The stunning ocean view from Lido Restaurant and Lounge certainly gets your attention, but so will the waves of flavors created by executive chef Brian Collins and his culinary team, including pastry chef Benjie Puga.
As the restaurant for The Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa, Lido enjoys an enviable surfside perch on the bluffs of Shell Beach.
Arguably, there isn’t a bad seat in the high-ceiling dining room or even in the adjacent bar area, both tastefully decorated with natural elements and neutral tones that let the view speak for itself. There are also several outdoor tables that become coveted spots on sunny afternoons.
Because the restaurant is a full-service arm of the resort, it welcomes everyone for every meal — from casual diners just looking for a burger to those looking for the perfect place for a special occasion.
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An Arroyo Grande High School grad, Collins was inspired to pursue a gastronomic career by a television episode and a book. Though he worked at a couple local restaurants as a teenager, he recalls seeing the famed Jacques Pepin on a cooking show and being “amazed by his knife skills, overall techniques and creativity.”
Add to that a Chez Panisse Café Cookbook that his mom gave him, and Collins was off “to the big city for both formal training and practical training.” He enrolled at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and then went knocking on the door of Chez Panisse “just asking if I could volunteer.”
Eventually, that led to a five-year run at the Berkeley mecca of local and seasonal cuisine before Collins returned here “because I really wanted to explore that idea on the Central Coast.”
Since being back, his résumé has included sous chef positions at Windows on the Water and Lido, a chef position at Full of Life Flatbread’s restaurant, and now back at Lido as executive chef since May 2011.
Though Collins’ classic techniques are evident on the plate, they are always at the service of local ingredients such as abalone and oysters, greens and goat cheese, beef and rabbit. Of course, seasonal items like Dungeness crab and chantrelle mushrooms are celebrated as well, particularly on the daily specials menu.
Morning options might include French toast with house-made brioche bread and caramelized bananas, crispy duck hash with poached eggs and Tabasco-tarragon Hollandaise, or a grilled vegetable omelet.
For lunch, enjoy such starters as beef carpaccio with crispy parmesan fries or steamed clams with a garlic and tomato broth, then move on to a shrimp and butter leaf salad with house-made buttermilk dressing, a prime rib BLT or smoked chicken pappardelle.
Lido’s current dinner menu offers everything from a silky roasted cauliflower soup to a smoked butterfish salad, from gnocchi with braised lamb sauce to crispy pan-roasted sea scallops with ginger beurre blanc sauce, from beef short ribs with prosciutto-wrapped broccolini to an opulent Shell Beach Bouillabaisse with mussels, rockfish, scallops, shrimp and clams in a saffron broth. (Lido will also continue its $30/three-course Restaurant Month concept through February.)
The well-thought-out wine list from Todd Brown, director of food and beverage, offers some great pairing possibilities, and definitely save room for Puga’s creative desserts such as apple bread pudding, seared carrot cake, or decadent triple-cream cheesecake with herb sabayon and red beet ice cream.
As if all that weren’t enough, don’t forget about that ocean view!