Nepenthe is 808 feet above sea level in Big Sur on the site of The Log House that was built in 1925. Nepenthe, named for a plant ancient writers described as inducing a pleasurable sensation, was designed by Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright using native materials of red wood and adobe so the building became one with the landscape. It is a facility on several levels with the main dining area on the top, the gift shop on the first and a more casual dining spot on the second level. You can drive up much of the hill but then there are several sets of stairs to climb to the top. Each level has magnificent vistas to take in of the water and tree covered hills. The main dining room for Nepenthe was a large room with a long counter that now serves as a staging area for the plates to be served on the outside seating on the balconies around it and the large patio in front of it. There was music inside the room but none outside. You need to walk through the room to get to the bathroom. It is really busy so we got there before they opened and checked in to get a beeper that went off when they were ready to seat us.
At lunch they have an abbreviated menu with the ambrosiaburger being their celebrity sandwich – I saw tons of them going out but talking with a server she suggested some of the other plates. Service was friendly and efficient and the view is worth going for something. We both ordered the Steak Frites which was a 6 oz. prime New York steak topped with a roasted shallot mustard butter and served with French fries. With each entree you have a choice of garbanzo-kidney bean salad, crunchy coleslaw or tossed green salad to go with it. The server said it was fine to also have a combination of any 2 and he thought the bean and green salads mixed well. The green salad also has a choice of dressings and one of us got blue cheese and the other ranch. The idea was to mix the 2 salads but the bowl was a bit small to accomplish that. They were both tasty and the blue cheese actually had blue cheese with flavor. In homage to their ambrosia burger the server also told us we could have some of the ambrosia sauce on the side to use for fry or steak dipping. The ambrosia dressing is mainly a combination of mayo and hot sauce. It was tasty on the fries. The meat was topped with a generous ball of shallot mustard butter so it didn’t really need additional sauce. It was cooked more medium rare than rare but it wasn’t a real thick piece. The meat was nicely flavored and tender. The fries were a frozen variety but stayed nicely crisp. Each plate, no matter what you get is decorated with a carrot spear, lettuce and pickle slices. The carrot was good but otherwise this seemed an odd garnish.
For dessert we split a piece of Triple Berry Pie and the server suggested we add ice cream. The ice cream was a fairly light variety with only slight vanilla flavor but the pie worked well with it. The berries were all cooked together, with their seeds, for the pie filling and then topped with a good layer of crispy crumbs. For the berries the raspberry flavor was dominant. It was a nice pie but not one I’d get again. This is a place you go to for the view not the food.