If any of you were lucky enough to watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares a couple of weeks ago, you were able to see what he did with The Secret Garden. It went from a place that looked like it served tea to 90-year old women to a nice and cozy restaurant. Being intrigued (since I work in Moorpark, I decided to go to lunch there.
My first impression was "Oh, Oh!!" The new modern sign that they'd placed during the show was gone. In its place, the original, antique-looking sign. I was very worried. When I entered, I was pleasantly surprised. The cozies, doilies, and antiques were gone. The menu was very interesting because Chef Ramsay mentioned that it seemed like everything on Chef Michel's menu was encrusted. I had to try one of the encrusted dishes...the grilled chicken breast in a light au jus with brocoli and garlic fries.
Much to my surprise, the chicken was not encrusted. At least, it wasn't encrusted in a way that I would called encrusted. It was as if the chicken had been pan fried in a little oil and then drizzeled with the au jus. On top of that, some herbs and spices were sprinkled. It was quite tasty. I hate sauces, but this au jus was quite nice, light, and flavorful. The chicken may have been slightly over spiced, but that did not detract from the flavor of the meal. I could push the excess spices off the chicken. Needless to say, I didn't touch the brocoli, but the fries were shoestring and quite crispy.
As we were having our desert, Chef Michel came out and greeted the guests in the dining room. He was quite concerned with our opinions and wanted to make sure that we were pleased with our meals. While working the room, he did two phone interviews where he talked about Kitchen Nightmares and Gordon Ramsay. In both interviews, he said, "Just because he is English and I am French does not mean that he is right and I am wrong. I serve both the menu that I've had for seven years and the menu he recommended. Orders are about 65% to 35% in favor of my menu."
I don't care which menu I ordered from. I was quite pleased and would recommend visiting the restaurant if you are in Hell's Half Acre AKA Moorpark, CA. I'd be quite interested in going there for dinner to get the full experience.
Check out the web site for menu and directions. If you are in the mood for a nice liesurely lunch, this is the place for you. Our lunch lasted three hours...you've got to love the week before Christmas.