Chef Scott Cater on contemporizing his already-popular menu
Downtown Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille has quite a bit going for it. There’s the ocean view from their patio, the vast selection of California wines, and let’s not forget the food. The focus is on seafood, with a style that’s a mixture of American, Hawaiian and fusion. The restaurant opened in 1998, and executive chef Scott Cater has been running the kitchen since June 2011. We talked with him about their diverse menu and the subtle changes he’s implemented since taking over.
GT: How has the restaurant changed since you became executive chef?
SCOTT CATER: The restaurant was doing pretty well. What I basically started doing was implementing my brand of specials every other week. My goal as a chef is to bring new and exciting things into the specials. I tightened up the presentation, made it a little more contemporary and consistent, quality wise. I put the ahi tower as a special in the summer, and now it’s become literally our signature appetizer. We start with a base of sweet sushi rice. Then we do a layer of mango, avocado guacamole, then on top is a layer of ahi poke, which is raw ahi with sesame oil and soy sauce. We serve it with a mango wasabi glaze and a teriyaki and balsamic glaze. We make our own homemade taro chips to eat the poke on. It’s a very Hawaiian dish.
How have you altered the existing dishes?
Nothing super specific, just the way things are layered on plates, not so much the ingredients or the dish itself. The menu items are good as they are, and were, just needed a little bit of contemporary attention to detail. You can call it old school vs. new school. I wouldn’t even consider myself so new school for that matter. Over time it’s always important to keep things fresh and alive.
What’s your favorite dish?
The macadamia encrusted halibut. It’s seared. The halibut is really like the king fish right now with regards to flavor, the consistency, the textural aspect of it. That’s our most popular seafood item. The coconut shrimp are popular too. There’s a nice crispy coconut on the outside, and sweet chili dipping sauce. Our menu is quite large, and it’s very well received.
What do you recommend for non-fish-eaters?
We’ve got a really great New York steak and a filet mignon. I’m particularly happy and proud of our selection of salads right now. We do a golden beet salad, with a local tomato. It’s a Japanese heirloom tomato that I get from a grower here. I do a quinoa salad. It’s a little more current in regards to what people are looking for with food. Then one of our classics is our Fuji apple salad.
215 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-4900.
PHOTO: Executive Chef Scott Cater with an ahi tuna tower, one of Paradise Beach Grille’s signature appetizers. CHIP SCHEUER