Restaurant News & Reviews

Koberl at blue offers high-style dining in downtown SLO

Koberl at blue's warm gruyere and onion tart is accompanied by field greens in a pumpkin seed vinaigrette.
Koberl at blue's warm gruyere and onion tart is accompanied by field greens in a pumpkin seed vinaigrette. The Tribune

For the past five years, Koberl at blue has provided a classy, comfortable spot to enjoy “Wine Country Dining.”

Already fans of the existing blue restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Erich and Patricia Koberl bought the establishment in May 2005 because “there was just something about it,” remembered Patricia. “It has a real Old World charm.”

Located in the historic circa-1894 J.P. Andrews building at Monterey and Osos streets, Koberl at blue has all the style points you’d expect from a big city restaurant. There are distinctive brick walls, tasteful lighting and rich wood accents throughout, white linens in the main dining room, and an expansive wooden bar stretching the length of the room.

Though this is the first restaurant the Koberls have owned and operated themselves, they bring with them decades of experience in the hospitality industry. Their extensive résumé includes everything from intimate dining establishments to the Taj Palace in Atlantic City, as well as stops in Boston, Hawaii and Europe.

At Koberl at blue, Patricia oversees the front-of-the-house duties while Erich works in the kitchen. They don’t have any managers, so one or, usually, both of them are on site every day, assuring the attention to detail and consistency on which they pride themselves. This approach is also expected from the staff, all of whom receive about three weeks of training before being on their own.

In developing his wine-friendly cuisine, Erich uses the freshest ingredients and makes everything possible from scratch, from salad dressings to almost a dozen sorbets and ice creams. Signature entrées include a roasted halibut and an herb-crusted rack of lamb, while other favorites run the gamut from coriander seared sea scallops to Snake River Farms steaks. Daily specials might encompass sautéed sea bass with lemon beurre blanc or even a refreshing dessert such as buttermilk lemon sorbet with fresh strawberries.

The appetizer, soup and salad options are just as inviting, with classic wine country dishes such as a Caesar salad, artisan cheese plate and bruschetta lined up next to the international flavors of chicken potstickers, buffalo and butternut squash empanadas, and potato and onion pierogi with smoked sturgeon.

You can also choose from seared foie gras or sautéed sweetbreads, fresh oysters or beef carpaccio, fried calamari or the daily “Soul in a Bowl” — a hearty bowl of regional delights such as curry, chili or the recent Baja California seafood stew.

While many restaurants cater to vegetarian diners with a few dedicated dishes, Koberl at blue presents a separate menu available upon request. It has more than a dozen items, including a selection of harvest vegetables or chucka soba noodles served with asparagus, mushrooms and a lemon ginger sauce.

All of Koberl at blue’s dishes feature creative plating, accenting the main ingredient with dimensional touches like spears of tempura asparagus, curls of shaved cheese or a house-made almond wafer topping off one of more than 10 decadent desserts.

Also complementing the food is the restaurant’s beverage list, featuring bottled and draught beers, creative martinis and mixed drinks, and a well-thought-out wine list with local labels, California standouts and international selections. Wines by the glass and half bottles are also available.

When they first opened in 2005, Patricia said that “we’ve brought a little bit of everything we’d like to see in a restaurant to Koberl at blue.” Looking back on those five years, she noted that while “we’re always working on perfecting something, we really knew what we wanted to do from the beginning.

We think we’ve created something really nice, and we’re very proud of it.”