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(Gerry Furth-Sides) The former agricultural center of the west coast is home to the all grown up Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort still inspires the nostalgia and longing of Kipling’s soldier for the old Mandalay, in this case updating the original smaller form with a new resort extraordinare, the sole all-suite hotel in Southern California to sit on the glorious open natural beach.
Day or night, the road to this Mandalay Is convenient and easy to drive, a few miles west of Oxnard’s center, Plaza Park. The spotlit driveway lined with palm trees is impressive as any Scottsdale resort. The front faces east with an impressive Spanish cathedral look; the back gently faces the Pacific Ocean, no fence except the natural dunes. The laid back atmosphere is touched here and there with guests on their way to planning or attending weddings, business conferences, a pool party, renting biking or just plain relaxing on a bench out back. And at day’s end, the best bed with the best view awaits.
Coast Grill’s superb server, Jacob, confirmed that we indeed were at the very same Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel that had the Sunday morning “all you can eat seafood events.” (My husband always teased that I would be blackballed because I ate so much shrimp, uni, crab; it was heaven.) Otherwise the current grounds are hardly recognizable with a new, free-form giant swimming pool, two spas, tennis courts and enough waterfalls so that you can hear the soothing, sound of rushing water almost everywhere you walk on the property. The conceptual design intention for the update was “to keep the integrity of the picturesque original layout, while adding a sense of luxury to the space for both residents and visitors alike.” The designers far and away succeeded fulfilling their goal, at the same time creating an ambience of a far away destination set in an easily accessible oceanfront location.
The magnificent back beachfront scene, tranquil and restorative, changing hourly with the light, alone fulflls this mission. While the rugged dunes stand guard and conceal from view the beachfront ocean waves and swimmers, the walkway between dunes and hotel resort carry very pleased runners, walkers (with and without dogs) and bikers somehow transforms a shared congenial experience.
The new Coastal Grill restaurant, set against the dramatic beachfront captures both the spiffy feel of a white tablecloth eatery and casual dining. High ceilings and multiple areas equip it to easily handle group dining parties while maintaining an intimate feeling. Views from sides of windows provide spectacular views of the Pacific. Guests can also opt to dine by poolside or beachfront from11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Breakfast, buffet style or cooked to order, is served from 6 am to 10, compliments of Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel. The most accomodating grill cooks wear a huge smile from 6 a.m. on at the breakfast grill station, even saying aloud they couldn’t be more pleased to make every guest happy.
Before dinner, a complimentary two-hour Manager’s Reception was prepared for guests at the casual snack bar the large pool, offers very simple appetizers and two wines or drinks served up smartly by a candid, friendly bartender. It’s a clever way to get guests to mingle at the little tables nearby. The evening I started a conversation with witty couple, Maranda and Steve, Maranda turned out to know all about the spirits after working the quirky job of secret shopper at Trader Joe’s to make sure young customers showed ID.
Next came dinner in the Coastal Grill. American fare is featured, with clean, fresh presentations, quality meats, grilled poultry, fresh fish caught from the local waters. There is a spin on classics, such the signature Cheese Burger consisting of a special blend of short rib, tri tip and New York steak with White Cheddar on a brioche bun
The young, local server, Jacob, has to be ranked one of the top five servers my last two decades of guidebook writing. He has the intelligence and capability of keeping tables of one, two and 20 happy. Jake’s knowledge of the food and spirits has a depth way beyond his years, and he knows his way around all the flavorful local craft beers on tap, and fine wines by the bottle or by the glass.
Jacob guided the way through a sampler meal, starting with a lobster Bisque, creamy and rich, and just enough of it in a small bowl, accompanied by a light Pinot Grigio (Tamas Estates, California). The Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Grilled Pita Chips and Shaved Regianno, had the twist of Tomato & Onion.
The Top Sirloin, 9 oz. Prime, local Harris Ranch, served with perfectly cooked small Roasted Potatoes and beautiful haricot vert was perfection. The accompanying Cabernet Sauvignon (14 Hands, Washington) brought out even more of the flavor.
A Warm Caramel Slide Dessert finished up the meal, along with a promise to walk an mile the next day. The blonde brownie with Fosselman’s vanilla ice cream and whipped cream was pure decadence, made even more self-indulgent with a side taste of the kitchen’s homemade hot fudge, and a Macallan scotch.
The resort contains 250 two-room suites in subtle neutrals with the most glorious firm beds. Each guest suite is divided into private bedroom/bath and living area with its own sofa bed, armchair, well-lit dining/work table, 1/2 bath, hair dryers, MP3 clock radio, two televisions, two dual-line phones, high-speed Internet access, a wet bar, mini-refrigerator, microwave oven, and an iron and ironing board.
The list of additional onsite amenities includes two whirlpools, a basic workout room, lighted tennis courts, business center and Wheel Run Rentals. Sports and touring activities are available only a few miles away, including surfing, kayaking and tours of the spectacular Channel Island by way of boat.
Embassy Suites Hotels, a Hilton property, earned the Parents magazine’s 10 Best Hotel Chains for Families. Special hotel packages are offered during the year. For more information, please visit www.embassysuites.com.
The Embassy Suites Hotel grew up into a resort. And maybe that’s why the longing for it as soon as you leave has grown along with it.
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