The Chef: Levi Mezick, Restaurant 1833
“A chef always looks for great ingredients,” says Levi Mezick, executive chef at Restaurant 1833. “Monterey has the best you can choose from anywhere.”
Before opening the restaurant in 2011, Mezick cooked at top New York City restaurants including Café Boulud and Per Se. “There, most of our fresh produce was flown in from California. Now I get it right from the farmers market two blocks away. For abalone, I walk to the pier and buy it live.”
Named for the date it was constructed, the historic adobe over the years housed an apothecary, California’s first newspaper press, and the celeb-studded Gallatin’s restaurant. Lavishly and lovingly renovated, the building charms with its different dining areas. From the Founder’s Balcony, leather booths overlook the action-packed bar, while the Sunroom inspires romance with its ivory wing chairs
and small-paned windows. On the patio, guests gather around fire pits for cocktails and small bites. An oak tree, said to have been planted in the 1700s by mission founder Junípero Serra, arcs nearby.
“I try to reinvent classic flavors in new ways,” Mezick recounts. “What’s paramount: that the food tastes good. I look for tastes that satisfy the entire mouth.” He deftly harmonizes sweet and spicy in dishes starting from his already famous bacon-cheddar biscuits with maple-chili butter to beef carpaccio with Sriracha foam. Featured “whole roasted” entrees include the salt-crusted dorade and the truffle-butter chicken that slowly basks in the house’s 150-year-old kiln.
Mezick enjoys building relationships with local purveyors. “When they see you come to their stands to pick out products yourself, it builds trust. They’ll show me cool little potatoes or unusual lettuce strains. Going to the market gives me a full grasp on seasonality—what I can cook right now.” Foraged ingredients flourish in dishes such as gnocchi with morels or pizza topped with fava beans, black trumpet mushrooms, spring onions and spring onion flowers.
The wine list has about 500 labels, with one-third from Monterey County. “From the beginning we wanted the restaurant to showcase great local wines, especially small producers and rising stars,” states Beverage Director Ted Glennon. “There’s no peak that Monterey wines cannot reach.”
Favorite Farm-to-Table Finds
Black Cod: Found only in the North Pacific, it is also called sablefish or butterfish. Rich and moist, “it’s practically impossible to overcook,” Mezick notes.
Meyer Lemons: Deep yellow in color, they’re sweeter than the standard supermarket lemon. Restaurant 1833 gets them picked ripe and fresh off the trees.
Sea Grapes: Native to coastal beaches, the plant bears clusters of fruit that, indeed, resemble grapes. Chef Levi uses them whole on hamachi sashimi with orange, pickled jalapeño and vinaigrette.
Wild Mushrooms: Foragers seek out forest treasures such as morels (crinkly-capped fungi generally found in spring) and black trumpet mushrooms (with deep, woodsy flavor).
Monterey Bay Salmon: The season runs April through October. “Jerry, the fish guy, brings it right to our back door,” says Mezick.
- Black Cod
- 6 black cod portions, about 5 ounces each
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Snap Pea Puree
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ pound sugar snap peas, chopped
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Chanterelle and Asparagus Fricassée
- 12 1-inch green asparagus tips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound chanterelle mushrooms, trimmed
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 12 baby heirloom tomatoes, peeled
- Olive oil
Season the Black Cod with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil. Sear in a hot, ovenproof pan—two minutes on one side, 30 seconds on the other. Put it into 350°F oven until cooked. Serve immediately with the pea purée, fricassée and baby heirloom tomatoes (below). Serves 6.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent about 5 minutes. Add the snap peas, stock, and cream. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the peas are tender about 2 minutes. Purée them in blender until smooth.
In a medium pot of salted water, boil the asparagus until tender, then chill in ice water. Dry and reserve. Boil the baby heirloom tomatoes for 5 seconds, then chill, peel and reserve.
Pour olive oil in a large sauté pan set over high heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce heat, add the garlic, shallot, thyme and butter. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender about 4 minutes. Add the blanched green asparagus and cook until warmed through. Season to taste.
La Marea, Spur Ranch Vineyard Grenache (Monterey)