By Elaine Hesser, The Californian
The Beach House Restaurant at Lovers Point has been up and running for a little over 6 months now. To say it’s hit its stride would be an understatement. Kevin Phillips, who with partner Jim Gilbert completely gutted and renovated the property, said the staff privately refers to the hours of their reduced-price “sunset menu” as the “sunset slam.” But before rushing headlong into the — well, rush — let’s briefly review the saga that brought us here.
Way back in the Victorian era, there was a real bath house on the site where locals could indulge in an indoor hot salt water soak. It was eventually supplanted by Slats Rooftop Dining, a boxy structure that didn’t quite fit in with the older houses in the neighborhood. In 1975, entrepreneur David Bindel leased the property from the City of Pacific Grove, built a faux Victorian structure over Slats, and the Old Bath House was born. It became a model of elegance and fine dining. People came back year after year to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and graduations. In 2005, the lease was up for renewal and a bitter conflict arose between Bindel and the City over who would pay for renovations to make the building accessible to guests with disabilities. Ultimately, the Bath House closed and the building lay empty for six years.
Enter Gilbert and Phillips, who negotiated a new lease with Pacific Grove and began renovating the property. As any homeowner who’s set out to do a simple renovation knows, there is no such thing as a “simple” renovation. There are always more problems than you expect. Still, the process plowed on. In 2012, they hung a banner on the side of the building that said the restaurant was “coming soon (we promise).”
Meanwhile, Gilbert and Phillips donated $10,000 to help rehabilitate the community swimming pool just outside the restaurant, and added new public restrooms, working with Pacific Grove to revitalize the Lovers Point area. And at the tail end of June this year, the restaurant’s doors opened. Over 100 seats were quickly filled — and filled again, and again, night after night. The kitchen is led by the dynamic duo of Brianna Sammut and Guillaume D’Angio — co-executive chefs and happy couple both in and out of the kitchen. Phillips’ son, Jeremy, is the General Manager.
What keeps the crowds coming? First, there’s the Sunset Supper menu. For $9.90, diners can choose from among a half-dozen entrees, like bacon-wrapped meat loaf and sole almondine. For just $2.90 more, diners can add soup, house salad or Caesar. A glass of house wine or Lovers Point Ale on tap? Also $2.90. You have to be seated by 5:30 p.m. and order by 6 p.m. to enjoy this offer.
If the panoramic views of Monterey Bay are a feast for the eyes, the food is a feast for body and soul. Firecracker Shrimp, the restaurant’s signature appetizer, was named in a nod to the Feast of Lanterns. Small shrimp coated in a sweet, ruby-red sauce are warmed by just a touch of chile. Black and white sesame seeds are sprinkled on top, and the shrimp rest on a crisp shredded salad with a sesame oil dressing. Oysters come either on the half-shell or oven roasted. Pan-seared scallops are smoky and sweet — and cooked so they’re perfectly tender. There’s a selection of salads, which can be made into meals with the addition of chicken, salmon or shrimp. If you like mushrooms, you should try the mushroom ravioli in Parmesan walnut cream sauce. The crunch of the walnuts really brings the dish together and accents the earthy, sherry-accented mushroom filling. There are ample choices from land and sea, ranging from a burger with Parmesan fries for $12.90 to a filet mignon and lobster tail combo for $54. On the dessert menu, the lemon tart with meringue combines the citrusy sourness of the lemon filling with a thin layer of sweet meringue on a crumbly graham cracker crust, while the rich chocolate pot de crème is accented with raspberries. There’s a full bar with specialty cocktails like the Chatauquatini and PG 77 (a riff on the French 75). Service is efficient but not rushed.
Oh, and those crowds? Make reservations — although if you just decide to drop in, it’ll be worth the wait.
Elaine Hesser is a food/freelance writer who lives in Salinas. Contact her at:email@example.com.
Beach House Restaurant at Lovers Point, 620 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove. Phone: 831-375-2345, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.beachhousepg.com.