The Manhattan of Camarillo
5800 Santa Rosa Rd., Camarillo  
388-5550
$31-$60


When dining establishments change ownership, too many times they simply take the same set-up, change a few bits of décor, and casually toss their menu to the regular patrons, who inevitably end up missing the old place during their first visit. The Manhattan of Camarillo took over the building where Aloha’s used to be in Mission Oaks. But unlike other places, this one has created an atmosphere all it’s own.

 

The Manhattan offers an open dining room, with both booths and tables available. It also has a bar area with many seats in a classic setting and featuring a full selection of wine, beer and spirits. The friendly bartenders are more than adept at mixing cocktails and pretty much anything you can think of to request. (Make sure to ask for Lauren.) The wine list is what you would expect in a semi-fine dining establishment such as this. We tried the Castoro Cabernet and the Navarro Malbec. The quality of the wine was such that you could tell it had been stored properly, a rare trait among most places these days.

 

Then it was on to the food. We decided to begin with the Caesar salad, which (when available) is brought out on a table with all the accents at the ready as the server makes it fresh in front of you to your specifications. Anchovies? Olive oil? Fresh parmesan? The Manhattan has it all. And it is tops. Easily the best Caesar in Ventura County. Almost made us not want to order dinner.

 

But we would have been remiss to do so as the entrees were, for the most part a fantastic experience for even the most discerning of palates. The angel hair pomodoro ($17) had a tangy, fruity bite to it that one does not generally expect from such a dish, with pasta cooked aldente (of course) and lots of it. The pollo alla Jean ($23) absolutely knocked it out of the park. A creamy, rich spinach sauce covering a generous portion of three thin, perfectly cooked chicken breasts, tenderized and wonderfully seasoned made for a sumptuous dish indeed. It’s perfectly suited for using the warm, soft bread that is served for soaking up the extra sauce on the plate. The gnocchi Genovese ($17) was the only dish that left something to be desired, as it required copious amounts of salt and pepper to take away the initial blandness. But that in itself is a small complaint as the portion was once again generous and was by no means terrible, just a tad disappointing.

When dining at a place such as this, one simply has to try dessert (even if there is barely any room left). There are a few choices, all of which sounded great, but we went with the Ecstasy. And it was just that. Vanilla ice cream, fresh berries and drizzled with Chambord (so not for the kids, obviously), it’s a refreshing, grown-up sundae that completes a filling meal without causing you to need one of the servers to wheel you out to your car (though I don’t know that they could as we noticed a significant absence of wheel barrows).

 

As previously mentioned, the bartenders are wonderful. This also extends to all the other aspects of service at The Manhattan of Camarillo. The bussers were on point, the hostess was more than accommodating, and our server was enchanting. Knowledgeable without being condescending, polite and charming, she made the experience an extremely pleasant one. And from judging the reactions of the other customers in the area, the other servers must have been providing the same high quality of customer service as her. Well done.

Also featured is live music, an instrumental trio featuring piano, saxophone and light drums. Some live music can be overwhelming while trying to dine, but not here. Not sure if this was a house band, but it seemed familiar and had clearly played there before. It gave the already elegant location that little something extra to make a good evening great.

This restaurant is not cheap, but it is worth it. Take a drive to Mission Oaks and check it out. It is not open for lunch, so plan for dinner and make sure to call ahead as it fills up fast. You will have a truly tasty time.