When was the last time that you went out to dinner with friends and were thoroughly impressed? I can attest to the fact that The Bear and Star restaurant, which is located in Los Olivos inside of Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn and Spa, has set the bar. It was remarkable in numerous ways.
When you walk through the hotel lobby and enter the restaurant, expect to find it upscale and classy, yet warm and inviting.
As soon as we were seated, the bubbly was poured and the party started. Our servers didn't just serve, they were dressed to impress and represented the restaurant like professionals.
We were seated in a private room with a huge wooden table for a party of six. One wall had a glass window that looked into the kitchen, where we watched master chefs prepare interesting dishes. One wall was full of shelves of colorful pickled vegetables. The wall behind me was a bookcase full of what else? Cookbooks.
Their descriptions of the menu items had our mouths watering. The way in which Marty and Alex, our hosts, shared great information about how the dishes would be prepared, local sourcing of ingredients and dietary options, was nothing short of impressive.
When dining out, it can be hard to find the perfect balance between attentive service and servers being intrusive. The staff here nails it. They seemed to anticipate our every need and were at the table when needed, but they never interrupted the flow of conversation.
Let’s talk food! Ohhhhhh…. They had us at Bread Service. The sweet aroma of delicious cornbread, served in cast iron skillets (with a little bacon lard on the bottom), stopped our conversation. Warm deliciousness, topped with a brown sugar butter and fermented pepper glaze evoked yummy sounds from the entire table. Our attentive server, Marty, told us that the bread would be “a little sweet, a little spicy, savory and addicting.” She didn’t tell us that it really could win awards.
Each member of our dinner party loved the Smoked Wagyu Carpaccio appetizer. It starts with cold-smoked sirloin, sliced paper thin. It is then drizzled with chive oil, a sprinkling of house cultivated, crispy shiitake mushrooms, house cured egg yolks and dollops of fresh crème, then topped with radish and micro greens from the farm. The carpaccio is big and beefy, yet delicate and simply scrumptious.
Are we rock stars? We certainly felt like it. When six servers came out at once, in a synchronized fashion to deliver our food simultaneously, we felt like royalty. Truly, the service was fit for the elite.
All the entrees that we ordered were distinctive and well-prepared. The Wagyu Tri-Tip was so tender it can melt in your mouth. The mac & cheese was crispy and dare I say, cheesy?
The grilled catfish was cooked to tender perfection and the Parker Ranch Wagyu Burger was smothered in Cheddar cheese, smoked tomato, butter pickles and Aioli. It was a hit.
The menu offers a huge selection of local wines and tempting desserts.
The restaurant is intriguing and full of surprises. The chefs cultivate several types of mushrooms on the property and do much of their own canning. Many things about The Bear and Star delight and make the dining experience one-of-a-kind.
When the meal was over, we stepped outside into a well-manicured courtyard. It is a gorgeous area with a beautiful fountain, where we enjoyed our drinks, walking around the grounds, taking in the scenery. There was also a nice seating area and a delightful fire to sit by, while we sipped fine wine.
We are thrilled that we chose The Bear and Star for our intimate birthday party. Everything about the experience was gratifying.
The Bear and Star at 2860 Grand Ave. is a Los Olivos gem. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.