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The New and Historic

Bayview Grill & Bar
Robert Scheer

Leaders of the Pack: Bayview Grill & Bar owners Axel and Katey Wolff take a break from the biz.

Bayview Grill & Bar moves into the Veranda dining room of the old Aptos landmark with a low-cost menu and a few surprises

By Christina Waters

THE SOFT LIGHTING AND BLAZING fireplace work to warm the rather formal heart of the Bayview Grill & Bar, the latest restaurant to take up residence inside Aptos' Victorian Bayview Hotel. On a recent visit, I was relieved to see that Bayview management has taken care in selecting from local wineries--David Bruce, Roudon-Smith, Bonny Doon, Zayante, Ahlgren, Storrs--among other top California producers.

Seeing that our locals were in place, we perversely ordered glasses of Montinore 1994 Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($5.50) from Oregon. Generously portioned goblets arrived filled with the lovely wine's profusion of earthiness, violets and cherries.

Why, I mused, must opening courses be called "Appeteasers"? And the Bayview Grill has already launched another populist pitch--Early Bird specials served seven days a week from 4 to 6pm offering dinners for under $10. Interesting, I thought to myself, wondering why the name "Chicken Fiesta" hadn't been outlawed by now.

However mixed the message provided by wine list and dinner menu--on which we find rib eye steak stuffed with smoked mozzarella cheese, and a retro tendency toward cream sauces (both pastas that evening came with Alfredo sauce)-- the prices here are consistently and admirably low. Only filet mignon came close to the $20 mark, and entrées come with soup or salad and vegetables.

Appetizers got us off to a good start. One dish offered rare duck breast slices, each edged with spicy pepper, fanned out onto a delicious crimson pool of red bell pepper purée ($6.50). Fat prawns sautéed in a light, non-butter-intensive scampi style ($4.95) formed a circle on another plate similarly garnished with baby lettuces.

Salads, however, led us into questionable territory. My salad of "baby" greens (most of the lettuces were quite full-grown) and Terry's spinach salad both arrived nude, but accompanied by one of those little stainless steel cups that often contain tartar sauce or melted butter. Inside that little container sat something the color and texture of apple butter. Could this be the balsamic vinaigrette I'd requested? If so, it had suffered rather an extended Arctic holiday before arriving at the table.

Why? I wondered to my partner, who was similarly pondering her little side dish. Why not simply toss the salad in the kitchen or, at least, prepare the diner in advance for this mysterious presentation style.

For reasons that shall remain unfathomable, I'd ordered the moussaka ($11.95), probably because I adore it--even a version, like this one, made without meat--and because it never appears on mainstream menus. This moussaka, however, lacked the required creaminess. A large rectangle of semi-cooked eggplant, red peppers, mushrooms and spinach arrived with a crusty cheese topping that had been baked onto it like a pie crust. Half the plate was covered with rice pilaf, and nicely steamed green beans and tiny carrots occupied a minor role to the side.

Terry's rib eye steak ($14.50)--a huge portion, but bistro thin--came nicely cooked and, as advertised, smothered with mushrooms. A stuffed potato, the kind with a broiled gratin of cheese, and more fresh veggies accompanied the very flavorful beef. Terry was quite pleased with the whole thing, and I had to concur, though the charm of the stuffed potato concept has always eluded me.

We finished up with a sensational, feather-light house-made cheesecake ($3.95) topped with pecans--to which I added a glass of excellent Trafford Tawny Port ($7.50), and Terry tore into a sinful slab of chocolate indulgence ($3.95) that resembled a superior brownie.

Bayview Grill & Bar

Address: 8041 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Phone: 685-1881
Hours: Dinner nightly 4­9pm (till 10pm Fri.­Sat.), lunch Mon.­Fri. 11:30am­2:30pm, Sunday brunch 9am­2pm
Price: Moderate
Ambiance: ** 1/2 Pretty, old-fashioned dining room
Service: **1/2 Helpful, friendly, a bit overly attentive
Cuisine: ** Some fine flavors, though presentation is inconsistent
Overall: The menu, pricing and ambiance of this restaurant seem determined to appeal to every single dining taste, but more focus would be a plus

****Great, ***Excellent, **Good, *Okay

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From the December 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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