Come for the oysters, stay for the bread pudding
I was blown away by Flaherty’s Seafood. My friend Eric and I dined at Flaherty’s one balmy Friday night on a weekend trip to Carmel, California. It’s well situated right in the middle of the action in the charming seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea and within walking distance of our home for the weekend, Hofsas House Hotel. (More on that later.) There are two sides to Flaherty’s: the casual oyster bar side and the more elegant, white-linenen tablecloth side. We sat in the latter and marveled at how full the place got as the sun set over Carmel.
We were greeted warmly by Ken, the owner, and he described Flaherty’s as “a comfort food house for fish.” I love that! Flaherty’s has been committed to fresh fish and sustainability for over forty years. Their fish is delivered multiple times a day. No 10 am fish for you at the dinner hour!
I ordered a French 75, which had a bewitching purple color and hint of elderflower. Perfect for Friday the 13th and the full moon that hung above Carmel.
To start, we had the fried Castroville artichoke with a delicious pineapple slaw. That’s what I love about California cuisine: no vegetable garnish is an afterthought. I had never had fried artichoke before and now I wish it was on more menus! The sauce was great too. It tasted a bit like an upscale ranch-thousand island hybrid.
Next up we had a dozen oysters, including one variety that was the size of my hand and was oh so buttery. (Can you believe I forgot to write down our three kinds?! Ugh.) I typically like my oysters just with a squeeze of lemon but I’ve got to say, Flaherty’s has an excellent mignonette and tarter sauce. They know what they’re doing oyster-wise so if you’re an oyster person, you absolutely must stop in.
For the main course, we tried the seafood paella, lobster gnocchi, and crab-crusted halibut. (I do this for you, friends. Food blogging is hard but hey, somebody’s got to tell you what to order!) All three dishes blew my expectations out of the water (or in this case, ocean). Let’s start with the crab-crusted halibut. It’s cooked in the mushroom wine broth, which gives the fish so much flavor. I could eat the broth alone and be happy!
The lobster gnocchi has pillowy housemate gnocchi stuffed with ricotta and served with a lobster sauce, truffle oil, and chunks of lobster. I mean, you know that’s going to be good. Flaherty’s pulled it off perfectly. Fun fact: I rarely order pasta at restaurants. Very rarely. I can’t handle rich, creamy sauces but this one didn’t slow me down one bit. It’s tomato-based (my saving grace!) and the gnocchi isn’t swimming in a liquid sauce the way so many pasta dishes do. I was happy as a clam chowing down on this supremely comforting dish.
Last but certainly not least is the seafood paella. Wow. I’m quite picky about paella and this one did not disappoint. Prawns, clams, mussels, white fish, and sauce are perfectly cooked with artisan rice and saffron. It’s nice and saucy when so many paellas are too dry. It also wasn’t too salty, which is a pet peeve of mine. Come to think of it, everything at Flaherty’s was perfectly seasoned. I suppose you don’t need to rely on salt when you have the freshest fish the California coast has to offer!
I hope you’ve left room for dessert because you absolutely cannot leave Flaherty’s without ordering the bread pudding. My friend Eric gets all the credit for ordering this. I find bread pudding rather boring. A good slice is great but so many restaurants serve really bad bread pudding. Bread pudding happens to be my California mama’s favorite dessert and sitting at Flaherty’s, I finally found out why. Flaherty’s serves the greatest bread pudding I’ve ever tasted. It’s a religious experience.
The brioche bread pudding is soaked in a custard, baked in a large ramekin, and served to you with three sauces: maple syrup, berry sauce, and the best damn caramel sauce. The custard-to-bread ratio is one that I will expect from every other bread pudding. Flaherty’s has set the bar as far as bread pudding goes so please, please go taste it so that we can discuss.
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Happy dining by the sea,
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be a general resource. Any recommendations are based on personal opinion. A portion of this article may have been compensated but opinions are my own, always. I’m not a fan of negativity so if I don’t like something, I don’t write about it. I’m here to tell you about the best of the best!