Over four years ago, two colleagues had the passion and ambition to take a risk and quit their jobs to follow a dream. She was a golf professional and he was a chef with a vision. The unlikely couple would combine their talents to open Solano’s Bistro in La Quinta. What started out as a small dining room of only eleven tables, has flourished and become a spacious and elegant restaurant with seating inside as well as outside on their patio. Though this new venue has brought more success to these unlikely business partners, Alex Lee Wipf and Chef Francisco “Paco” Solano remain humble and thankful, making their restaurant one of a kind in our valley.
Eager to try the menu behind the chef that had placed second in the Crater Lake sponsored Chef Challenge last year; I decided to have dinner at Solano’s with one of my closest friends. Located in Old Town La Quinta, this restaurant boasts fresh seafood, savory meats and pastas, as well as creative vegetarian entrees. We began with a specialty cocktail with blood orange juice and ordered the crab cakes as our starter. Crab cakes were meaty and rich with flavor. While we enjoyed our appetizer, we admired the art on the walls that represent artists from all over our valley. The art is all for sale, allowing us, the diners, to participate in supporting our local artists.
We would soon enjoy an heirloom tomato and mozzarella bruschetta drizzled with vinaigrette to be paired with a golden and red beet salad topped with crispy warm goat cheese. As we shared these next appetizers, we observed a full restaurant with smiling and laughing guests all around us. It was great energy with which to be surrounded. We would order a glass of Sonoma Cutrer chardonnay to pair with our entrees.
Upon our server’s suggestion, my friend ordered the nightly special, Sea Bass with a cherry tomato salad, asparagus and fingerling potatoes. I could not pass up the Scallops and Prawns with a pomegranate butter sauce. Both entrees were truly cooked to perfection, making this an incredible experience. The fish easily flaked apart, yet melted like butter in your mouth. The scallops were large and had the perfect sear, served with risotto and broccolini. The pomegranate in the sauce was so subtle that I would not have known its presence had I not read it on the menu.
Our meals were beautiful in presentation and quick to disappear from our plates! We would follow these amazing dishes with a classic crème brulee, chocolate mud pie and of course a little Grand Marnier. The evening was perfect and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with the Chef and his business partner, Alex. All I can say is that they are two of the most deserving people of success and have found a new fan in me.
Solano’s Bistro serves lunch and dinner seven days per week. While some restaurants close one or two nights per week, you can always count on Solano’s to be open and offering some amazing specials. The bar area has been recently transformed to the “Velvet Lounge” where live music is offered Saturday nights. For more information, visit Solano’s at www.solanobistro.com or call them during business hours at 760-771-6655