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We stayed for two nights at the Mirabelle Inn during our last road trip to Solvang; and had stayed there for one night, about a month previously, as we passed through Solvang on our way to the North Coast.

I've already written a little about Solvang in my review of the Hitching Post. Let me summarize by saying that Solvang, with its Danish kitsch, bakeries, winery bars, nearby wineries, outlets, golf, excellent food, etc., is a great spot for a few nights if you're doing the area for whatever reason; and the Mirabelle Inn (a charming B&B) is one of the few best places to stay. The Inn not only has a spa, but at least one of the rooms (the very romantic Room 9) has a two-person jacuzzi.

The Restaurant at the Mirabelle Inn

Although we're not huge oenophiles, we've been doing a lot of touring in the wine country for the past year and have some experience with a few of the well-regarded, better, smaller restaurants. I don't want to minimize the creativity or individuality of the Mirabelle Restaurant, but it fits the description to a "T."

The food is inventive, if not at the extreme cutting edge. More importantly, it's best ingredients and extremely well prepared. The style itself is "California Wine Country," the local accents are touches of Mexican and Danish, and the highly-regarded chef, Norbert Schultz (an all around good guy), brings a few personal touches as well.

The setting is not overly formal; but charming and romantic. While you certainly don't have to get dressed up, it is perfect for an anniversary -- even one ending in an 0 or a 5.

You can get a pretty good idea of what's going on in terms of culinary viewpoint from looking at their "representative," online menu. Note that the "Tasting Menu" changes daily, the entire menu changes frequently, and that (at least on the day I'm posting this) the real menu includes a dessert selection.

They have a sensitive and extremely well-chosen -- if not huge -- wine selection. On the night we were there, other guests included some of the owners of both the Firestone and Bridlewood Wineries (at separate tables); which says a great deal about both the food and wine. Worth noting that the Bridlewood party engaged in a real dialogue with the head-waiter/sommelier and sent several bottles back before settling on their choices. Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to do the same.

Linda started with the tomato soup, which was about as good as tomato soup gets -- intensely tomato. She followed that with the duck breast on a polenta pancake, which she said was better than any duck she'd ever had. My own take on her duck which was "as good as any, maybe the best," doesn't present much contrast. Very rich, and very very very tender (tender to the 3^). For dessert I recall that she had wine-poached apricot with creme anglaise, and that we both liked it.

I had the prix fixe (which they called a "tasting menu," but it isn't), along with the house selected flight of three wines. Cold Heaven Viognier with the ceviche, a 2007 Cabernet (I forget the vintner) complimented the main, and Essensia Orange Muscat with dessert. All three wines, as well as my ala carte sherry aperitif were excellent, and very well paired.

Not to wander too far afield, but I especially recommend the Essensia as something which goes well with any number of desserts, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Maybe just an arm up to the elbow.

The prix fixe menu including a halibut ceviche app, a braised short rib main, and was, overall, quite good. The ceviche represented excellent ingredients done simply and well, as good as you'd expect, but I eat a lot of very good ceviche, and I'm not sure that I'd classify the Mirabelle's as particularly memorable in the same way as, say, our favorite local Mexican restaurant's ceviche de camaron cruda. Don't take me wrong, the Mirabelle's was delicious. Chef Norbert got all the balances exactly right, including the fatty avocado with the lean fish, not to mention not over or under "cooking" the very fresh halibut in the citrus.

The short rib was on the lean side, and bordered on being dry without quite crossing the line. Had there been more gravy on the plate, I would have been happier. Again though, don't take faint damns as severe criticism. It was good beef, tasted like good beef, and was very tender without being stringy.

If it sounds like I'm niggling and not as positive about the individual dishes on the prix fixe as the overall, well... Forgive me if it's "TMI," but I was having some oral issues that night and what the ceviche's tostada did to my gums may have made me overly critical regarding the ceviche itself sensitive to the beef's texture. Both the ceviche and short rib fell under the same "best ingredients, extremely well prepared" rubric as everything else; so don't ding the restaurant too hard because I had a "pocket" in my gums making me grumpy.

The food is much better than the relatively low prices would lead you to expect. If anything, the prices are a problem in that they don't give a true picture. The wine list is excellent, and very fairly priced, though BYOB corkage is expensive. As to the corkage price, think of it more as a message than an actual cost. Considering their cellar selections and prices, there's absolutely no reason to bring your own wine.

The Mirabelle supposedly does a great steak -- at least according to Yelp. However, given the other steak opportunities nearby, I think something which stretched Chef Norbert's talents would be a better choice. The Mirabelle isn't a restaurant meant to merely satisfy, it's meant to delight; and it does so.

The night we ate there, the price for the Tasting Menu with three wines was $55, and the total bill was around $180 including food, all beverages (including sparkling water, my aperitif, Linda's aperitif, and my wines), a large tip, AND a post-prandial cheese plate which they brought to the room in their own, not exactly room-service, fashion.

Bottom Line:The food is excellent, so is the wine list, the setting is perfect. Prices are on the low side of appropriate, all things considered. Classing the Restaurant at the Mirabelle at the level of a Michelin "One Star" is something of a no-brainer. Worth the trip.

Stay at the Mirabelle Inn (but bring your own coffee), eat at the Mirabelle Restaurant. Highest recommendations.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/3/12 at 8:22am
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What were we talking about?
 
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