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Seascape Sensation

[whitespace] Karl Straub
George Sakkestad

View Master: Sanderlings chef Karl Straub creates dishes that are as appealing in appearance as they are in taste.

With chef Karl Staub in charge at Sanderlings, there are delicious reasons to head for Seascape's resort getaway

By Christina Waters

VIEWS OF THE OCEAN always play hard to get in Aptos. But Sanderlings has a new panache that outshines even moody weather, and the reason is chef Karl Staub. Staub--former cuisinartist at Monterey's Sardine Factory--has sculpted a menu of inventive salads, sexy desserts and creative variations on even the most obvious resort-menu standards. We left feeling that we'd just discovered gold at the far edge of Seascape. And here's why.

Yes, we'd like to sample three red wines from the well-appointed wines-by-the-glass list, I and my companions, Karen and Katya, agreed. My Byron Pinot Noir 1997 and Karen's Sonoma Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (both $8) were deliciously full-bodied. Katya, a merlot fan from her former filmmaking days in Brittany, enjoyed her Forest Merlot ($5.75), and we all fell in love with the exceptionally sour house sourdough.

Our two appetizers dazzled. At the center of one square platter was a mound of diced artichoke, fava bean and haricots vert salad--all bound together with a green garlic aioli that was both distinctive and garlicky ($8.95). A thick band of prosciutto encircled the artichoke mixture, while gorgeous accompaniments of baby oak leaf lettuce, cucumber fans and tomatoes dotted each corner, and a froth of spun beets crowned the top. Sensational to look at, it tasted just as good, and we practically fought over who would dip bread in the last traces of the aioli.

A salad featuring seared day-boat scallops was equally gorgeous ($11.95). Tiny waffle-pattern potato chips--homemade--dotted the thicket of baby Watsonville lettuces, though the excellent blood-orange dressing was abundant and overwhelmed the delicate flavors. With less dressing, it would have been perfection.

"I love this salad," Katya kept moaning, speaking for all of us.

Katya also loved her Gorgonzola potato tower, just one of the supporting stars of her filet mignon entree, which arrived expertly seared, with braised carrots, celery and earthy morels in a to-die-for reduction sauce ($24.95). A potato crisp frosted with ripe Gorgonzola punctuated the midsection of the mashed potato tower--truly a splendid dish.

But then so was my seafood pasta special--an impeccable deep-dish fettuccine generously stocked with tender morsels of fresh Dungeness crab, sweet white shrimp, more of the artichoke hearts, shiitake mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in a restrained herb cream sauce ($21.95). It arrived al dente--a miracle in such a busy large dining room.

Sanderlings' kitchen even transformed simple free-range chicken--marinated in lots of rosemary and roasted under a brick ($16.95)--into something quite special. It was accompanied by Yukon gold mashed potatoes, sautéed golden zucchinis with sun-dried tomato zest and plenty of its own delicious juices.

Already won over by this culinary performance, we were finished off by the mouth-watering pastry tray, from which we chose an almond apricot tart ($5.50) and something wicked-looking involving chocolate mousse and blackberries ($5.95). To celebrate Katya's upcoming CNN assignment in Baghdad, we splurged on a glass of Graham's Port 1994 ($29). Complex and layered with fruit and leathery depths, the supple port made perfect sense with the barely sweet apricot tart.

Katya wasn't as wild about Karen's beautiful chocolate dessert, in which a blackberry filling had been surrounded by rich mousse, served on a plate beautifully decorated with artful loops of chocolate puree, dots of mango puree and pools of crème Anglaise. But I loved it.

Not simply a fine resort dining room, Sanderlings now easily stands on its own as a destination restaurant. You can thank chef Karl Staub for that.

Address: 1 Seascape Resort Dr., Aptos
Phone: 662-7120
Hours: Open daily; breakfast Mon-Fri 6-11am (Sat from 7am); lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner nightly 5:30-10pm; brunch Sun 8am-2pm.
Chef: Karl Staub
Service: *** Friendly and swift
Ambiance: *** Lovely views and acres of carpeted rendezvous lounges punctuate the cavernous main dining room
Cuisine: *** 1/2 Freshly conceived and gorgeously presented, dishes here are showpiece value for the money
Overall: You'll be happily surprised by imaginative cuisine that is far ahead of the usual resort dining room pack.
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From the May 12-19, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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