Chef Jason Franey transforms Monterey’s Restaurant 1833 into its best incarnation yet

Restaurant 1833’s Warm Radicchio Salad with oranges, pecans, pomegranate seeds, Gorgonzola dressing

Restaurant 1833’s Warm Radicchio Salad with oranges, pecans, pomegranate seeds, Gorgonzola dressing

I can’t recommend Restaurant 1833’s revamped menu highly enough—my recent dinner there was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time.

Restaurant 1833 closed for a few days in March so that Chef Jason Franey and his staff could perfect their new menu. This extra effort paid off, as customers have been gushing about the results.  “Since the re-launch of the restaurant, I have never seen as many locals, restaurateurs and chefs coming day after day to the restaurant to eat and re-eat the food multiple times,” says manager Kyle Beauregard.

During Pebble Beach Food & Wine in April, several world-renowned chefs dined at the restaurant. “We loved seeing their reaction when trying the food and being engulfed in the atmosphere, from the mood set by service staff to our cocktails and off-menu housemade amaro and Limoncellos. It is really rewarding seeing all the hard work of the chef and our staff paying off.”

The restaurant is the former site of Gallatin’s, which in its heyday attracted people like Harry Truman and Frank Sinatra. In 1996 it became the restaurant Stokes Adobe, and it became Restaurant 1833 in 2011. Three years later, it began transforming into its current, dare-I-say-best, incarnation to date by hiring Chef Franey (December 2014) and bringing in new wine director Bernabe De Luna Lopez.

“The local community and staff have been very supportive of the change that we went through and having that energy, excitement, and compliments from people, who have been eating in this establishment since it was Gallatin’s, has been most rewarding,” says Beauregard.

Chef Franey has cooked at Eleven Madison Park and Campton Place, and his last restaurant position was at Seattle’s Canlis. Franey was there when Food & Wine named him Best New Chef in 2011. He’s also a three-time James Beard Award finalist and a Relais & Châteaux “Grand Chef.” From the very first taste of his food, it’s obvious why he has received this praise, and why we should expect more awards in the future.

The main menu has three sections: Nibble, Nosh, and Dine. We started with Oysters from Nibble. Four Shigoku oysters served on the half shell were topped with white balsamic granita. Delicate fennel frond garnishes provided a beautiful and delicious juxtaposition; I appreciated this attention to detail.

I noticed the oysters (and the rest of dinner, actually) were served on stunning, very solid dishware, which the restaurant partnered with New Jersey-based ceramics designer Jono Pandolfi to create. When I asked Beauregard to name his favorite part of the restaurant revamp, he replied “Everything! From the beginning stages where we were designing the plateware, to meeting with the local historian to learn not just about the restaurant but also about the Peninsula itself from the mid 1800’s through mid 1900’s.”

We chose well from the Nosh section. Fire Roasted Sunchokes were vibrant, both visually and sensually.  Roasted Brussels sprouts played a key role in this dish, as did togarashi (Japanese spice blend) and “sunchoke sabayon” (a twist on the usual sabayon sauce made with champagne or white wine). Next, my Warm Radicchio Salad contained ingredients including spiced candied pecans and pomegranate seeds. The textures successfully complemented each other, as did the contrasting flavors (bitter greens, sweet pecans, etc.). I liked how Chef Franey placed the Gorgonzola dressing as the foundation of the dish. It provided great flavor without being overpowering or causing the ingredients to get soggy.

Our waiter suggested Buffalo Style Sweetbreads. I was hesitant, having never eaten sweetbreads, but I am so glad I trusted his guidance. The fried sweetbreads, accompanied by a smoked mango and Piquillo pepper sauce, blue cheese, celery, and pickled carrots, were divine. The preparation makes it unintimidating for novices like me. Beauregard says that both the sweetbreads and the signature 1833 Burger have been getting rave reviews and are “friendly to those looking for the familiar but also appeal to the foodies with the intricate techniques and uses of ingredient.” The burger, with fermented cucumbers, Vermont sharp white cheddar, tomato confit, and grilled red onions, is served with sauerkraut-dusted steak fries and aioli.

For entrees, we shared 48-Hour Beef Short Ribs and Salmon. The short ribs were incredibly tender, with a rich and flavorful sauce. Accompaniments included creamy polenta. Chef Franey’s salmon was hands-down one of the most moist, perfectly cooked pieces of fish that I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and the sauce was exquisite. It included saffron, baby Castroville artichokes, and clams.

Restaurant 1833’s setting is a two-story adobe house with several rooms, originally built in 1833. The atmosphere is interesting – the night I was there, several families were dining upstairs while there was a lively bar crowd near the main entrance. This all seemed to co-exist in a fluid way.

For the new menu, Ben Spungin created desserts such as Cookie Jar (variety of treats, sweets, and cookies) and family-style Butterscotch Trifle (serves 6-8 people!) with butterscotch pudding, banana, rum-soaked vanilla cake, almonds, whipped cream and meringue. I selected decadently satisfying Chocolate Cremeux with chocolate cake, blackberry meringue, and a unique coriander caramel. Spungin serves as corporate pastry chef for Coastal Luxury Management, the owner of Restaurant 1833 as well as Cannery Row Brewing Company.

There are many new aspects to the wine and cocktails menus, including a tableside martini cart, and a No Whey cocktail made with a whey byproduct from chef Franey’s housemade ricotta, balanced with cognac, lemon and simple syrup to create a sweet, salty and nutty cocktail.

Restaurant 1833 is at 500 Hartnell St. Call 831-643-1833 or visit restaurant1833.com.

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