Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant has a wood-fire oven which takes center stage on the menu. They base much of their seasonal, organic menu on dishes that can be baked, roasted, or braised in the oven. They also have a wood-fired grill.
The menu--which seems to change monthly--offers a handful of interesting salads and starters, five different pizzas (which looked amazing and which we vowed to try upon our return, and yes we will certainly be returning), a whole smattering of vegetable dishes (vegetarians take note: this place is an excellent choice for anyone who doesn't eat meat), and a well-thought-out selection of mains. In addition, there were two additional starters and mains on offer.
We started with one of the salad specials, a mound of microgreens grown and harvested just behind the restaurant, tender spring fava beans, baby asparagus, and fresh peas all lightly dressed with carrot-ginger vinaigrette. It was incredibly fresh, springtime on a plate. We also had a gorgeous salad of butter lettuce, microgreens, shaved fennel, pecorino, tarragon and lemon vinaigrette, which was perfectly balanced with fresh, tangy, sweet, and salty flavors.
The star of the evening had to be our main-dish special though: rabbit in the wood-fire oven, cooked two ways: roasted saddle of rabbit wrapped in Serrano ham and braised whole leg in au jus; served with French white beans, pancetta, carrots, and braised greens. It was so good in fact that we couldn't help but tell the tables next to us that they must order it. We also shared a grilled flatiron steak with red wine gravy and smashed Yukon gold potatoes, carrots, and braised fennel. The steak was tender and deeply flavored, but was a bit on the rare side (we had ordered medium-rare). The potatoes were a good choice, but neither of us loved the fennel and thought that could have been left out of the mix.
The wine list leans toward offerings from the central coast, with additional French and Italian wines. There are a decent number of wines available for under $40, but the prices go up rather quickly from there. We chose a gorgeous medium-bodied earthy Sicilian nero d'avola. Granted it was a abnormally warm evening, but the wine was served slightly on the warm side, a big peeve of mine. But the staff gladly chilled the wine for a minute and then it was perfect.
We finished with a brown butter rhubarb tart with brown butter ice cream and a tangy lemon pudding cake with lemon sorbet and huckleberries, both of which were perfect marriages of winter flavors (brown butter and citrus) meet early springtime fruits (rhubarb and huckleberries). We ordered a light moscato to pair alongside the dessert, but even though we reminded the waiter when the dishes arrived, the wine never did. Well, it did but only after we were long finished.
If you can get past the service not being spot on, which in my opinion you should, and accept some less polished occasional missteps (but always with a smile and an apology!), then Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant has a lot to offer. Romantic, tucked away, local and seasonal, and most of all superbly delicious.