I kept calling it the happy hour menu, and my server kept correcting me: “Sunset menu.”
2591 S. Coast Highway 101, Cardiff-by-the-Sea
Sounded like semantics to me. It’s available from 4:30 until 6 pm nightly, conventional happy hour timing. Then the sun started its descent, and I realized she was right.
We’re in the upstairs dining room of Ki’s Restaurant, located on the Pacific Coast Highway, directly across the street from Cardiff State Beach. Picture windows and a length of balcony commanded clear views of sandy beach and ocean when I walked in, but it’s around sundown the real show begins.
The reason I’d come asking about the sunset menu is that it offers what I’d call a unique feature for happy hour: prix fixe dining. For 20 dollars, you get a choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert; all before 6 pm. I think the ocean view is supposed to be the big draw here, but I came for the novelty of a three-course happy hour.
Ki’s has been here since 1994, but started at a different location 14 years prior as a juice bar. Juices, smoothies, and acai bowls are still served across a counter downstairs, but head upstairs for the view and a full service menu ranging from grilled proteins to pastas to Asian dishes. From Wednesday through Saturday the latter includes selections from a sushi bar. A lucky surprise for me: it was Wednesday, and a two-piece nigiri order goes for a mere $4 on the sunset menu, so I got an early jump on my prix fixe with a couple pieces of buttery salmon.
That gave me time to decide on my three courses. Appetizer options include salads and soups, and there were four of those to choose from. Entrées included four-ounce servings of New York strip or miso-glazed salmon, each with vegetable sides. I surprised myself this time by going for vegetarian dishes on both counts: lentil soup, and vegetable coconut curry.
Both were done well, with good ingredients and lots of flavor. The yellow curry featured brown rice and veggies including red pepper, zucchini, carrot, onion, and cauliflower. But really, I ordered it for the cashews. To finish, I bypassed carrot cake and apple crumble for the decadent chocolate cake, dressed with berries and the indulgent combination of chocolate ganache, almond liqueur, custardy crème anglaise, and vanilla macadamia nut whipped cream. I ate it in less time than it took to type that description.
Well fed by time the sun went down. Though to be honest, I thought about coming back at 8 pm to go for more of that sushi.