Down-Low Diner: Bistro Abrego
When I am searching for a new restaurant, eateries in hotels are usually not the first that come to mind. Not that I have anything against them, I just find they tend to gravitate towards standard menus that miss local culture and flare. After hearing that Bistro Abrego in Hotel Abrego hired a native Monterey chef, Marc Jones, I figured I would check out his Monterey County menu creations.
My friend and I arrived at the boutique Hotel Abrego with anticipations of a localvore menu. Once we stepped inside the hotel natural hues and dim lighting immediately provided a comfortable atmosphere that could make even a fugitive feel at ease. Bistro Abrego’s casual dining room was lit up by candlelight which gave the place a soothing feel, a wonderful touch to unwind after an active day. The seating area next to the cozy fireplace made the ambiance even more relaxing.
The menu was impressive and many of the ingredients were locally sourced; keywords like “Monterey Bay,” “Salinas Greens,” and “Gilroy Garlic” were scattered throughout the pages, definitely a localvores delight!
It was surprising to see an array of entrees on the menu ranging from fried chicken n’ waffles, bacon wrapped prawns to butternut squash and spinach ravioli. Hearing great things about their salmon I went ahead and ordered the Salmon En Papillote, a fancy way of saying salmon in parchment.
The steamed fish, fresh veggies and potatoes were presented in tightly wrapped parchment. You could smell the fresh herbs permeating from the rolled up paper before opening up the gift inside. Steam from the contents of this dish oozed to the surface further filling the air with flavor. The fish filet was certainly fresh and cooked to a moist perfection. The touch of herbs with a dab of olive oil added a crisp taste to the veggies and potatoes.
My friend ordered the Monterey Bay sand dabs which also came with an aroma to make your mouth water. The thin white fish came lightly breaded and seared with a dash of herbs and lemon zest. Unfortunately the flakey fish was devoured before I could snag a bite which means it must have been delicious.
While we were letting our savory seafood digest we began to debate on which of the ten desserts to choose from. The chef must have heard our squabble and came out to explain the dishes himself. Chef Marc Jones went through several of the sugary items up for grabs until he finally sold us on the bean pie and bread pudding.
Apparently the bean pie is known as a “comfort food” and Marc picked up his inspiration for the recipe during his time spent in the Oakland area. He noted that the sweet pie is actually made from cannellini beans with dashes of cinnamon; I was hesitant at first but it is always exciting to try something new.
A slice of the bean pie came out with decorative berries and a chocolate drizzle. The dense pie had a distinct taste but was very similar to a sweet potato or pumpkin pie, comforting indeed!
The vanilla bread pudding presentation was jaw-dropping. A hefty piece of warm bread pudding was swimming in a delectable vanilla cream sauce, this confection was the perfect way to end a relaxing meal.
What really makes this place unique is the driving passion in Bistro Abrego’s new chef. Marc’s local ties to the area are evident in his local ingredient choices and his love of the diners. It is rare nowadays to see a cook come out of the comfort of his kitchen to tell you about the day’s specials, how a particular dish is created or where you can go forging for mushrooms in Big Sur.
Keep your eye out for an upcoming “small bites” menu; I know I will!