Chef Sean Eastwood has been getting a bit of media attention for his innovative seafood menu at the newly renovated Navio, The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay’s signature restaurant. And after a visit, I understand why. His menu is original, fun and not like most of the seafood restaurants. As expected mussels, salmon, cod and calamari are on the menu, however his experience in European kitchens and two of San Francisco’s top spots is apparent via the skillful combinations of seasonings and sides. Also most noticeably in the renovations is sweeping water views, offering diners the chance to watch for whales, monitor the fishing boats just off shore and catch the sun setting into the Pacific Ocean.
Eastwood was named chef de cuisine of Navio back in July 2012, he most recently came from Kokari where he brought a few recipes as well as a fondness for Marin-based, Heath Ceramics, displayed on every table Eastwood also spent some time at La Folie working for Marin’s Roland Passot, where he met and created relationships with many local farmers. Navio’s menu boasts baby octopus, black cod, salmon and calamari all sourced nearby. Local farms are also showcased on the menu, with a-summer-in-your-spoon, Brentwood Sweet Corn Soup and Heirloom Tomato Salad with goat cheese filled squash blossoms and stinging nettle pesto – all sourced from Half Moon Bay. I was happy to see Point Reyes blue cheese featured in a pickled beet, arugula and dandelion salad, there were probably a few other Marin farmers represented, but none called out on the menu. Stand out entrees included Local Black Cod & Berkshire Pork Belly and Navio’s 48-hour Braised Short Rib, which my husband deemed, meat butter.
An unexpected highlight was the lesson in wine regions and gastronomic chemistry by Grand Sommelier, Michael Scherzberg, originally from Kansas City and most recently employed at the Four Seasons New York. Besides Scherzberg’s expertise, the Ritz-Carlton offered Sommelier training to it’s entire dining staff, with 29 employees passing the first level of the course, hence anyone serving you from the busser to the server will be well-versed in fine wine basics. At his last post Scherzberg became well acquainted with a bevy of Old World wines, which he masterfully paried with our meal including a bio-dynamically produced Brocard Chablis paired with a elegantly spiced Ahi Tuna starter. “Because of where the Old World wines are grown and when they are harvested, they generally have more acid and less alcohol, hence are best before a meal to enhance the appetite.” Scherzberg also served a Clos de Fees, grenache blance, a Chateneuf du Pape and a Hamilton Russell Chardonnay from South Africa. He did include some excellent locals including Santa Cruz Mountain’s Thomas Fogarty’s peppery pinot, Ross Cobb’s tk Cobb hails from Marin, and was recently lauded for his mad Pinot skills in the Wall Street Journal and finally a Lagier Meredith Syrah from Mt. Veeder, a bottle I will definitely track down to buy.
Getting a table here takes some planning especially if you plan to celebrate a special occasion with a group, because of their Ritz-Carlton standing the hotel is not only filled with locals and groups, if you go, plan on having a cocktail outside with a bag pipe serenade, and don’t’ forget it’s Half Moon Bay, so dress for cold weather.