Archive for the ‘Hotels’ Category

Roy’s Restaurant at Spanish Bay Resort: Pebble Beach, CA

Posted 08 Dec 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service, Hotels

My exploration of Pebble Beach California had to include a trip to Roy’s restaurant over at the Inn at Spanish Bay Resort. More than one foodservice insider told me that this Roy’s outlet, one of 29 Roy’s restaurants located in seven states (Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada), operated by famed chef Roy Yamaguchi is the best of all and that Mexican born Chef de Cuisine Pablo Mellin is one of Yamaguchi’s more talented leaders.  After a wonderful long weekend in a rainy Pebble Beach volunteering for a local non-profit, the weather brightened up and I set out for Spanish Bay for dinner.  There is nothing like the drive south from Monterey along Forest Lake road to Seventeen Mile Drive. Once you pass the guard shack into Pebble Beach proper the world changes and a feeling of wealth and privilege pervades everything. The community is made up of homes belonging to the rich and, in many cases, the famous. The setting is absolutely amazing and fitting for The Inn at Spanish Bay, a resort that in early 2010 made the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List of the world’s best places to stay.

We pull up to the resort in our rental car, a nice Dodge Charger, and pass the keys on to the valet.  Sitting in front, parked for all to see is a spanking new Bentley GT convertible. Although some think it’s kitschy to display cars like this in front of a hotel or restaurant, I love it; it sets a tone for the clientele and suggests that the place is special.  After all, we are at Pebble Beach. Just the night before I was in this same hotel and passed Tom Brokaw walking down the hall and said hello. I recognized his nasally voice while walking past and then had to step aside for Leon Panetta (a resident of Pebble Beach from what I hear) and his Central Intelligence Agency entourage (black Chevy Suburban SUV’s at the front door and all) as they made their way to their vehicles parked at the entrance.  Spanish Bay is other-worldly and so are the clients that visit here.

As we exit our car and head toward the resort’s front entrance, I notice a gentle but comforting heat radiating down from the warmers located in the porte-cochere ceiling above us. By the time we arrived  the weather had cooled and this little bit of gentle warmth was a nice touch. Looking around the entrance, the building was well lit with large exterior windows and high quality architectural design.  All of the sidewalks and exterior grounds were spotless and perfectly kept down to each blade of grass.  The doorman held the door for the ladies, welcomed us warmly and, more important, genuinely as we entered. It was a wonderful first impression, just the kind of attention to detail that is becoming rare in this economy as we value engineer the finer details out of commercial life.

Roy’s Restaurant Dining Room

Once inside Spanish Bay, finding Roy’s is a straight forward task. You take a quick left, then a right and pass the main lobby and the large bar and sitting area and proceed toward the back of the room until you come to a maitre d’ station at the entrance to the restaurant. On the other side of the restaurant’s entrance the room opens up to a multi-level modern space with a huge open kitchen and a large dining room with well over 150 seats. Roy’s isn’t small and, when busy, the kitchen probably runs fast like a locomotive.  When we arrive its early (6:00PM) and the room is only half full.

Foie Gras Mochi $16.50


I am with a group of three other individuals and we quickly decide to share four or five items from the menu and place our order within minutes. Service is prompt if not a bit slow but this often is the case when a restaurant is running half full. Experience tells me that the best time to be in a restaurant, contrary to intuition, is when it is running full speed. Don’t misinterpret, full speed means running at capacity not running over capacity. Restaurants hit a tipping point when more than ten percent of dining room capacity is pushing to get a table. They also hit a point of declining return when service is running at half speed. Give me a full restaurant with well managed table turns and no line at the door any day of the week. Roy’s service was running slow but, luckily, the food didn’t reflect this at all. Roy’s is also just one culinary cog among many wheels that spin and make Spanish Bay the multi-million dollar resort that it is.

Spanish Bay Sunset Roll $19.75

While at Spanish Bay I had the chance to tour the back of the house including the main banquet kitchen, pastry kitchen, the conference rooms and banquet dining rooms; all of them wheels that spin to make Spanish Bay what it is. The restaurant outlets, including Roy’s, share a common purchasing, facilities,  operations, and human resource departments. I met Chef Mellin while taking my tour and talked with him for a minute or two. With jet black hair that’s tightly cropped on the side, neatly trimmed mustache and huge smile, he is an affable, friendly, and passionate culinary leader. I was inspired to see one of our Mexican colleagues, a key hardworking group in American foodservice that often gets overlooked, finding such success and it was clear as Mellin made his way through the property that he was highly respected by his peers.  We need more of this in foodservice!

Our food arrives and we dig in. The first dish I taste is the Foie Gras Mochi with a healthy slab of seared foie gras sitting on a seared pave’ of tuna. I have had this combination before and it is a match made in heaven.  My next taste is a sampling of sushi (maki and nigiri) with one piece each of Tuna, Salmon, and Yellow Tail and three pieces of spicy tuna roll with seaweed salad. My colleague orders the Spanish Bay Sunset Roll composed of spicy tuna and avocado and I taste a piece. Everything is at the peak of freshness, tastes great and is perfectly executed. Sushi is simple and varies little from place to place other than in the fine details like how the seafood is sliced and the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Mellin is using the best he can get his hands on and the quality we experience reflects this. We continue eating and try a couple other appetizer items and wrap up our dinner. The room is filling up now and the kitchen is starting to rock and roll as we head to the door.

Roy’s Kitchen

Spanish Bay is a beautiful property and may be the nicest of all the Pebble Beach resort properties. It’s well maintained public spaces, tremendous Spanish inspired design, and pristine golf course (some say the best at Pebble beach) creates a relaxing if not ultra high-end feel and Roy’s fits right into this setting serving  a super-fresh, light, Hawaiian Fusion cuisine. There are a few good restaurants in Monterey and some interesting places like Nepenthe further south in Big Sur but Roy’s could be the leading restaurant in this stretch of California coastline (I will let you be the judge).


Inn at Spanish Bay

2700 Seventeen Mile Drive

Pebble Beach, CA 93953


The Peninsula Hotel Chicago

Posted 14 Apr 2010 — by S.E.
Category Hotels

Peninsula Hotel Lobby

A recent trip to Chicago landed me at the Peninsula Hotel on East Superior Street visiting with a friend who serves on their management team. I have known him for nearly two decades but like most guys my age, only contact him live once every couple of years to check in and see how he’s doing. It was late on a Saturday afternoon when I called him just after my plane landed at Midway. We had prearranged our meeting at the hotel a couple of days earlier and he was just finishing up for the day when we connected. After a quick cab ride from the airport I was on my way up in the elevator to the hotel lobby on the fifth floor. From the minute I got out of the cab the five-star service this hotel is known for was evident. It was even more apparent when the elevator opened on the fifth floor and I stepped out. The main lobby was elegant with its shiny, coral colored stone floor, cream colored walls, lightly vaulted ceiling, potted plants and cherry storefront display cases. Straight off the elevator down a long, pleasant corridor is the main reception desk.

Pastry Buffet

The lobby restaurant is off to the right of the reception desk on the same floor. The exterior wall of the lobby restaurant consists of a series of two story high windows looking out over an expansive patio. The fit and finish of the space is extraordinary. Looking up, the coffered ceiling consists of a wonderful series of large squares inset periodically with a recessed circle where delicate crystal chandeliers hang like falling water. Although architecturally stunning, the dessert buffet in the middle of the room was even more impressive. On Saturday evenings, the Peninsula offers guests what has become one of the most popular classical dessert buffets in the city. Looking over the selections, it is likely that the Peninsula is the only hotel in the city producing this quality of work. The display exhibited a level of craftsmanship rare in today’s culinary world. My first inclination was to start grazing. Instead we took off up the elevator to the Peninsula suite for a tour.

Peninsula Suite Sitting Room

The Peninsula suite, located on the 18th floor, is the hotels premier accommodation with up to three bedrooms, a dining room, living room, office, media room, massive bathroom, fireplace and terrace overlooking Michigan Avenue. The entrance to the Peninsula  suite was staid and unremarkable but the suite itself was anything but. Once the lights were on, I noticed more custom light fixtures along with high end furnishings, custom millwork, tile and granite, and museum quality art throughout. The suite runs $8000 per night.

We wrapped up our tour with dinner at Shanghai Terrace the hotels premiere Shanghainese – Cantonese restaurant. Shanghai Terrace, with its expansive hardwood floor, slat-back mahogany colored chairs, high ceiling and wispy curtains, has a traditional Chinese dinner club feel to it. The servers wear pressed red jackets and float through the dining room with grace.

King Crab

Our meal started with a taste of king crab with pickled vegetables. The tiny portion was a perfect start. Lightly coated with rice flour and quickly fried, the crispy, salty, savory crab was offset by the chilled acidic vegetables and micro greens.

A delicious Peking duck followed the king crab. First, a small bamboo steamer arrived with mandarin pancakes and a yin yang shaped plate with two sauces. A large plate of hot roasted duck with julienne scallion and cucumber came next. The pancakes were savory, light in texture and warm through the center. When rolled with a couple pieces of duck breast, scallion, cucumber and hoisin sauce, they were a delicious appetizer.

Dim sum was next! I love dim sum. Shanghai Terrace’s dim sum has a high degree of  Cantonese authenticity. The


 sampling we tasted had a seared pork dumpling, steamed vegetable dumpling and crispy shrimp spring roll with dipping sauce.

The fourth course was a broiled sea scallop with fresh soy beans in spicy mapo sauce with diced tofu. Those of you that know me know that I love seafood. This scallop was perfectly broiled and tasted fantastic. In addition to taste, textural contrast was what made this dish so good (diced tofu, scallop, fresh soybean, and crispy fried noodle). The portion size was perfect too. Four courses in, I am not yet sated and have room for more.

Four small entrée dishes served family style arrived as the fifth course. These consisted of : 1) “Dong Bo” Pork Belly braised with red miso, palm sugar, star anise, shanghai rice cake and braised jus, 2)

Pork Belly & Steamed Fish

Steamed Halibut with spicy black beans, flower mushrooms, ginger, scallions, yu choy, 3) Wok Braised Lobster with bok choy, ginger, scallion and superior broth, 4) Crispy Tofu with enokitaki, vegetables, garlic and mushroom jus. Each of these dishes had a modern flair with a high degree of Japanese influence. My favorite was the pork belly followed by the lobster. Now I am getting full!

We wrapped things up with a dessert sampler consisting of four small plated items: 1) Green Tea Crème Brulee with chestnut confit and passion fruit sorbet, 2) Pistachio Parfait, pineapple cilantro salad, coconut pearls, 3) Asian Pear and Almond Spring Rolls with honey peanuts and chocolate sauce, 4) Tofu Cheesecake with citrus salad, crispy coconut rice noodles. Of these my favorite was the Green Tea Crème Brulee.

Dessert Platter


It was a quick visit lasting just under three hours but a fantastic one regardless of duration. My host was in rare form and we spent time savoring our meal while also tearing it to peices the way chefs do. Coversation flowed from food to family to mutual friends and prior experiences together, many of which were halirous both then and now. The meal was exceptional as was the company. Foodservice is all about the people and good people make for the best restauranteurs.