Monday, 16 September 2013

The Californian @ Santa Barbara

Stairway to Santa Barbara

A recent invitation found me joining fellow food bloggers at a dinner at Santa Barbara. I had been eager to check out the menu at the recently reopened The Californian, found inside Santa Barbara at Potts Point (under the famous Coca Cola sign).  I was not only excited about sampling some of the menu but actually meeting some fellow food bloggers too. 

Typical fashion, I arrived early, so with a glass of sav blanc in hand I popped my head into the kitchen to say hi to Jamie and then perused the menu and absorbed the atmosphere, where retro meets tacky but oozes fun! From the neon signage our front and the hip swinging bear in the entry stairwell to the ivy leaves hanging from the roof. My mouth was watering at the selection. I love the blend of LA with a hint of an Asian twist and a touch of BBQ.

Valley Girl Sour
It was not long after everyone arrived that cocktails were ordered and discussions about the menu ensued. I chose to start with a Valley Girl Sour – a blend of Vodka, Crème De Mure, Acai Berry Puree, Lemon Juice & Rose Water. With the heady scent of rosewater it was a good choice.
Edamame with lime & chilli salt
 Always a good bar snack to start with drinks.
BBQ Corn with Chipotle & Toasted Coconut
It is deceiving as it arrives at the table.  First looks make you think it's a lamington and the taste of the coconut hints at that, but one bite and it sweet juicy corn.  The chipotle hints at a bit of heat and oh so delicious
Calamari slider w mango salsa, slaw and habanero mayo
These little bites were winners.  The freshness of the mango salsa and slaw is a great combo with the crispy calamari.
Short Rib slider w kimchee, radish and sriracha
 These little bites were good too.  Meaty with a chilli kick from both the kimchee and sriracha
Ocean Trout Ceviche with cassava crisps, pawpaw, avocado, chilli and lime

One of my favourite dishes of the night was the ocean trout ceviche.  I'm a big fan of ceviche.  I find these are refreshing bites and the cassava crisp is awesome.
Grilled watermelon with jalapeno and smoked salt
I was curious with what the grilled watermelon would taste like.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Weird I know, but it reminded me a little of a warm marshmallow. Okay maybe my tastebuds were messing with me but this was an intriguing dish.

Korean Fried Chicken w Red Dragon sauce adn Daikon Pickle
Not as crispy as some korean fried chicken but that doesn't change the fact that it was good.  The red dragon sauce covering the chicken wasn't to thick and not to hot! Good bites size pieces.

BBQ Ribs w coffee mole & buffalo cucumber
By this time I think my tummy was starting to rebel and I knew that we had quite a few more dishes to go.  So I only had a bite.  These were tender and smokey and the coffee taste hit the back of the throat but was not overpowering...more a hint

Red Braised Pork w jalapeno mustard & slaw (back)
Crispy Duck w Hoi Sin BBQ, Green Onions & Cucumber (front)
Baja Fish w guacamole, salsa verde and red cabbage
It's taco time and  we enjoyed a bite of all three tacos that are on the menu. The duck taco is nodding towards the duck pancake and very similar in taste and texture. The red braised pork taco is rich in porky goodness with a deep flavour.  The fish taco is delish - crispy fried fish and guacamole is always a good one for me.

shaved zucchini and asparagus salad w green strawberries, mint, goats cheese and black sesame

This intriguing salad had us all digging for a slice of the prized green strawberries.  This was a winner salad and the little rolls of herb rolled goats cheese throughout was a bonus.
Salt Baked prawns w fennel, orange and pomegranate
By now my tummy was using the little spaced reserved for 'full and I was struggling.  But these giant prawns (or killer prawns as I like to called them) were succulent and salty and I loved the fennel, orange and pomegranate salad

Coca Cola chicken w finger pickles
I don't know if it was just that I had hit my food wall or whether it was the dish but I wasn't a fan of the coca cola chicken.  It smelt fantastic but I did find the sauce thick and cloying.  it tasted sweet and tasty - but as I said I may have just hit my wall by this point.  Next visit I may just give them another chance

Sweet potato fries with mayo

Who can say no to fries, especially sweet potato fries?  I managed to gobble a few of these.  They were crispy and hot and fluffy inside. 

I'm so glad I wore my stretchy dress... but who can refuse dessert. 

Pineapple Parfait w coconut, pineapple jelly and cherries
I really liked this pineapple dessert but I'm a sucker of any type of icecream/gelato/frozen dessert. The pineapple parfait log was yummy - yep that is the only way I can describe it.

churros w five spice & Chocolate
As for the churros they were good, rolled in cinnamon and sugar oh so good.  The chocolate sauce had hints of 5 spice that gave a new dimension to this mexican classic.

When forks and spoons were finally put down we all let out a sigh of relief (and perhaps a groan or two).  This was an amazing meal for both the food and the company.  Jamie and the Drink n Dine Group definitely have another winner and I'm really loving the whole concept at their establishments.

I want to thank Jamie for the invitation and for allowing us food bloggers to enjoy over 75% of the menu.  That's right - 17 dishes out of the 22 on offer we sampled and I will be definitely returning for some fab eats (but perhaps not as much next time) and remember to wear the stretchy pants.



  1. how amazing was all the food!!! i cant stop thinking about the prawns and especially that grilled watermelon!

    1. it was amazing....I want more of those sweet potato fries and the ocean ceviche