I am a December baby (Birthdate: 12/18) and fuss like a wet kitten every year if my husband and closest friends do not properly adulate me on that date. My loved ones know this and go out of their way to ensure I have a proper birthday dinner. I don’t envy them this task as my food critic profession makes me difficult to impress me with culinary delights. This year, everyone received gold stars as the food, atmosphere, wine and company exceeded all my expectations at the Granada Bistro in San Luis Obispo.
The artsy lighted tree, opulent heaters and warm welcome from the staff, instantly dazzled us. This place looked like it stepped out of a Woody Allen film for its drama and elegance. Gary snagged our waiter, Matthew and ordered for the whole group. He also told him to give me a menu of what we ate so I could enjoy my meal and not be scribbling the whole time. My friends brought epic magnums from Grey Wolf Winery (a Petite Sirah and a Tempranillo). But we started with Matthews’s suggestion of a sparkling cava from Spain, which was wonderful.
Our first course was the charcuterie platter, a bacchanal of house-cured meats including peppered salami, chorizo, and prosciutto with hard Gouda and two different kinds of Brie. This beautiful dish was sprinkled with gastronomic delights such as blue cheese and honeycomb, nut clusters, candied apples, cauliflower, red peppers and a Hush Harbor baguette. We all agreed this place and dish would be picture-perfect to come back and enjoy with a glass of wine after a long day at work.
Kimberly, the owner strolled by and told us that the heart and inspiration was the pre-existing Granada Bistro. The space has been renovated and re-imagined in industrial chic design, adding outdoor and roof top seating. Serving farm-to-table tapas and dishes inspired by Spanish, Cuban, and South American cuisine. The amazing charcuterie and local seafood are complemented by an eclectic wine list including Spanish and Latin American selections served in retro wine glasses (a very nice touch indeed).
Knowing my love for bacon and blue cheese, our next dish was Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates; this amazing amalgamation of flavors floored everyone. The apple smoked bacon was wrapped around the dreamily sweet dates and stuffed with Valdon blue cheese. This is my version of epicurean paradise.
Matthew paced each passage flawlessly and our next course featured the Mike Caesar salad with stems of romaine lettuce peppered with shaved Parmesan, Boquerón’s (which is a small, tasty filleted fish preserved in olive oil) and “The Sauce” – a dreamily prepared dressing. We also had The Wedge, an iceberg lettuce fourth with bacon lardons, smoky blue cheese, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. The house made croutons were of note on both salads and the remark was made that this was rabbit food worthy of men.
On to a favorite of mine, Paella. I would swim to Spain for this dish done right. No need now, as Granada executive chef, Spencer Johnston has developed a refined and proper version. A swirling dish of risotto rice with house chorizo, prawns, organic chicken, mussels, clams and local halibut with a sprinkling of peppers and onions made this saucer a symphony of flawlessness and flavor. Each fish was stewed to excellence, and the melding of the savors, an enchantment. Thinking it couldn’t get any better – they brought us what I consider culinary fulfillment when done decorously, Carbonara Pasta. The Black Truffle Carbonara Linguine Pasta rocked my world. This dish when organized precise will make you see angels. And not only was this done right, it was completed with black truffles. This is how you make a carbonara (please take note other chefs offering a “version” of this truth). Start with house made linguine, cooked al dente. Add shavings of black truffles, snap peas, house bacon and Parmesan. When the pasta is done, place a raw duck egg a top of the noodles. The steam from the pasta pouches the egg to perfection and then you mix it all together. The dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”. It is now comfort food from our Roman roots and this was the best I have had in the states.
Next we had the Hand Cut Local Beef Tartar with brioche toast, Meyer lemon, herbs and sea salt. This dish was a rare treat. Since we were dining with men, our next sample was the Granada Burger. With bacon onion jam, aged cheddar, arugula, house made pickle, ripe tomato, Dijon aioli and hand cut fries. We all agreed it was the best burger we had all had in a long time.
They skipped the singing, but not the desserts, and I was glad for this blessing. From my favorite farm (Windrose Farm) came the ingredients for the Apple Galette. Small tarts with a dolce de leche crème faiche, with a flaky buttery crust, and the apples have a hint of rosemary (which is planted around the orchard and seeps into the fruit) served with house made vanilla ice cream. Simply angelic. The Chocolate Pot Du Crème with a lavender Pinion cookie and a bullet Chantilly made this birthday girl sigh with exultant satisfaction.
Granada Bistro is attached to the first and only luxury boutique hotel in downtown San Luis Obispo, an astounding 5 million dollar renovation. It was completed in October 2012 with the goal of maintaining the unique elements of the property while modernizing the design, plumbing and electrical. Housed within an original 1920′s exposed-brick hotel building, the hotel offers 17 accommodations, a full-serviced restaurant, spa, and the city’s first rooftop lounge.
Granada Bistro is located at 1126 Morro Street in San Luis Obispo. Call for reservations at 805-544-9100.