Carmel Valley’s Bernardus Lodge has long been a one-two punch in the luxury hotel/fine dining department. Chef Cal Stamenov’s cooking at the property’s Lucia Restaurant is the valley’s crown jewel, and while the hotel remained opened for essential workers throughout the pandemic lockdown, and re-opened safely with limited services as soon as allowed, it is really now that Stamenov’s menus are taking flight.
An ahi appetizer on the new Oceans 21 menu at Lucia Restaurant.
The master chef’s specialty is elevating the art of simplicity — he starts with the highest-quality ingredients, many of them grown just outside the restaurant in the two-acre garden or provided by local farmers — by complementing an elemental ingredient with its perfect amplifiers. Case in point: fried oysters with yuzu and Meyer lemon curd. This dish is the essence of the sea as it intersects with the citrus whose blossoms perfume the spring air in pockets of the valley. Or consider the local Monterey abalone with with an onion carbonara and enoki mushroom-seaweed butter (the seaweed sourced from Moss Beach in the Bay Area).
In fact, seaweed is the name of the umami game on this destination seafood menu, especially the local seaweed salad with edamame and hamachi sashimi dressed with a lime-ginger emulsion…