It’s the last meal of the evening and The Monster is heading to Artisan. While Paso is not in the same league as Napa and Sonoma (and it’s not even close) when it comes to culinary invention, the word is Artisan holds its own.
First glance it’s a packed and loud room with tables of all ages enjoying themselves. We’re seated by the window in the rear alcove and settle in. Perusing the menu and The Monster is a bit perplexed. So often the appetizer section proves problematic for The Monster because he wants to order everything on it. In Artisan’s case, it is just the opposite. Nothing is calling out to be sampled.
Before checking out the main courses The Monster decides to pick out a wine. Having our fill of red blends and zinfandels during the day, a RN Estate, Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard ’08 is selected. One hundred and seventy cases were produced and RN is known for their marvelous Pinots.
Mrs. Monster wants to try the squash blossom and artichoke salad with feta and olive aioli to start. That sounds a bit yawn inducing but we decide to give it a go.
Luckily, the main courses listed are much more appealing. We settle on the B+B country chicken with fava succotash and green chili cumin butter and the Atlantic scallops, l.b. prawns, mussels, clams, and saffron. We also get an order of mini corn bread with jalapenos which sound fantastic.
The Monster did not love the appetizer. Way too much olive aioli drowns the squash blossoms working against their normally delicate nature. The artichoke salad proves a few small slices of artichoke that on their own are tasty but they get lost in the dish as a whole. Not a great start.
But Artisan redeems itself on the main courses. The chicken is particularly splendid. A rustic dish where the interplay of the chicken skin, the succotash and the juicy chicken underneath is delightful. Even Mrs. Monster, who sometimes shies away from chicken is happily plunging her fork in. The seafood dish, a take on paella, is a large mound of fresh seafood in a nice broth.
The only downside is the jalapeno cornbread which is served well after our meal is out and are slightly overcooked. Nicely though, they are taken off the bill. Overall the wine is worthwhile but The Monster realizes that Paso is known for certain varietals and perhaps it best to stick with them.
By this point eating is almost a chore so we skip dessert and trudge back to the hotel (which is only a few blocks away) to have one more glass of wine and call it an evening.
Why go? Paso Robles doesn’t have Ad Hoc, French Laundry or Cyrus…yet.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
1401 Park Street
Paso Robles, CA 93446