The first stop on our mini road trip was to the aquarium in Monterey, which I might add lived up to the hype. You should know we planned this trip by the seat of our pants, and that is no exaggeration. We got in the car and drove, no plans for lodging, dining, etc. As the evening approached we used what little battery life our phones had left to sift through the plethora of hotel deals. We ended up staying at The Intercontinental in Monterey located on Cannery Row, also known as the “touristy” part of town. While the hotel was great, I like to find hidden gems within the places I travel, so I was adamant that we eat at a restaurant outside of this area.
After driving only about 15 minutes away through the back streets of local neighborhoods we arrived at jeninni kitchen + wine bar in Pacific Grove. As we walked in I knew this place was going to be good! The atmosphere was relaxed, with a wine bar nestled in the back next to a partially open kitchen for an intimate feel. Chef Jeffrey Weiss offers a contemporary take on the cuisines of the Mediterranean coast, more specifically the South of Spain, serving up food Tapas style with small plates.
To start off we ordered the cheese plate, and then a few of the small plates to share so that we could experience as much of the menu as possible! Everything was off the chart − the flavorful lamb meatballs were reminiscent of my Mediterranean college travels, and the crispy octopus served with Calabrian chile for an added kick accompanied by an intriguing lemon mermelada was absolute perfection!
The two standouts for me were the shawarma pork buns and the eggplant fries, these dishes were unlike anything I have ever tasted. The pork buns are a twist on your classic pork bun with some taco flair, topped with pomegranate molasses and chiles for the ideal combination of sweet and spicy at the same time. As for the eggplant fries there is not much to say, but they are perfectly crispy on the outside with a sweet-salty-spicy flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Served with a side of honey aioli dipping sauce, I would come back just for these beauties!
Perhaps I need to give dessert a second chance here, but I was not a big fan of the goats milk flan with brown butter-peanut dukkah. The food here is definitely stellar, however, I would have rather ordered another small plate instead of a dessert. Although, the spiced chocolate tart did sound pretty tasty…I guess I will just have to come back and try the rest of the menu! Don’t forget to ask for a look at Chef Weiss’ charcuterie book.
jeninni kitchen + wine bar
542 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Phone: (831) 920-2662 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org