Much also has been said about the competition that new restaurants add to the equation and many have wondered whether some of the old standbys can survive in this competitive market.
After an evening at the La Quinta Cliff House, much can -- and should -- be said for having a solid reputation and a loyal customer base. Located a short distance from the new crop of restaurants in La Quinta, the Cliff House is not only surviving, it's thriving.
RESTAURANT: Perched on the side of Point Happy, the Cliff House has positioned itself as an energetic eatery with spectacular views, a relaxed ambiance and creative food choices.
Part of the TS Restaurants chain, with locations in California and Hawaii, the owners of the Cliff House have managed to find a way to successfully mix the formula of running a group of restaurants without sacrificing originality.
MENU: We decided to give the Cliff House a try on a recent Monday evening, thinking we could slip in for a quiet, relaxing dinner after a hectic opening to our workweek. While we experienced the relaxation part of the equation, the Cliff House was anything but quiet. The place was packed -- on a Monday.
When the hostess informed us of the half-hour wait for a table, we decided to start the evening with appetizers in the lounge. The bar was buzzing, with a full complement of patrons filling both the indoor and outdoor seating areas. After settling into two seats at the bar, we ordered the spice charred prawns ($9.95) and the dark beer-battered onion rings ($3.95).
The onion rings were the best I've ever had, and a glance around the room told me that many others had already figured that out.
Obviously, a lot of people have pegged the Cliff House as a great place to drop in for a meaty hamburger and tasty onion rings. I can't even count how many burgers I saw carried past me, and the smell and sight tempted us to forego our dinner for the cheap thrill of a mouth-watering burger.
But lest we succumb to temptation, our hostess arrived on the scene just in time to sweep us away to the dining room. In the end, I'm glad we resisted.
Our dining experience began with two salads -- the Napa Valley Green ($5.95) and the Toasted Hazelnut ($5.95). Both provided a tasty start.
The Napa Valley salad includes an interesting combination of blue cheese and dried cranberries with a cilantro vinaigrette. The mix of salty and sweet flavors makes for a taste bud treat.
The hazelnut salad was a delightful blend of blue leaf lettuce, heart of palm and hazelnuts with a basil vinaigrette.
For entrees, we selected two unique seafood selections. The Roasted Corn Husk Wrapped Salmon ($17.95) is denoted as a chef's selection and for good reason. The tender salmon is served on an open cornhusk with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, sweet corn and Monterey Jack cheese. The combination is covered with a lime beurre blanc. Prepared in the wrapped cornhusk, the flavors mix to create a delightful blend without overpowering the salmon.
My companion chose the Macadamia Coconut Crust Seabass ($18.50). Prepared with a pineapple beurre blanc, the sweet taste of the coconut and pineapple provided an enjoyable pep to the fish.
Both entrees were served with Mexican-style rice and a vegetable medley of carrots and asparagus. The carrots and asparagus could have been left in the kitchen, since they were limp and relatively tasteless.
My companion has previously enjoyed dinner at other TS Restaurants in Hawaii, so the dessert selection was determined even before the salads were served. The house specialty Hula Pie ($5.95) was worth the wait and it is large enough to share. The Oreo crust is filled with macadamia nut ice cream and topped with fudge, macadamia nuts and whipped cream.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Whether you're in the mood for a quick burger or a relaxing meal, let it be said that the Cliff House has definitely established its place on the dining scene.