Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

Dave Garvey is the kind of General Manager coveted in the hospitality biz. He is as excited about his gig at the Palm Desert Pacifica Seafood Restaurant this year as he was when he started at their original San Diego site circa 1989.

“I actually helped with the finishing touches on the Del Mar location before starting my job as a bartender,” Dave said. “In the years since, working for the owner, Kip Downing, has been the greatest experience; a totally hands-on education with a man I consider an innovator and a mentor.”

The comfortably appointed space located on the west side of the El Paseo Gardens is all windows on two sides, allowing a flow of natural light. On the right, lit glass fronted cabinets feature 152 vodkas from 23 countries, making up the famous International Vodka Bar. An ample area of bistro-style stools and small booths leads to the dining room and an outdoor patio – one of the few places to dine in the Coachella Valley that gives you a sweeping view of the city below.

As you might imagine, fish is the be-all end-all at Pacifica, delivered fresh from San Diego and Los Angeles seven days a week. My personal recommendation would have to be the pan roasted Chilean Sea Bass (honey soy glaze, bok choy flourishes, a green curry coconut sauce over white rice sprinkled with sesame seeds). The heavenly aroma of this dish tantalizes and delivers on nuanced taste.

A fan fave would be the grilled North Atlantic Salmon (a hunk of moist and tender fish, slightly charred, atop a delicately fried wonton filled with garlic mashed potatoes and accompanied by al dente Chinese long beans).

Dave’s choice is either the baked Oysters or baked Scallops on the Half Shell. (Oysters = served with sautéed spinach drizzled with a lemon Parmesan gratinee. Scallops = amaretto, spinach, bacon, shallots and Parmesan.)

And for something that truly speaks of our desert, do yourself a favor and order the Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates (Coachella Valley dates, apple wood smoked bacon, imported goat cheese, toasted almonds, aged balsamic, bleu cheese crumbles and beurre blanc).

Ingredients-wise, these recipes might seem a tad busy. Developed by noted restaurateur Downing and elegantly yet simply interpreted by Executive Chef Luis Zamora, the undeniable and happy confluence of flavor and texture are what set this menu apart.

Any restaurant boasting an International Vodka Bar should offer tempting adult libations and Pacifica is no exception. To quench a thirst on a summer evening, Bartender Cody likes the Georgia Peach Martini (Stoli Peach Vodka, cranberry and orange juices, with a splash of Peach Schnapps) or the Key Lime Martini (vanilla vodka, Keke Liqueur, pineapple juice, with a Graham cracker rim).

Pacifica is high end dining with a touch of the unexpected in many of its consistently pleasing dishes. Even so, Dave and his capable crew attend to the health conscious and deal conscious as well. “We have two types of regulars,” Dave said, “and we need their participation to sustain our success. Some people visit for a week or a month and make it a point to come in while they’re here. Others live locally and we see them two or three times a week. We appreciate this support and try to find ways to demonstrate that appreciation.”

For example, you can partake of their Sunset Dinners (two courses for $19.75 if ordered by 5:30 p.m. … I recommend the Mustard Catfish). And many entrees come at a regular price or a reduced price for a half portion. “If you sit in the bar,” Dave adds, “you can add soup or salad at no extra charge. This makes for more of a dining experience.” Pacifica also offers a rewards program from which you can receive a $25 gift certificate on your birthday. Earn points for every dollar spent and redeem for gift certificates.

Attentive service without hovering coupled with a modern take on true-and-tried seafood-based cuisine make for a dining experience that satisfies on many levels. Dave insists that Pacifica delivers because of the folks who work there. “This entire crew, but especially my Assistant GM Greg Wilson, knows how important each customer is and acts accordingly. We invite you to stop in and let us serve you a meal you’ll remember.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!