Like many in the Temecula Valley, Angela Pike believed, at one time, when she wanted a nice meal, she and her husband would have to leave the area. The desire for an upscale restaurant close by led her to open D’Canter’s in December of 2007.
“Every time we wanted to eat, we had to get on the freeway,” the tall attractive brunette explained, “I wanted to bring fine dining to the north end of the Valley. I realized that I could open a restaurant that I would want to go to eat at.”
That was exactly what she did. D’Canter’s, the name representing Angela’s passion for both horses and wine, is a place many will want to go. Angela has paid attention to every detail, the design of the restaurant, the food, and the service.
Chef Tom Lambing
Before the restaurant even opened, she was thrown a curveball. The kitchen and menu were designed for a chef who pulled out at the last minute. Luckily, Angela remembered a conversation she’d had previously with another chef who called her at home.
“At the time I told him I was all set, and I didn’t need any help. Thankfully, I asked him how he got my number. When my chef bailed, I didn’t know what to do. After my cardiac arrest,” she joked, “I remembered the chef that called me.”
She was able to track down Chef Tom Lambing, a self-taught chef with over 25 years experience. Angela quickly set a time for him to cook a sample dinner. It didn’t take long for her to realize that what she thought was a disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“The food was so delicious, I couldn’t stop eating. I was stuffed for the whole weekend! I knew that Chef Tom was the right choice for D’Canter’s.”
His style is American Cuisine with a New Orleans accent. His culinary artistry has earned D’Canter’s a coveted four stars from the Southern California Food Writers, and was voted Readers Choice in the Best Restaurant category two years in a row in Inland Empire Magazine.
One of the dishes that put Chef Tom on the radar of these publications is his signature Santa Fe Crab Tortilla. The dish is a generous serving of delicate blue crab, crispy fried flour tortillas and a spicy creamy sauce. The result is a deconstructed crab cake that puts the focus squarely where it belongs, on the crab.
Like many restaurants, D’Canter’s has a salmon salad. The Jalapeno-Lime Salmon Salad stands on its own for being complexly flavored and well executed with perfectly cooked salmon. At medium, the center is moist and the flavors are rich. The slightly sweet glaze accents the other flavors without over powering them, and the jalapenos add flavor rather than heat. It is served with red leaf lettuce, and avocado slices for a perfectly mixed balance of textures and flavors.
D’Canter’s version of the classic steak sandwich is more traditional, but no less delicious. A meltingly tender filet is served on toasted rye bread with pepper jack cheese, onion tomato and lettuce. The batter dipped fries and clean fresh coleslaw are the perfect accompaniments.
It would be a mistake not to save room for dessert. Chef Tom is the rare chef who not only excels at cooking, but also makes all of his own desserts.
His Sweet Potato Pie is light bodied and the flavor of the sweet potato really shines through. There seems to be a temptation to over-season this type of pie, but he resists the urge. The result is a pie that is perfectly appropriate for a warm summer day.
If his sweet potato pie shines because of his restraint, his Key Lime Pie shines for its abundant adornment. The custardy Key Lime filling is almost flan-like in its richness and is served over a layer of gooey praline filling. It is an unexpected New Orleans twist on a Florida classic.
The exceptional flavors of these American dishes are due to everything being homemade and fresh. The regular menu is extensive, but the weekly specials offer an opportunity for customers to try Chef Tom’s unique offerings. He specializes in wild game, and often includes meats like Elk and Bison in the weekly specials. There is also a monthly winemaker’s dinner. Angela and Chef Tom work together to carefully pair wines with many courses. These are always special meals that allow the chef to stretch himself and his creativity. The real winners, though, are the customers who get to enjoy these reasonably priced delicious meals.
D’Canter’s was planned as a restaurant that would focus on the wine as well as the food. Angela puts a lot of effort into finding the best tasting wines, from small boutique wineries as well as more well known wines. She has fun finding the “Wine of the week” and sharing it with her extensive email list. Her customers look forward to that late in the week email, letting them know what the “WOW” will be. In addition to the out of the area wines, there is a nice representation of local Temecula wines on the list. The large number of wines by the glass make D’Canter’s a perfect place to go when you want to match your wine to your courses without committing to a whole bottle.
Locals can have a great dining experience, driving no further than Wildomar. The well-designed space has an interesting, metropolitan feel. A small bar provides a place to meet with friends, while the spacious restaurant has a wonderful array of tables, both private and open. A large alcove is a great place for a large semi-private party. A nice design is not enough of a reason to eat at a restaurant though. The food must be tasty and the service must be good. Angela Pike, and her chef have hit all the marks.
D’Canter’s is located at 32100 Clinton Keith Road, Suite A, Wildomar, CA 92595
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