I hope you had a great weekend. Today, my husband Shen is reviewing a restaurant called Shadowbrook Restaurant. I hope you enjoy his review.
Dear readers: welcome to the December restaurant review on Just One Cookbook. As I mentioned last month, we took a family trip to the Monterey peninsula and decided to explore the restaurants in the area. As we were reviewing the best Central Coast restaurant winners list on Open Table and deciding which one to try, we saw Shadowbrook Restaurant and remembered our friend mentioned that he had a great experience there a few months prior. The restaurant description in Open Table reads, “Shadowbrook is best reached by its own quaint, hillside cable car or the meandering garden path alongside waterfalls.”
Cable car and waterfalls? We can’t possibly pass up on this opportunity, so off to Capitola we go.
The restaurant was a bit tricky to find, located on a windy road with lots of trees, but luckily, we had GPS navigation, so it was not too difficult. Shadowbrook is built on a steep hillside extending from the top of the hill down to Soquel Creek.
At the “main entrance,” there are two options for guests to arrive at the restaurant. Option one to the right is the cable car, or guests can choose option two and stroll through the beautiful garden path to the left. From the deck of the main entrance, you can view the steep hillside the restaurant is situated on and a well-manicured garden with a concrete path. We chose option one since we came this way to ride the cable car.
The cable car only fits 4-5 adults at a time, and the ride itself is about 30 seconds. As guests descend down the hillside, they can see the beautiful garden to the left.
The cable car arrives outside the Rock Room bar and lounge to the main reception area. The brightly lit Rock Room, with large exposed beams supporting the wooden roof and wooden panels on the wall, gives it a mountain cabin feel. Part of the room is decorated with a rock wall, with a full bar to the right. As the friendly hostess greeted us and led us to our table, it was quite an adventure. From the Rock Room, we traversed through a hallway and down some stairs where the Fireside room and the main dining room are located.
These rooms were completely different from the Rock Room, dimly lit and perfect for a romantic meal (unsuitable for two noisy kids). As we descend a second set of stairs to the Greenhouse Room, it’s evident that Shadowbrook identifies itself with plants and greenery. There are plants all over the restaurant indoors and outdoors, with ivy wrapping around interior beams and plenty of green plants growing on interior walls and planter boxes.
The architecture of the Greenhouse Room contrasts the other dining rooms with glass ceilings, large windows peering into the garden, and stone floors. I can imagine if a restaurant is ever built inside a magical forest; this is precisely what it would look like. It was showering that evening when we dined there; raindrops falling on the glass ceiling, creating little streams of water, made the experience just a bit “magical.”
Our table was in the middle of the room, and looking out the windows, we could see trees lit with holiday lights. The room’s surrounding creates a celebratory mood and happiness.
As we studied the menu, on one of the pages, the restaurant states it supports produce from local farms, which made me happy. When a chef cares about the community around them and the produce they use, it speaks a lot about the person’s character.
Our server, George, quickly came by after we sat down to order drinks and offered suggestions for the meal. I want to mention the service by George that evening was impeccable. When we arrived at the Greenhouse Room that evening, we were one of the first guests and received excellent service. The fantastic part is that when the room got crowded and busy, George and the entire staff still provided excellent service and were very responsive to all guests.
Back to the food, we had Baked Brie, Clam Chowder, Local Baby Greens, and Lightly Seared Crispy Ahi for appetizers. I am a clam chowder addict, so if I see it on any menu, I’ll likely order it (especially if the restaurant labels it “award-winning”).
The baked brie and the ahi were both very interesting. Baked brie was served with “blue ribbon pepper jelly,” which tasted like Thai sweet and sour chili sauce. The taste was a bit confusing, and I have to say I did not thoroughly understand the creativity. The ahi was deep-fried and served with three different sauces, including citrus-soy and wasabi-tobiko. The ahi was slightly overcooked but delicious. The clam chowder was unique, with a robust rosemary taste compared to other clam chowders served in the region.
We ordered caramelized sea scallops and filet mignon with scampi for the main course. The scallops were served over whipped Yukon potatoes and oyster mushroom cream. The oyster mushroom sauce was delicious and complimented very well with the scallop. I was disappointed with the filet because the steak was overcooked (I like medium rare with no blood). The scampi was cooked in garlic, chili, parsley, and spinach-ricotta gnocchi, but it was not outstanding for being the most pricey item on the menu.
We had the chocolate meltdown and rhubarb crumbles with ice cream to complete the meal. Both dessert were quite tasty and an excellent finale for the meal. Overall, we were delighted with the dining experience and thought Shadowbrook would be the perfect place to celebrate birthday meals with your closest friends. The service was outstanding, and the food and beautiful surroundings just made it an enjoyable experience, I would even say happy.