an unusual step when it comes to one of the resort restaurant’s menus. For the dinner listing, he sources with care from local farms and gardens. Words like “hand-harvested,” “heirloom” and “seasonal” describe dishes. But Ladwig loosened his grip and allowed his veteran kitchen staff to develop the lunch menu. “There are places where it should be chef-centric, ego-driven,” he points out. But lunch is a more relaxed affair. And several of the line cooks have been with Sur House for more than 20 years. “They know what they are doing. They are going to cook what they like.” What they happen to like are tacos, quesadillas, wings, churrasco, burgers and other favorites—especially guacamole. “We’ve gone through every avocado known to man,” Ladwig says with a laugh. Although many of these hotel chefs have worked in Michelin Star kitchens in the past and share a devotion to ingredients and technique, their approaches vary. The first thing you notice about Ojeda’s menu at Lucia, for instance, is the utter lack of grandiloquence. There are no references to wild, hand caught, day boat or anything that may glorify the fresh seasonality. It’s just “king salmon,” “braised beef short rib” and so on. Ojeda saves loquaciousness for the plate. Slivers of strawberry tucked in an heirloom tomato carpaccio seem to launch the earthtone sweetness of fruit, while freshly spun mozzarella dissolves into an opulent finish—layered flavors that drape over the palate and engulf the senses. To bypass hotel restaurants in Monterey County is to miss out. For an hour-and-a-half at Coastal Kitchen, you are in communion with the succession of courses and the conversation they evoke. It’s not something so indistinct as “atmosphere” that envelopes diners. The meal—dining—is the entirety of the experience. Inn Crowd Coastal Kitchen DANIEL DREIFUSS 22 The Best of Monterey Bay® EAT + DRINK 2023-2024 43 Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey 831-288-6218 Homemade Ice cream, SHakeS & SundaeS MTYBayCreamery_1-3v_ED22_gk.indd 1 3/29/23 3:02 PM