Thursday, May 11, 2000
The Village Corner Mediterranean Bistro, which makes its home at the lively corner of Dolores and 6th in Carmel, is home itself to a lively kitchen. The restaurant serves three meals a day, seven days a week and often does a couple hundred covers for lunch, so the innovative range of dinner offerings available on a recent visit came as a pleasant discovery.
A fresh coat of paint had just being applied to the perennially popular patio, made comfortable by both a brick fireplace and space heaters, so we chose a table inside the bright, cozy dining room. Getting right down to business, my dining companion and I found the list of starters brimming with interesting possibilities. The plate of sand dabs, unusual to find as an appetizer, could easily serve as an entrée for a light appetite. These small, Monterey Bay fillets are lightly coated in a tasty bread crumb mixture, grilled and butter-tender. Presented in a cleverly arranged mound, they were layered over fresh sautéed spinach and gaufrette potatoes, with a drizzle of beurre blanc around the plate ($7.75).
On my side of the table, the sautéed asparagus ($7.50) came for a visit and didn''t last long. In a light glaze of garlic-embellished oyster sauce, paired with morel mushrooms, it made for a fresh, light, perfect beginning. We next dipped our forks into a heap of Carmel Valley baby greens (a wallet-friendly $3.75), lightly tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with kalamata olives and pine nuts, and wanting for nothing else with a grating of feta cheese. An ample selection of larger salads also looked appealing, especially the mix of arugula and baby spinach with walnuts, pears and gorgonzola ($7.25).
From a selection of 10 main courses that ranged from Peking duck with stewed figs and Calvados and tandoori rack of lamb to Spanish paella and blackened venison medallions, it became evident that Chef Mohamed Rabba likes variety. I was well-pleased with my selection of seared salmon done in a pistachio crust and served with a mashed potato and root vegetable blend ($17.50). As a saucier, Rabba flexes his culinary muscles. The swirls of coral lobster butter were lovely. I also managed to negotiate a yummy salt cod potato cake that usually accompanies the Chilean sea bass. (Until this variety of sea bass comes off the endangered list, however, I won''t be tempted to order it.)
Across the table, my dining companion wiped out a plate of pan-seared halibut ($22), a special of the day done in a soy-lime glaze, with little dots of wasabi sauce enlivening the plate.
Chef Rabba will be changing his menu soon and adding some interesting items that warrant closer inspection, like venison carpaccio, oak-grilled Wyoming buffalo steak, and veal cutlets done with crayfish accompanied by wild mushroom and foie-gras stuffing with crustacean butter. There''s an ample selection of vegetarian dishesfettucine Provencal with fresh artichokes; oven-dried tomatoes and wild mushrooms in garlic herb broth ($15.75); and a Mediterranean veggie platter with garbanzo bean cake, eggplant dip, hummus and tabouli ($16.50). The dessert list also begs attention with items like housemade lemon custard with lemon sorbet and a mascarpone cream and berries Napoleon, both about $5. If you take a peek inside this cranking kitchen, you''re not going to find a chef suffering from boredom
Village Corner Mediterranean Bistro
Address: Dolores and 6th, Carmel
Hours:: Breakfast 7-11am, Lunch 11:30am-5pm, Dinner 5-10pm.
Average cost: dinner for two: $40