Our recent stay at Pechanga Resort and Casino proved that, with seven places to eat, there were ample opportunities for a restaurant writer. We thought we did pretty well by trying two of the Resort's three premier dining rooms, Great Oak Steakhouse and Paisano's. The third called the Seafood Grotto had to be put off until another time.
Showplace restaurant is the Great Oak Steakhouse. Just a few steps from the Casino you move into another world with a classic decor dominated by a floor to ceiling rock fireplace.
Here you treat yourself to the finest, prime dry-aged beef, impeccable service and a wine list with over 400 selections representing fine vintages from all over the world. Which explains why the Great Oak has earned top awards both from the Southern California Restaurant Writers and 'Wine Spectator'.
The menu here is what one expects from the very best steak houses. Appetizers range from Prawn Remoulade, Foie Gras and Steak Tartare to hot items like Shrimp Bisque, Sweetbreads Financiere and seared jumbo scallops.
The traditional steak menu includes Delmonico, New York Strip, Ribeye, Filet Mignon and if you wish to move away from beef there is a Veal T Bone or Double Cut Lamb Chops. Also available as entrees are Salmon Oriental, Halibut, Ahi, chicken Cordon Blue, Lobster Thermidor or a Prawn Scampi.
Executive Chef is Robert Brody who trained at La Varenne, Ecole De Cuisine in France. At Pechanga he is responsible for all food operations.
It takes a good many visits to go through this menu.
Our dinner opened with the Shrimp Bisque, light and flavorful. Our steak was the 10 ounce Filet Mignon which arrived as ordered, medium well, and with a side of Bernaise Sauce. With that we ordered the creamed spinach.
Between courses we had the opportunity to meet with Jason Hollida, G.M. for the Great Oak, who told of further expansion of the wine list including a special page of wines from the Temecula Valley. We complemented him on the fine selection of vintage ports, sherries, cognacs and armagnacs that are available after dinner.
Grand Marnier Souffles are a specialty at the Great Oak along with many other creations of Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Marie Verhoeven. Our dessert was the Creme Brulee.
Great Oaks Restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. at the Resort and reservations are a good idea on weekends. Call 909 303-8507.
A second evening at Pechanga Resort we dined at the Italian Paisano's, another of the premium restaurants adjacent to the Casino. Chef Kevin Hendrickson has created a classic Italian cuisine and highlights it with a Festival of Foods where he highlights the flavors of a particular region. While we were there it was the foods and wines of Piedmont. Hendrickson has enjoyed a distinguished career in some of Southern California's best restaurants included Grant Grill in San Diego.
There is a long list of tempting appetizers including stuffed Portobello and beef Carpaccio. We selected the Calamari Fritti which came delicately breaded with a Marinara dipping sauce.
We had to skip the soups which included a Zuppa Cavolo Nero which included black cabbage, Italian sausage, tomatoes and rosemary as well as some interesting salads and pizza.
Never saying no to pasta we ordered the Linguine Vongole Veraci which was house made egg linguine with Venetian clams in the shell with tomatoes, garlic, Pinot Grigio, parsley and butter.
We were very pleased with our choice but did some tooth sucking on other tempting pastas like the Sicilian wine braised sausage with Pappardelle pasta or the Ravioli Verdure with sauteed Roma tomatoes and basil.
Meat and fish entrees include Osso Bucco Bianco, Branzino, pan seared sea bass and Pollo Cacciatora served over Tagliatelle pasta.
We chatted with Paisano's G.M. Rudy Curcio to complement him both on the cuisine and the fine accommodating service staff. Also on the extensive wine list which including fine Italian vintages from most of that country's best wine regions. The decor at Paisano's is serene for fine dining and the prices modest.
Paisano's is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. For reservations call 909 303-8506.
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