12 November 2006

Salt Creek Grille, Valencia, CA

Election Day this year was kind of unusual for me. For the past several years, I’ve hosted an Election Night party at our house. This year, business travel precluded me from putting on another party.

I got up early, as I usually do on Tuesdays, and went to spinning class at the JCC from 6-7. Usually on a Tuesday, I go to the office from the ‘J.’ But this time, I went home instead and had breakfast. (Toasted challah, cheese, a pear, and coffee.) Then I went to the polls to vote. After voting, I went to the airport for a trip to Valencia, CA.

Recently, my job has taken me to California more regularly. And I like California. But most of the time, I’m in Sacramento (see my September 11 posting) or the Central Valley. I rarely go to southern California, and honestly, I don’t really like the Los Angeles metro area. It’s too spread out and traffic is awful. It took me 45 minutes to get from the LA Airport to the Hyatt Valencia.

Once I arrived, however, I have to admit – it’s really quite pleasant. The hotel is right across the street from Valencia Town Center. After getting checked in and doing a little work, I wandered over to the shopping center to look for a place to have dinner.

After checking out several places (some ordinary like TGI Fridays, some interesting but expensive), I settled on Salt Creek Grille. I wanted to eat outside. The weather in Minnesota was in the 50s and damp. The weather in Valencia when I arrived was 95 with low humidity, bright and sunny. By the time I went out for dinner, it had cooled a bit. But it will be five months before I can eat outside in Minnesota again, so that was one of my criteria. Also, the restaurant has a nice range of choices – from salads and sandwiches to fairly expensive entrées, including a selection of prime beef meals.

I was hungry after a day of travel. I didn’t have any lunch, and the shift in time zones made it later than I normally eat dinner. But I still didn’t want to overdo it. So I decided on a salad and a sandwich.

The salad was their house specialty. It was mixed greens with Granny Smith apples, tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette. It was pretty good. I especially liked the apples, pecans, and dressing. I had expected the tomatoes to be ripe and flavorful. They looked very nice, but they weren’t anything special. The gorgonzola was good, but not as robust and salty as I normally like.

For my sandwich, I ordered a blackened ahi tuna steak. It was seared and served very rare. I’ve written in earlier posts that I don’t mind rare fish, and this was very rare. Barely warmed in the middle. But it was very good quality tuna and very delicious. Also on the sandwich were daikon sprouts, tomato, avocado, and wasabi mayo. It was served on Portuguese bread. I picked it up and started working on it. It was a very thick sandwich and somewhat difficult to eat.

I was enjoying it, but I finally set it down and started to deconstruct the sandwich, cutting off smaller bites and separating the different ingredients. That actually made it more enjoyable. I decided that the bread was the main problem. I’m not sure what Portuguese bread is supposed to be like. The bread with this sandwich was sort of like Italian focaccia. But it was kind of dry and not very flavorful. I think the bread was absorbing all the flavor and moistness of the sandwich.

When I started eating the sandwich by isolating the individual elements, it was a lot more tasty. The only other quibble about the sandwich was the wasabi mayo. It didn’t have a lot of spiciness, like I expect from wasabi. I suppose a lot of the mayo was spread on the bread, and when I took apart the sandwich, I didn’t get as much mayo in each bite as maybe was intended.

According to the web site, the Salt Creek Grille has two other locations – one in New Jersey and another in California. Overall, I liked it. I would go back again.

Salt Creek Grille postscript: Wouldn’t you know? The second night of my meeting in Valencia we had a group dinner – at the Salt Creek Grille. We had a choice of the house salad like I had my first night or a Caesar. This time I had the Caesar – good but nothing special.

For an entrée, we had a choice of salmon, a steak, or rack of lamb. I love lamb, so I ordered that. Wrong choice. This was an example of a restaurant trying to do something fancy when plain would have been better. The steak and salmon were simply and nicely prepared. The lamb was nicely done, but it wasn’t great quality meat. They roasted the lamb with a seasoned breadcrumb coating. It did not enhance the meal at all.

For our wine, we have Ravenswood Zinfandel. It was very good and went well with the lamb as well as the steak.

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