We’ve been long-time admirers of Artisan. But on our recent trip we discovered another gem right across the street: Robert’s Restaurant and Wine Bar. We were fortunate to eat dinner at each of these two great Paso Robles restaurants on our recent trip. And there’s an added bonus: Robert’s is a real bargain.
If you want to try these restaurants without busting your budget, each is open for lunch. I know that when we’re in Paso we spend the lunch hour (and most other hours between 11 am and 5 pm) visiting wineries. But lunch is an option if you choose it.
Artisan re-opened in their new location on May 29, 2013. Warning: Google maps has not been updated with this information as of July 18, 2013. The correct address is the corner of 12th and Pine just across from the park. See this article from the Paso Robles Daily News for more details.
Friday night at Artisan we started by sharing the los osos greens with market vegetables and buttermilk, and the meatballs with ricotta gnocchi, piave, and guanciale ($13 each). Both were excellent, and the meatballs were exceptional. For the main courses Norma had the Elysian Fields lamb with favas, spring carrots, and nettle pesto ($34). The lamb was medium rare and very tasty. I ordered the wild boar tenderloin with pig cheek, fennel risotto, and artichoke caponata ($31). Artisan has a reputation for game and this dish lived up to the reputation. I’ll never think of wild boar the same way again. For dessert we shared a blueberry crisp with cornmeal crepe and strawberry ice cream ($9).
We had brought two bottles of wine with us. The Steven Kent 2003 cabernet sauvignon was, sadly, a year or two past its prime. There was a bit of secondary fermentation that had pushed the alcohol over 15 percent, too rich for our blood. Luckily we had a backup bottle, a 2010 RN Estate Bordeaux-style blend. It was perfect (as are nearly all of Roger Nicolas’s wines).
Total including tax but without tip: $142.56 (of which $30 was corkage for two bottles of wine).
Service was a bit spotty with a few small delays. But our server was delightful and engaging. Good, friendly service can compensate for some other shortcomings.
Artisan moved into a new, somewhat larger location a year or two ago. This was our first visit to the new location. It’s noisier than the previous venue and also has constant music that was not to our taste. But as the restaurant filled up the crowd noise drowned out the music, improving the situation. The new location also has a full bar where you can watch the kitchen in action.
Forks and Corks was Saturday night. After getting too little to eat (see my review, “too few forks”), we opted for takeout from the local Albertson’s supermarket.
Robert’s Restaurant and Wine Bar
Sunday night we were wandering around downtown and found two possible restaurants literally across the street. We studied the menu outside Robert’s Restaurant and Wine Bar. Frankly, the prices were so low for the dishes described that we were skeptical. But we took a chance and were not disappointed. The service was outstanding. Our server, Trevor, was funny and attentive. He encouraged us to taste various wines (it is, after all, a wine bar).
The appetizer menu featured one of Norma’s old favorites: wedge salad with caramelized onions, blue cheese crumbles, crisp bacon, and chipotle buttermilk dressing ($8). Outstanding presentation and a wonderful mix of classic and new flavors. I ordered the melon salad (featuring watermelon of all things). Very nice melding of three or four different melons ($11).[portfolio_slideshow include=”2703,2702″ autoplay=”true”]
After studying the menu for a while, we decided fish was called for. I ordered the macadamia nut crusted halibut with sautéed snow peas, green onion rice and papaya-coconut butter ($20). We could not believe this bargain price for such an outstanding dish. Norma tried the grilled mahi-mahi with coconut rice, sautéed cabbage, papaya salsa and garlic-lime sauce ($20). Another winner. We ordered a bottle of the always-reliable Four Vines chardonnay ($26, yes you read that correctly, no it is not a typo).
While the dessert menu was attractive (and attractively priced), nothing grabbed us so we decided to forego it.
Total including tax but not the tip: $104.76. The only comparable value we know of on the central coast is the Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach.
Robert’s dining room is more open than Artisan. That makes it less noisy. But in all fairness we were at Artisan on a Friday night, while Robert’s was on Sunday. Undoubtedly there were two different crowds.
Artisan will cost you about 50 percent more than what you’ll pay at Robert’s. Artisan’s food is a little edgier and the service is just a touch more formal. If you’re in Paso Robles for a couple of nights, I recommend giving both a try.