Cetrella Half Moon Bay

Cetrella Restaurant Review | JustOneCookbook.comDear readers,

Welcome to the 2nd restaurant review on Just One Cookbook (the first review here)!  Before I get started on the review on Cetrella, I want to share a little story about Nami and me.  Nami and I both appreciate good food but our favorite foods are actually very different.  I love food so spicy that my tears come out when I am eating them and Nami cannot take any spice at all.

I also love greasy food that goes well with lots of beer while Nami does not drink.  There are a ton of food and recipes that we both enjoy but we definitely have our preferences.  One of Nami’s favorite ethic cuisines is Peruvian food and we don’t have too many great Peruvian restaurants close by where we live.  A few months ago I saw a local daily deal for La Costanera (Peruvian resturant) in Montara Beach and decided to purchase it to surprise Nami.  When I surprised Nami with the deal, she suggested we go there for Father’s Day to celebrate.  Unfortunately when I tried to make reservations a few days prior they were all booked.  We were really looking forward to a nice Father’s Day meal so I started to look for alternatives on Open Table and found several options.  We finally decided on Cetrella for several reasons 1) it’s Michelin Recommended 2) it won Open Table’s 2010 Diner’s Choice Award 3) SF Gate (the local newspaper) had great things to say about it over the years and 4) I can’t seem to find a single bad review.  Off we go to Half Moon Bay again.

The weather on Father’s Day was really amazing, even at 5:30 pm Half Moon Bay was still sunny and warm.  The restaurant has been around 2001 but both its exterior and interior are extremely well kept.  As you enter, the sun shines on the beautiful white walls through the sky light from the 25 foot tall ceiling, creating a warm and welcoming feeling.  The restaurant interior is simple but pleasant, showcasing rustic furniture and exposed wooden beams with a modern elegance.  Since we had an early reservation to accommodate our children’s dinner schedule, there were not many other patrons at the time and we were promptly seated at our table without having to wait.

cetrella restaurant interior

For the meal, we had 3 adults (Nami, me, and my brother) and 2 children so we decided order Pizza Margherita for the children and 3 appetizers and 3 entrées to share between the adults.  For the bread service, Cetrella served traditional warm foccacia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Based on our server’s recommendation we ordered foccacia, fritto misto, and foie gras torchon as appetizers.  The foccacia was very unique and the full name should be “focaccia al formaggio”, focaccia with cheese.  It just so happened that two of Nami’s blogger friends also featured similar foccacia recently (Manu and Giulia) in their blogs.  Giulia mentioned in her blog it’s very difficult to find outside of Recco, Italy so we definitely got a treat.  The foccacia was very crispy yet still retains some moisture inside from the crescenza stracchino cheese, and the herbs and truffle oil blended perfectly with the tartness from the cheese.

Focaccia di Recco restaurant centrella

Frito Misto was deep fried very well, no soggy spots and the panko layer was not overwhelming.  What we really loved was the tartar dipping sauce.  It had the perfect balance of cream and tanginess.  The last appetizer was foie gras and it was my pick.  Whenever I see foie gras on any menu I just have to order it.  I love foie gras in every form, seared, poached, canned, jarred, and every other way.  Needless to say the torchon was superb and paired very well with the lychee apple salad.  The only slight complaint I have is I wished they had provided 4 pieces of bread instead of 2.  We really had to pile on the torchon to make it all fit on 2 pieces.

cetrella restaurant appetizer

For entrées we had the scallops, duck breast (I always prefer duck over chicken, more fatty), and bone in pork chop.  The duck skin was crisp and the meat was slightly rare and very tender.  The lemongrass risotto was very unique and you can taste the individual veggie as they were not overcooked.

cetrella restaurant entree

As we finished the meal with panna cotta and chocolate trio, the restaurant was almost completely filled and I can understand why it’s so popular.  We really enjoyed the Father’s Day meal at Cetrella and I look forward to going back there if we are in Half Moon Bay again.  The meal did not have a lot of surprises but all the food were really well done and simply delicious.

cetrella restaurant dessert and dinner menu


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  1. Yes, the Focaccia di Recco is very very similar to the home-made one!! The “original” one is very soggy at the bottom and not so crispy (so I almost prefer the home-made version) :)
    Very nice restaurant and very good review! :)

  2. This restaurant looks incredibly tasty. Wow. It’s beautiful inside too.

    So I have never tasted beer and it’s just a personal choice to not drink – but I didn’t know beer went well with greasy foods. Do you know why that is? Interesting!

    Looks like the image isn’t linked to babble. Nonetheless, I still voted for you by typing in the link manually! Good luck!

  3. Have already clicked and keep my fingers crossed!!!
    Wonderful restaurant review and I am so surprised I share many of your food preferences. I love foie gras, which is widely available here both raw and canned, so I often prepare it on my own (there is a recipe for “terrine de foie gras” on my blog in case you or Nami are interested). I also order it every time I see it on the menu. It’s a good way to judge the restaurant’s quality.
    I adore hot food and we sometimes go to an Indian restaurant and ask “the hottest possible please, I want to cry” (there is only one restaurant where they really listen to me) – then I am so happy crying throughout the whole meal! (Since I love hot food I often add the Korean gochujang to the Japanese dishes!)
    I also enjoy drinking shochu, wine, cocktails, beer… depends on the mood and situation! I love greasy dishes but try to forget they exist, not wise for my waist 😉
    I hope I don’t have a man’s eating profile 😉 (Although when we go for lunch and I have a glass of wine, while my husband has a coke, the waiter almost always mixes up our orders 😉 )
    Anyway, I see you have had a great time and the restaurant looks beautiful! It’s funny, in Europe, I think, no restaurant serving foie gras au torchon would also have pizza…

    • Hi Sissi, have you tried “yuzu kosho” (Japanese citrus pepper)? Try marinating some sliced beef tongue in soy sauce and yuzu kosho, grill it slightly and don’t over cook. You’ll love it, just the perfect taste to go with shochu.

  4. Can I cast more than once? I want to vote for you again and again. You have a great blog, everything from design, to your content and wonderful photos! And BTW its in page 5 now, people vote up :)

  5. Oh my… what a gorgeous expanse of space this restaurant has (for me at least half of the experience is the atmosphere – the architecture here is just gorgeous…). And the food? Whoa! I’m making special note so that the next time we visit San Francisco, Cetrella is on the list!

  6. Yum! It sounds really yummy! The focaccia look very similar to the one I make… only with no balsamic vinegar. It looks so good! I love foie gras too, I always order it too whenever I see on the menu!!! Great review Shen and I am happy you guys had a lovely time! :-)

    • We actually had 2 different focaccia breads, the regular one that’s similar to bread and the crispy thin one. We only dipped the regular one with balsamic vinegar.

  7. One more extremely satisfying review..I had feast for my eyes with all the pictures! My favorite of course pizza Margherita, but would love piece of that Foccacia. I enjoyed reading about you guys and your taste differences..I can relate with you on spicy-I love it just the way you described it:)) and with Nami, since I do not drink at all! Awesome job Shen!!!

  8. What a nice post! Everything sounded great, and it helped me decide what to make for dinner tonight… pizza Margherita. We are lucky to have two Peruvian restaurants close by us. My husband can’t handle spicy food, but I like it hot…so I have to adjusts after he gets his when I’m cooking.

    Now I’m off to vote!

  9. Another awesome review, Shen! Your very vivid descriptions and photos convinced me that Cetrella is such a good restaurant.
    And congratulations to you and Nami for the Babble nomination! I’m your 19th voter! :)

  10. Congratulations on the nomination Nami..You know you have my vote :) Wonderful review..I hope to visit this place sometime.The desserts look decadent as well as all the other food pictures.Thank you Shen for taking out time to do such reviews.

  11. Wonderful review, made me kinda sad that we didn’t get a chance to visit half moon bay and celebrate Father’s Day with y’all! :) Just vote by the way, good luck!

  12. Another great review Shen! That meal you guys ate looked amazing. Nami- peruvian is one of my all time favorites too. Have you been to the Peruvian place in SF in the Embarcadero? It was super yummy! Congrats to Nami on the babble nomination- its so deserved!!

    • Thanks Lindsey! I don’t think we’ve been to the Peruvian place in downtown yet. Now with our two little monsters we avoid going to downtown as much as possible. How was the NKOTBSB concert?

  13. Mika

    I think Douglas and I went to this restaurant when we were easy going couple ; ) and yes, we had a lovely time there!

    By the way, you need to add this new competition stuff on FB page. I am your 25th like person ; ) Gambare!!!

  14. I love that your husband does these restaurant reviews! That pork chop looks simple irresistible!

    And I just “liked” you over on Babble – good luck =)

  15. Nami is lucky to have someone surprise her and you are lucky to have her passing her surprise to you to celebrate your day (Father’s Day). 😀

    My hb and me share similar likings for food. But the only food he dislike (and I like) is sour-tangy food including fruits such as strawberries, plums etc.

  16. I read this at 2 this morning on my iphone but didn’t get a chance to comment…just wanted to come back to say that I’m so glad to hear that this was a great place. We’ve driven by so many times and always say we should go. Now I really want to check it out. Thanks for the great review!

  17. Lemonsandanchovies

    Thanks for reminding me about Cetrella; it’s been years since my last visit. I remember sophisticated but cozy atmosphere of the place–should make plans to return soon. Your dinner selections look fab!

    nami, congrats on the nomination! Will head over there now!

  18. Great review Nami, wow you get better and better. Congratulations on your nomination too, at the rate you are going, im sure you’ll topple everyone in the ranking haha.. im currently on top 10 but i wouldn’t be surprised to see your name above me.. and I wouldnt mind.. not at all! Ill head over there and give you a “like love”

  19. Susan

    Wow Nami and hubby! I’ve never tried Peruvian food and wouldn’t think of trying food from Peru unless someone brought me to a restaurant like this. It looks so delicious! I just want Nami to know I finally made the korokke, with ground turkey, and it is soooo divine! I wasn’t going to add any meat but decided to at the last minute. I’m so glad I did. I will have to force myself to freeze them otherwise I will gobble all of them up! Love, love, love your recipe : )

    • Hi Susan, we are really glad you love the Korokke recipe. Peruvian restaurant is very different from other Latin American good, you should give it a try 😛

  20. Thanks Jessica! I love your Cliffs Note version of Julia Child’s recipe. I agree with you, as long as the food taste great that’s the most important factor!