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A Cannery Celebration

December 4, 2012

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post about The Cannery Seafood of the Pacific (see: The Cannery (yes, it actually used to be a real fish cannery!))  The post was a combination of several trips my husband and I had made to The Cannery, by ourselves for Sunday brunch, with my parents, with his parents, and to celebrate with our families the day we got married.  It’s been awhile since we last were at the Cannery, perhaps a year or more now.  Though, my husband has mentioned several times over the past few months wanting to go back to the Cannery one day for a meal.

Last week, as our anniversary was approaching, I asked my husband what we should do to celebrate the occasion.  He decided that we should go out for a nice meal.  Our anniversary happened to fall on Saturday this year, so we figured, we should probably choose a place and make reservations rather than flying by the seat of our pants because we may end up waiting quite awhile for a table if we just happened to show up at a restaurant on a Saturday night.  Luckily, we were able to get reservations.  I really liked the fact that we would be celebrating our anniversary at the same place we celebrated the day we got married.  It just kind of came full circle.  I was also excited because while we had been to the Cannery before for brunch and lunch, we’d never been for dinner before, so it would be interesting to see how dinner at the Cannery was different.

Unlike during other occassions we’re we’ve visited the Cannery, we were seated inside in their maining dining area.  The other times we’ve been, we’ve always been seated outside on their covered patio.  However, dining inside was quite nice.  It was actually kind of chilly outside near the harbor front, and even with heat lamps on the patio it was kind of nice to have the experience of dining iniside in a more intimate setting.  The inside of the restaurant was decorated with an ecclectic, but artfully designed space, filled wooden ships, and sails and other items that helped create a maritime motif, then there was the addition of large prize bottles of champagne that adorned various parts of the restaurant, and finally all of the light fixtures were funky and all very reminiscent of sea creatures.  It was the perfect setting for a harborside restaurant.

As my husband and I both wanted to taste as much as we could, we decided to each order our own appetizer.  I’m a sucker for crab cakes, as is my husband, so we had to order the crab cakes.  We had had the crab cakes before at the Cannery and loved it.  However, what we were unaware of before our visit, is that the Cannery was in the process of changing over the menu.  They just named a new Executive Chef who was unveiling a new menu and putting his own twist on some classic Cannery dishes.  At the time we had dinner there, their appetizer menu had just changed over 2 weeks prior and their entree menu would be changing over in a couple of weeks time.  So, we were about to taste the brand new crab cake appetizer.  According to the menu, the crab cake was served alongside a green papaya salad and a charred scallion aioli.  It sounded interesting.  When the appetizer was brought to the table, the waiter made a point of stating that he thought that the green papaya salad, or Thai-style salad as he called it, was almost as good, to him, as the crab cake was itself.  The green papaya salad was an intersting mix of shredded green papaya, Thai basil, cilantro, thin-sliced carrots and Thai bird chili which was then dressed with a sweet, vinegar dressing reminiscent of flavors you’d find in Thai cooking.  While this wasn’t an authentic Thai green papaya salad, it was a very good, and very delicious play on the green papaya salad.  And it was a very refreshing combination with the crab cake.  The charred scallion aioli that was underneath the 2 mini crab cakes on the dish was spectacular and full of flavor without being too overpowering.  The combination of eating the crab cake together with the refreshing, pallate-cleansing salad was spectacular.  The crab cake itself was perfectly seasoned and cooked, filled with crab meat and very little other filling, and fried to a crispy, golden brown, it was perfect.  I could have eaten this crab cake all day long.  I absolutely loved it.

My husband went outside the box and ordered something that I was eyeballing, but I never thought he would actually order.  It was also a dish I’d never seen on a resturant menu before – scallop carpaccio.  Certainly I’ve seen beef carpaccio before, but scallop was something different.  I would assume that’s why it caught my husband’s eye because it was such a unique dish.  According to the menu, it was served with a Peruvian yellow pepper vinaigrette, peanuts, cucumber sorbet and radish.  When it arrived at the table, it was visually stunning.  This gorgeous Peruvian yellow pepper sauce and the white, translucent scallop against the backdrop of a black plate.  One bite of this dish, and my husband was blown away.  The waiter said that this was probably his favorite appetizer on the menu.  My husband told me I had to give it a try.  Until the waiter pointed it out and explained how it was to be enjoyed, we weren’t quite sure the item in the center of the plate, behind the middle radish was.  My husband thought it was a mound of ice to keep the scallops cool.  Of course, we hadn’t really paid attention to what the menu had stated the scallop carpaccio was served with, nor did we remember.  The waiter told us that it was the cucumber sorbet; what we were supposed to do was have some of the scallop and then follow it up with a little bit of the sorbet.  The sorbet would act as a pallette cleanser, but also it would cool you down after some of the bite of the Peruvian yellow pepper vinaigrette.  Also, it was a cucumber sorbet because it was mild in flavor, yet refreshing on the pallette.  After we knew what to do, the whole dish just came together.  The scallop carpaccio was amazing.  The yellow pepper vinaigreet added punch and the microgreens added some texture.  Chase it all with the cucumber sorbet and this was an out-of-this-world dish.  My husband immediately proclaimed it the best dish he’s ever had.  And after he had finished the plate, he stated that if hadn’t already ordered an entree that was on its way, he would have ordered another plate of this scallop carpaccio.  Apparently for him, it was that good.

For his entree, my husband ordered the pan-seared Chilean sea bass.  My husband has an obsession with sea bass, whenever he sees it on the menu, he’s got to order it.  At the Cannery, the Chilean sea bass was served over confetti rice, with southwest vegetables and a citrus beurre-blanc.  The dish that was brought to the table looked stunning.  The confetti rice was essentially white rice with peas mixed into it.  On top of the rice was this gorgeous piece of pan-seared Chilean sea bass.  The southwest vegetables, which were mainly a variety of sauteed bell peppers was draped over the top of the sea bass, and the citrus beurre-blanc sauce was poured over the top of it.  As soon as my husband tasted the fish, he was in love.  He’s not normally a sauce type of person, he always asks for stuff dry, he doesn’t even like dressing on his salads, but for some reason, he really loved the beurre-blanc sauce.  He thought that that the sauce combined with the peppers really added pop and flavor and vibrance to the dish.  I tasted the fish and it was perfectly cooked.  Full of body and flavor, yet still light and flaky as good Chilean sea bass should be.  I knew he must have loved his dish because before I was halfway done with mine, he had cleaned off every inch of his plate.  Every piece of fish, all the peppers and every single grain of rice.  Incredible.

I decided to go with Brendon’s peppered filet mignon served with gorgonzola cheese potatoes au gratin and an armagnac peppercorn sauce.  I love peppercorn sauces for steaks and I am a huge pepper fan in general, so I thought this would be good.  And gorgonzola cheese potatoes au gratin sounded yummy.  The filet came to the table with the armagnac peppercorn sauce poured over the steak, a cube of the potatoes au gratin served alongside, and a few stalks of roasted asparagus.  One taste of the gorgonzola potatoes au gratin and it had me sold!  The gorgonzola was actually baked into the top layer of the potatoes au gratin, just under the crust.  The thing I like about dishes that are baked with gorgonzola is that the gorgonzola tends to become more mellow, rather than such a sharp, pronounced flavor.  And that is perfect for the potatoes au gratin, the gorgonzola compliments the potatoes rather than overpowers them.  The filet was tender, and juicy and flavor and cooked to a perfect medium rare.  It was delicious and filling, and the armagnac peppercorn sauce was the perfect compliment.  The peppercorns had a nice bite to them, which gave the filet a nice peppery flavor, but the sauce itself had a hit of sweetness to it form the armagnac, which was perfect.  Aside from the roasted asparagrus (which looked delicious, but I don’t like), I too, cleaned off my entire plate.  It was delicious.

german chocolate cake

Of course, now we come to the best part of the meal, dessert!  Our waiter told us that the Cannery employs two full-time pastry chefs that make all of their desserts from scratch.  When we tasted the desserts, you could really tell that the components of the dessert were all made from scratch on the premises.  Again, my husband and I each decided to order a different dessert so would could try what they had on hand.  In looking at the menu, I thought my husband would go for the trio of creme brulee, as one of the trio was a cinnamon creme brulee, and my husband has a weakness for cinnamon.  However, he surprised me by going for one of the last things on the menu I thought he’d order, the German chocolate cake.  My husband is not the biggest chocolate fan in the world, in fact, he generally isn’t a big fan of it at all, unless it’s really dark chocolate.  But, I guess he thought to himself that he could get creme brulee anywhere, if he wanted to taste how good a dessert was, he should go outside the box and order something he wouldn’t normally get.  The menu said that the German chocolate cake was served with a coconut-pecan cajeta frosting, and organic creme anglaise.  The plate came out with a piece of this incredible German chocolate cake resting on a bed of the creme anglaise, with chocolate sauce drizzled over the cake and running into the creme anglaise, topped with fresh whipped cream a raspberry and a spring of mint and dusted with cocoa powder.  My husband loved the coconut layers inside the cake, and said that for being chocolate cake, it wasn’t too bittersweet and it wasn’t too rich, which in his terms means it was pretty good.  It must have been pretty good since he ate the whole thing.

balboa sundae

One look at the menu, and I knew exactly what I was going to order, the Balboa sundae.  When a menu describes a dessert as a Balboa sundae served with vanilla bean ice cream, caramelized bananas, and drizzled chocolate, how could I resist?  If it has banana in it, I’m going to want to try it.  This stunning, long narrow plate came out to the table with sliced caramelized bananas topped with 2 scoops of homemade vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with crushed chocolate toffee candy pieces and spiked by a crispy wafer, the remaineder of the plate was drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and accompanied by fresh blackberries, blueberries raspberries and strawberries.  It’s one of the most gorgeous dessert presentations I’ve seen.  But the presentatio of the plate couldn’t hold a candle to the flavor of the dessert; it was amazingly good.  The caramelized bananas were done perfectly, and the homemade ice cream was absolutely delicious.  The cold ice cream sitting upon the hot caramelized bananas caused bits of the ice cream to kind of freeze and caramelize too, it was a neat effect.  The chocolate and caramel sauce with the fresh fruit was a nice sweet accompaniement to the dessert.  The name Balboa sundae is an homage to nearby Balboa Island, just off the coast of Newport Beach, which is believed to have invented both the frozen banana, which is a banana on a stick, frozen and dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings, and the Balboa bar dessert which is a rectangle of vanilla ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings.  Whatever the dessert was named for, you can just call it delicious.

dessert

The Cannery was a wonderful place to celebrate a special occassion.  The food was visually stunning, but also amazingly delicious.  The atmosphere was cozy, fun and intimate all at the same time.  And the service was superb.  You can bet that when the restaurant changes over to their new entree menu in a couple of weeks, my husband and are going to want to go back and taste the offerings of the new Executive Chef’s dinner entrees.  If his entrees are half as spectacular as his appetizers, I’m going to want to go and dine at the Cannery all of the time!  This could be dangerous…

 

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