Mark C. Anderson, The Monterey County Weekly
Local sourcing has become a requirement in the current epicurean area, deliciously enough.
Still, the about-to-open Beach House at Lovers Point (375-2345) employed that ethic with rather exceptional enthusiasm in selecting a chef.
Le Cordon Bleu-trained Christopher Groves not only grew up in Pacific Grove—his kids are fifth generation—he bussed tables at Sardine Factory with Bill Lee (and later cheffed under Robert Mancuso), worked with Mary Pagan at Culinary Center of Monterey, evolved his French skills at David Fink’s Bouchee and helped Firok Shield with his Da Giovanni trilogy by opening Bistro Beaujolais.
But it gets better, and even closer to home, as he points out the window at the Lovers Point pool that is getting rehabbed at the same time the Beach House passes its last health code inspection and Groves tutors his sous chefs on the menu.
“I learned how to swim in that pool,” he says. “The [Lovers Point] break is my favorite [surf] wave. I love to dive the cove too.”
As Beach House anticipation reaches a fever pitch—and the tally of days since the first intended opening date approach 400—Groves concedes he’s not exactly eager to get too connected to locals at the moment.
“Sometime I feel like I need to take my [Beach House] jacket off when I go outside,” he says. “People are ready for us to open.”
Smart money avoids any bets on when the actual official date is, but let’s hope by July 4 soft openings are well underway—and that’s not unrealistic as perishables have already started to arrive for prep practice and trainings.
Connection to place will figure in prominently, beyond the big windows in the sleek bar area and atrium-style main dining room, and the lookout from the heated-floor patio. Fascinating historic photos were arriving as Groves described his influences—portraits of Pacific Grove’s beachy heartbeat when rickety restaurants dotted its cliffs and when Eastern-style skiffs occupied its harbors included.
Around the corner, the kitchen is immaculate. “They definitely didn’t cut corners,” Groves says.
City rules dictate it’s a dinner-only operation, but an early bird/sunset menu kicks in at 4pm with five or six specials for $10.90. The sublime locals’ deals at sister spot Abalonetti’s (373-1851), also owned and managed by Jim Gilbert and Kevin Phillips, bode very well for big value. Even on the entree lineup, only two plates tip past $20.
“We’re not targeting tourists,” Groves says. “My kids are fifth generation of my family here. We have to have locals price points.
The 125-person capacity includes deck seating that will benefit from heated floors and inferred heat lamps that only warm up bodies (and not flatware).
Groves is eager to tune diners into dynamic nightly dishes to balance the casual local focus. He cites his classic French training at CIA and Bouchee and his grandma’s Japanese heritage as a fertile fusion-friendly base for inventive plates.
While an antique Lovers Point Drive-Inn Restaurant menu including $1.50 “native abalone steak” and $1.85 broiled lobster will hang from the wall, Groves’ house specialty will be a Feast of Laterns firecracker shrimp dredged tossed in creamy sweet Thai sauce.
Raw oysters, baked oysters, casual California fare, a strong burger and a rack of lamb with a coffee rub will all come into play. Groves’ background as a forager—he still hunts locally and even ships shrooms to colleagues and friends across the country under the Wild Mushrooms of Monterey label—won’t hurt either.
“People shouldn’t expect the fine dining old Bath House, classical French,” he says. “That’s not us.”
But they should expect something worth the wait.