the state, dining in a restaurant recommended by a San Francisco newspaper whose critic suggested there was something French in the pedigree — and I was ready for something fairly traditional and French.
I began, though, with a Caesar salad (perhaps an ironic subconscious influence of Alexander's), and was pleased to find it only a tiny bit revisionist. The Romaine was chopped; the anchovies were white boquerones, there were a very few quite tiny chopped bits of sun-dried tomatoes in the mix. But I could swear the dressing involved raw egg, or at least coddled egg; there was a whisper of lemon juice I thought; the whole thing had a nice texture and mélange of flavors.
Then I ordered the steak. Grass-fed; ten-ounce; grillec — not quite as rare as I'd expect, having ordered it rare, but not far off the mark. It came on a bed of roasted potatoes and winter vegetables: butternut squash (good boy that I am, I ate all that first, to get it out of the way), cauliflower, carrot. The red-wine sauce wasn't as buttery as it might be, but did taste of shallot. The steak was not as good as last night's rib-eye: neither the animal itself, nor the cut, nor the execution. But it grew in goodness as I continued to eat, and I much preferred this place to yesterday's.
We are in Monterey, first capital of the state, and something about this place made me at home. Old California; steers; wood; Mexican-Americans. I'd come back here any time.
Pinot noir, Canyon Road, 2012
• Market Restaurant, 2339 (North) Fremont Street, Monterey; 831.373.2200