Sunset Cafe, Pierpont Inn & Spa
550 Sanjon Road
For some Ventura County residents, dinner at the Pierpont Inn with a spectacular view of the Pacific was one of those special occasion or very special event destination locations. They dressed up and put on their “best behavior” mindsets. The food was fine, expensive and generally not particularly memorable, but the “specialness” of the location kept it in one’s consciousness. With the addition of new chef Victor Cervantes and a refocused menu, the Pierpont will now probably become known for its great cuisine as well.
Little has changed with the décor and feel of the room over the years, but the spectacular fresh flower arrangement at the entrance bodes well for an elegant and comfortable dining experience.
I was admiring the many interesting choices on the menu when the waiter began describing the special that evening: chicken-fried filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes, mixed fresh baby vegetables. I was sold just at the description, and since the restaurant uses Watkins Ranch prime beef, I knew it would likely be a special dish. I was not disappointed in any way. A light panko breading encrusted the filet mignon, and the beef was so tender a butter knife could have cut it; the smooth, thick and creamy au jus gravy over the delicious and fresh-tasting garlicky potatoes was sublime. The entree was a great choice, and when I tasted my companion’s Maryland crab cakes, which were also perfect and served with Ruby Red grapefruit sections, paper-thin sliced avocado and light lime-thyme dressing, I knew this restaurant would become a new regular haunt of mine for great dining experiences.
I was so pleased with my entrée, I neglected to mention the terrific appetizer that preceded it: scallop ceviche in a lemon and lime marinade, very tender bits of the shellfish with tiny cubes of sweet peppers, scallions and mushrooms, and topped with a spicy avocado coulis. This was an ideal appetizer, and looking at the menu I’m sure I would not be disappointed with any of the selections.
For lunch one day, I opted for a Niçoise salad, and found it served with lightly grilled Ahi tuna, very al dente haricots verts, Niçoise olives and blanched new potatoes. Refreshing, cool, light yet filling and a good selection for a lazy summer afternoon overlooking the Channel Islands. My companion had a Reuben sandwich with a sizable amount of lean corned beef and Swiss cheese, and a particularly tasty Russian dressing.
Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, and one particular offering at the Sunset Cafe that is worth noting is the tofu scramble, which, besides the eggs and tofu, has Manchego cheese, tomatoes, sweet onions and freshly roasted jalapeño slices. Served with breakfast potatoes, this is a relatively healthy and delicious way to start the day, and the presentation was great. Another day I had the Pierpont benedicts, which are poached eggs over mini crab cakes with a Meyer lemon hollandaise. Whatever meal you have at the Sunset Café, some version of those terrific crab cakes will appear on the menu.
Breakfast is delicious here, though, it is not, relatively speaking, inexpensive. The eggs Benedict were $18 (the tofu scramble $14). Lunches range from $12 to $20, and dinners are basically $16 to $30. The service needs a little tweaking, however, mainly in minor areas such as promptness in refilling water glasses and bringing after dinner coffee, as was my experience a couple of times in the past. Little glitches with the service aside, the menu and the view really steal the show. If you want to rekindle old memories of the Pierpont Inn, nothing like a fantastic view and a delicious meal to go with it.