Shadowbrook is a complex restaurant—it has received accolades for being everything from “Most Romantic Restaurant” (as reported by many newspapers, magazines, and web sites) to “Top 10 Places Nationwide for Dining With Kids Near the Beach” (from USA Today). But there is a simple fact that hasn’t changed during its 67-year history: Shadowbrook serves top-notch food accompanied by stellar service.
My husband and I recently dined at Shadowbrook, and it didn’t disappoint. From the moment we began walking down the winding path through the garden, we were transported to an enjoyable evening (patrons can also choose to take the old-fashioned cable car—a Shadowbrook trademark—which we did on the way back; it’s fun and nostalgic).
I want to commend Shadowbrook for something I noticed as soon as I opened the menu. There is a card with a list of some of the local farms and fish/meat/egg/etc. vendors used for that evening’s menu. I am aware that many restaurants use nearby resources, but it’s good that Shadowbrook takes the time to rotate this card regularly and give props to some of our great farmers and suppliers. The other night these included Andy Boy Farms in Salinas, Bay Area Herb Co. in Half Moon Bay, Driscoll Farms in Watsonville, Skuna Bay Salmon in Monterey, Far West Fungi in San Francisco, New Natives Farm in Freedom, and Glaum Cage-Free Egg Ranch in Aptos.
Our waiter Andrew was attentive throughout the night. He answered questions with lots of details, and enthusiasm, and was happy to make recommendations when requested. As our dinner went on, I overheard diners at the next table asking many, many questions. He accommodated them with a gracious demeanor, and I could hear him creating combinations that weren’t on the menu to make the customers happy. I also learned interesting bits of culinary information through their conversation; for example, the mashed potatoes served with the scallop dish are prepared with the butter that the restaurant’s lobster is poached in. so if you order the scallop dish, know you’ll be getting extra-decadent spuds! (If you look at the menu, as I did later at home via the Shadowbrook website, you’ll see this described as ‘lobster infused-whipped potato’).
The salmon cake appetizer is prepared with a choice of styles: Pacific Rim or California. We chose Pacific Rim. Similar to a crabcake in presentation and texture, it was served atop sea greens, accompanied by julienned vegetables sautéed in miso plus ginger-wasabi and Ponzu sauces. It was a wonderful way to start the evening as the flavors really got my appetite primed.
I also recommend the seared ahi starter. The fish was absolutely fresh, and just slightly seared to a perfect rare temperature. The appearance was similar to a small sushi roll; instead of rice, there was a tempura-type crust. The batter was thin, light and crisp. The ahi was beautifully displayed on a tray that had three sections for sauce: the first two were the same as the aforementioned salmon cake sauce duo, while the third was a pickled ginger-coconut-cream. Andrew recommended mixing the first two for a sweet-spicy blend; that really made the flavors pop. I also ate a couple pieces dipped into the ginger-coconut sauce and enjoyed that combination.
I ordered the local baby greens salad and added goat cheese; the cheese was creamy and wonderful. Dried apple rings and toasted walnuts packed a flavorful crunch, and vinaigrette featuring white balsamic and pear puree created a nice balance. There was also a small amount of thinly sliced, fresh delicious apple, and I would have enjoyed more of this.
For my entrée, I chose one of the evening’s specials, a butter-poached single rock lobster tail. It was a very generous portion, and the lobster meat was sweet and melted in my mouth. My husband enjoyed his entrée “The Butcher’s Steak.” The red wine reduction added a depth and richness to the herb- and pepper-encrusted medallions, and the accompanying onion-bacon tart with warm, flaky pastry really complemented the tender meat.
The Gizdich Ranch olallieberry pie with Marianne’s vanilla bean ice cream definitely tempted me on the dessert menu, but I was unfortunately just too full. During past trips to Shadowbrook, I have savored the Chocolate Meltdown: rich molten cake served with that same vanilla ice cream. Truly worth the indulgence! The crème brulee is also a favorite among Shadowbrook customers.
Executive Chef Roger Gowen has been with Shadowbrook since 2012. He was promoted from Sous Chef in 2014, and is very grateful for his Shadowbrook position. Also, he’s excited that he and his team are going to make a few changes to the menu soon, including adding some lighter summer dishes and “bringing back some of the oldie-but-still-delicious entrees.” “I love and enjoy coming to work every day,” he says. He gets to utilize his “…passion and dedication for cooking and making people’s experience here at the Shadowbrook the most joyous and memorable it can be.” This passion definitely comes through in the eyes (and stomach) of this diner!