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Great location, beautiful people, good food at Rimel’s in Cardiff

David Boylan
The chicken and veggie potstickers in a Siracha and green chile sauce at Rimel’s in Cardiff-by-the-Sea
ON THE MENU The chicken and veggie potstickers in a Siracha and green chile sauce at Rimel’s in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Courtesy photo

Cardiff Town Center is one of those places that no matter how hot you think you are, you will always find someone more attractive. It’s probably a combination of the location, the lifestyle and the cool shops and restaurants like Rimel’s, where I recently stopped in to sample their dinner offerings.

I’ve tried popping in before but it was always very crowded and with no reservations, I always opted to move on. A recent Tuesday night found a couple seats at the bar, so I decided to give it a shot. The bar is a cool place to hang out, as the kitchen is a whirl of activity with flames shooting high and plenty of orders to keep the cooks moving at a feverish pace. The barstools, while very stylish looking in solid wood, were not very comfortable for extended seating … but they sure looked good. The whole place looks good.

The vibe at Rimel’s is pure California coastal. Warm earth tones, mesquite fires sending delicious scents through the air, indoor and outdoor seating and a nice view of Cardiff State Park and the ocean beyond make this a prime location to take an out-of-town guest for that SoCal experience. There is also a good chance for an action sports celebrity sighting. I could have sworn Rob Machado was there, or someone who looked a lot like him.

The menu at Rimel’s covers a lot of ground but they bill themselves as Rimel’s Rotisserie with fresh meats, poultry, game and seafood roasted to perfection over our mesquite, wood-fired grill and rotisserie. They buy from San Diego fisherman daily and catch their own local seasonal fish, which is a cool touch. Their side dishes and other menu selections are made daily in-house.

A quick background on rotisseries takes them way back to medieval times when the spit was the preferred way of cooking meat in a large household. A “spit boy” or “spit jack” sat near the spit turning the metal rod slowly and cooking the food. Mechanical turnspits were later invented, first moved by dog-powered treadmill, seriously, that’s what my research turned up. Spits are now primarily electric powered. The word comes from France where it first appeared in Paris shops around 1450.

I was encouraged to try the chicken and vegetable pot stickers and the menu proclaims them as the “best in town.” Six dumplings sautéed in sweet pepper sauce and served with Siracha and green chili garlic sauce. The sauce is a colorful, almost psychedelic looking swirl of green and orange and yes, the dumplings are delicious.

Next up were the local black mussel steamers, which are almost a pound of fresh mussels cooked in a white wine broth with garlic, onions and jalapenos served with plenty of toasted sourdough. This is a serious bowl of mussels and plenty for two or even three people to munch on. The broth is great and the toasted bread perfect for dipping.

The fish of the day was local halibut and I left it up to the discretion of our server on the preparation. He suggested grilled on the steaming rice bowl, which is actually a large plate. Their fresh vegetables are wokked with chicken broth and soy sauce and cooked al dente then topped high over a bed of jasmine rice with the fish on top. It was a nice and healthy way to go and a very substantial portion. I’ve always known local halibut to be thinner than the Northern variety yet this one was a very hearty, thick piece of deliciously moist fish which was fine by me.

We also tried the sashimi style ahi tuna, which came with a choice of two side dishes, ginger and wasabi and one sauce. Side dish choices include wok-seared vegetables, herb roasted or garlic mashed potatoes, cup of soup, field greens, Caesar or pacific rim salad, jasmine white or hearty brown rice and house black beans. The wok-seared veggies were our pick and they paired nice with the ahi.

As I mentioned, they have an extensive menu that includes rotisserie chicken, steaks, fish tacos, ribs, burgers, and a nice selection of salads. The lone dessert selection was a chocolate bundt cake from VG’s Bakery down the block. That was a cool local touch and while it was very moist, I could have used a scoop of ice cream to go with it. There is a nice selection of local beers and a decent wine list also.

Prices range from $8 for appetizers to $25 for the priciest entrée with a lot to choose from in the $10 to $20 range. They are open daily for lunch also. Rimel’s is located at 2005 San Elijo Ave. in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Check out the whole menu at rimelsrestaurants.com.

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