Less than a year of being open, this quaint restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea was awarded with a Michelin star last month.
When I heard that chef Jonny Black was the Executive Chef and co-owner of Chez Noir, I was immediately intrigued as he has an impressive fine dining background from staging in Europe, working in New York City, and eventually coming to San Francisco to work at Atelier Crenn. Since the restaurant is a few hours away from home, I thought this would be a good opportunity to go for my birthday weekend.
Chez Noir is described as a seafood centric European restaurant focusing on ingredients found within the Monterey Peninsula. They have a cute outdoor patio and an intimate indoor dining room where guests can see parts of the busy kitchen.
We started off the meal with a few bites and be warned as these are most certainly snacks.
Gildas, otherwise known as pintxos, are small tapas from Spain. These skewers had fresh pieces of squid topped with a castelvetrano olive and anchovy vinaigrette. The flavors were bright, acidic, and a great way to start the dinner.
While the fava beans and smelt were perfectly fried and delicious, Tommaso felt like the smelt themselves had sand in them. I honestly don’t know if that was the case or if the slightly gritty texture was due to eating the whole fish with its bones. The onion/caper/nasturtium remoulade was killer though. Like a fancy thousand island.
Tender abalone was grilled and served with liver butter and fragrant meyer lemon. My biggest issue was how small the portion was for the price point.
Colors of the rainbow made up this bountiful salad of local vegetables with creamy Stracciatella cheese on the bottom. Simply dressed in olive oil, this was so light and refreshing.
Who doesn’t love warm brioche served with cultured butter?!
The chicken was stuffed with a foie gras farce served with morel mushrooms, peas, and fava beans in a Oloroso sherry jus. Flavors were bold and rich. Tommaso thought that the chicken meat near the bone was undercooked and when he told the server, they said since the chicken is cooked sous vide sometimes the meat can look pinker than normal (he was not buying it). I guess we’ll never know.
The veal rack was cooked nicely, medium rare, and topped with their version of shrimp étouffée and served with creamed sweet corn, turnips, and spring garlic. While I liked the veal rack and the shrimp separately, I’m not sure how they worked together as the flavors were competing.
Desserts were pretty solid. The baba au rhum had flavors of elderflower and strawberries but I wanted the baba to be more soaked. The sheep’s milk yogurt was actually my favorite with dates, caramelized honey, and chamomile. Also the buckwheat and honey madeleines were top notch.
While there were some misses, the food at Chez Noir was overall beautifully executed. I was surprised at the prices of the main courses since they ranged from $54-$68 which is pretty steep in my opinion and I’ve eaten at all kinds of restaurants around the world. Given that, my rating is a 7.5-8/10.