For those who don’th know, January is San Luis Obispo’s Restaurant Month, which means Noelle is a happy girl! Every January, participating restaurants in SLO county offer up prix-fixe menus at $30-40 per person. It’s a lovely way to sample restaurants that might normally be out of your price range, and I certainly look forward to it every year. So, this month, I’m going to try to visit as many participating restaurants as my budget will allow!
Luna Red is a Spanish/tapas restaurant located right next to the Mission. I’ve been here before, but I sat on their lovely outdoor patio and just shared a cheese board with a friend. Last night was crazy rainy, so I got a chance to see the interior, which was absolutely gorgeous! Of course, it’s harder to take pictures of your food when the lighting is dimmed, but the romantic ambiance definitely makes up for it. We ordered some of the restaurant’s house sangria, and dug in.
For the first course, we were both allowed to pick two “pinchos” from a list including varieties such as “quinoa and roasted red pepper”, “tuna ceviche and cucumber” and “soft egg and bacon”. Nik chose the “chorizo and blue cheese” and the “soft egg and bacon” (top), and I chose the “tuna ceviche and cucumber” and “poached albacore and whipped avocado”. I was expecting these appetizers to be bite-sized, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were a few bites each! Each was completely different and uniquely delicious! The tuna ceviche was bursting with unexpected flavor. The soft bacon and egg was comforting and hearty. The poached albacore was perfect, and the whipped avocado made it something special. “Like a really fancy tuna sandwich” was how I think we described it. The chorizo was killer, and though the blue cheese was also very strong, somehow the two flavors didn’t overwhelm.
The second course was a choice between a green salad and the vegetarian soup of the day, so of course we each chose something different and split. The salad featured roasted beets, (though the menu advertised the salad as having roasted apples) lavender-chili walnuts, big rock blue cheese, red onions, and a citrus-sherry vinaigrette. I’m not a huge salad person or a beet person, but this was very refreshing and balanced. The lavender-chili walnuts were definitely my favorite part of the dish!
The soup of the day was an eggplant and winter squash bisque, and it was perfect for a stormy night. It was very hearty and comforting. I’m not sure what the garnish was, but it was some sort of roasted mild chili. The soup comes with a side of the softest bread I’ve ever eaten, which was perfect for dunking in the rich soup.
For the third course, Nik chose the Chuleta Valluna, which was a crispy pork chop on a bed of whipped avocado and guajillo-tomato sauce, topped with sweet potato shoestrings. I’ve never had a pork-chop quite like this, and definitely never as large. I’m not sure what the chop was breaded in, but it was perfectly crispy and blackened. The guajillo-tomato sauce added a kick to the dish, and the whipped avocado cooled it down. My favorite part was the shoestring sweet potatoes, which added the perfect crunch! Nik claims this is the best pork-chop he’s ever eaten.
I ordered the Moqueca, which is a Brazilian coconut-tomato stew with wild fish, octopus, clams, shrimps, and scallops, all over a bed of white rice. Oh my god, this was amazing! The broth alone was so thick and flavorful, I could have drank it on its own. I love coconut milk in soup, but I’ve never had it in a tomato-based broth. I couldn’t believe how many different kinds of seafood they managed to pack into one dish, but I definitely appreciated it. My only complaint was that there was some sand left in the clams, so they were a little gritty. Other than that, everything was perfect. The shrimps were perfect, the fish was tender and flaky, the octopus was the opposite of chewy, and the two huge scallops were the star of the show. They were perfectly seared, and so buttery and sweet. I love when you can cut through your scallop with your spoon! So delicious!
Altogether, our meal cost $30 per person. There was an option to add a fourth dessert course for $40, but we were more than stuffed with just three courses. Our leftovers made a yummy lunch the next day! We both left more satisfied than we’ve been with a meal in a long time, and I’d definitely recommend trying Luna Red’s Restaurant Month Menu before January is over. There are so many other restaurants to try, but you will not be disappointed with this one in the slightest!