The reopening of The Galley restaurant on Morro Bay’s Embarcadero was a long-awaited highlight for many locals.
Rumors constantly swirled that the restaurant would reopen sooner than later but then finally, three years after closing for a remodel, the Galley Seafood Grill & Bar reopened in December.
Remnants of the former restaurant are still apparent, but the space has been completely revamped and most changes are for the better.Now an elegant Hawaiian-themed restaurant, it sports all new fixtures and vast windows with some of the best views of Morro Rock and the bay from the Embarcadero.
Cozy booths and bistro tables line the windows with nearly every table offering a stellar vista. I dined at the bar during one of my visits and was delighted that my stool offered nearly the same view as the tables next to the windows.
Diners who tire of watching the outdoor scenery can watch the restaurant’s chefs at work via a flat-screen TV. This voyeuristic look comes from a video camera installed high above the kitchen.
This clever touch brings the kitchen closer to the diner. People enjoy trying to figure out if a chef is working on their order.
Returning to The Galley as head chef, Henry Galvez created an impressive menu packed with fresh seafood. The emphasis is on fresh and “naked,” meaning the fish isn’t served drenched in heavy sauces. But sauces are available — diners can partake in a classic tartar or mango salsa if they want to dress up their entree.
The catch is local when possible, said owner David Peter, but constraints on the local fishing industry often force the kitchen to go farther afield for favorites such as wild-caught salmon, halibut and Hawaiian ahi.
On a recent evening, I began with seared scallops in a buttery white wine sauce. The scallops were crisp and browned on the outside, silky in the middle. This is how scallops are meant to be served — simple and straightforward, not lost amid a heavy sauce.
All entrees are served with a basket of steaming San Luis Sourdough rolls and herb butter, which is the perfect tangy compliment to the restaurant’s array of seafood dishes.
The steamed clams ($15) are an ample pile of shellfish served in a large bowl of seafood broth. A meal in itself or an appetizer to be split, the clams are tender, flavorful and pair well with the chopped celery, garlic and tomatoes infused into the broth.
On another visit, I sampled a daily special, a Japanese firecracker roll which was a blend of ahi sashimi, tempura, rice and seaweed. Spicy and flavorful, this was a welcome change from the restaurant’s mostly traditional American seafood menu.
Wine and dessert
The Galley’s wine selection is ample and well-thought- out, featuring wines from around California, Italy and France. The manager guided us into picking a reasonably priced ($30) French chardonnay that we adored. Later he allowed us to taste from the higher-priced bottle we skipped over, for comparison.
After an evening of light seafood dishes, we figured we’d finish it off with a couple of indulgences: a glass of tawny port and crème brûlée for dessert.
Both were as satisfying and impressive as our overall dining experience at The Galley.
Reach Dawn White at 781-7946.