A New Light

dining guyCooking from scratch with local and unique ingredients ensures Solaire a bright future

I once went to the Holiday Inn on Ocean Street to research an article on their food, and what I found was nothing to write home (or to you) about. There was kind of a bar, manned by a staff member who kind of knew how to make a few drinks, and some edible appetizers. The recent remodel of that space, in what is now Hotel Paradox, is miraculous and the food that comes from its kitchen, not only is based on local and organic products, but is also decisively creative with numerous house-made surprises.

At the bar, you’ll find a wine list that is almost entirely local. All but one of the draft beers is a microbrew from California or Oregon. House specialty cocktails ($8) are made with soju, a Korean distilled spirit. California allows establishments with only beer and wine licenses to sell it if the percentage of alcohol is less than 25 percent. Lemon drops are made with ginger, a cucumber press includes cucumber and lemon, while the Merry Perry is flavored with jalapeño, cilantro and coconut-carrot curry.

The spacing of wide horizontal fence boards surrounding the pool echoes the parallel lines of rough extruded cement on the building’s exterior. The makeover created modern and welcoming spaces in the bar and restaurant, including a lounge surrounding a gas fireplace. Clean geometrical shapes are repeated with square and circular stark white tables surrounded by square-backed chairs upholstered plainly in cool, smooth green hues. A photograph of blue sky through trees covers the angular ceiling, while a sculpture of lichen-covered branches flows along the hallway. Uniquely interesting is a standalone conference room surrounded by glass walls in which are embedded transparent images of a redwood forest. Elsewhere, a pack if squirrel statuettes pose along a whitewashed wall.

dining 2During the off-season, a Continental Breakfast ($9) is offered on weekday mornings, which includes your choice of hot beverages and juice. The server presented a set of white dishes on a matching tray. Vanilla-flavored organic yogurt was cold and smooth. I topped it with crunchy nuggets of lightly sweetened house-made granola. I chose a dense pumpkin pie-spiced carrot muffin instead of toast. A bowl of fresh fruit included plump raspberries, sweet pineapple and chunks of pastel melon. It was a relaxing accompaniment to the morning paper.

On weekends, you’ll find a more extensive menu. Along with the continental breakfast, also offered are steel cut oatmeal, a house-made sausage and chive biscuit with Béchamel sauce, and French toast with vanilla custard and house-made preserves.

Breakfasts made with Glaum eggs ($11 to $16) include three-egg omelets with choice of fillings as well as eggs any way with bacon, sausage or ham.
Recommended were the Crab Cakes Benedict ($16). At last, a cake whose interior is crab, no binding batter, just shredded Dungeness crab seasoned with some bits of red bell pepper. Very nice indeed. Perched on halves of toasted English muffins, they were topped with eggs, softly poached the old-fashioned way, and tart, mildly spicy custard-colored Hollandaise sauce. Three pieces of apple wood-smoked bacon on the side ($3) were thick, salty and meaty.

During lunch, I could likely live off the appetizers alone. Simple Marcona almonds ($4) join thrice-cooked fries with spicy harissa aioli ($5), piquanté peppers stuffed with goat cheese ($6), and a platter of artisan salumi and west coast cheeses ($16). The Caesar salad ($10) includes grana padano cheese and white anchovies.

Main dishes ($8 to $24) however, are equally as interesting. There is a Vietnamese Bánh Mì tofu sandwich with pickled vegetables, Thai basil and mint, a baguette with Corralitos Market ham, ruyère Swiss cheese, and honey mustard, and house-ground beef burgers served on sweet brioche buns.

dining solaireThe Milano ($14) which was served between halves of crusty baguette bread intrigued me. The peppered soprasetta salami and juniper flavored ham speck had wonderful earthy European flavors. They were topped with smooth, house-pulled mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil.

Local sand dabs ($17) were topped with a warm lemony sauce and served on a salad of arugula and heirloom tomatoes with fried capers and coarsely grated grana padano cheese.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas days, a four-course tasting menu will be served. ($38 adults/$19 children). On Christmas Eve, an a la carte menu will be available at dinner.

On New Year’s Eve, from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. $75 earns you the tasting menu and a table all night to enjoy live entertainment and dancing. On New Year’s Day, brunch will include a buffet of appetizers, salad and dessert, with á la carte entrees and unlimited sparkling wine or mimosas. ($28/$14). A Bloody Mary Bar will be seaparate. 

Solaire Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Paradox, 611 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 600-4545. Beer, wine and soju. Open daily for breakfast from 7 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Visit thehotelparadox.com.

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