Food Spotlight: Barbareño

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Discovered Santa Barbara’s most hidden gem and thought it’d be selfish if I didn’t send you a map to the treasure.

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From their minimalist yet nature heavy inspired decór, to their central coast cuisine, Barbareño takes farm-to-table dining experiences to an all time high.

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We kicked off our food journey with a dish of absolute finesse: wagyu tartare. Carefully plated with the thinnest slices of bread chips in the world, the meat takes the cake, achieving an explosive collaboration of texture and flavour.

I’m pretty sure I had to take a moment to reflect on my life after a bite of this.

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I’m still working my way up to getting used to the taste of red wines, or maybe I just haven’t found the ‘one’ yet. Nevertheless, the suggested wine of the day was fragrant to taste and paired well with the tartare. It carried peach and apricot notes that was subtle and light on the tongue, which didn’t overpower our tastebuds. In other words, perfection.

Try Barbeño’s Donkey & Goat wine if you prefer a sweeter glass.

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Their Hidden Valley Crudités encompasses an evolved marriage of salad and hummus. As wildly vegetarian and LA as it sounds, it most definitely is not.

With a side of toasted pita bread, each bite left a smokey afterthought on the tongue that contrasted the freshness of the greens. Their vegetables on the other hand, was a completely different story. Fresh was an understatement to describe it but it tasted as if they were hand-picked right before they were served.

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If you ever dreamed about eating a koi fish pond, which I highly doubt that you ever did but are now, well you can. What I thought was only a fruit appetizer, ended up being so much more. Under edible lily pads and a sea of coconut foam, rests a bed of umeboshi.

I expected carefully flavored citrus but ended up getting a savory yet flavorful punch. Avocado slices dashed with splashes of ponzu gave an unsuspecting flash of salty and savory. There were so many layers of richness, it was hard to process that magic that was happening in my mouth.

Hands down. This was my favorite dish.

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Listed as the ‘Market Fish’, this dish presented an entirely new world to my palette. Dressed in a nasturtium puree, spring garlic and cauliflower florets, Barbareño’s flounder was smokey and crispy yet still so soft.

Don’t get me wrong, the flounder was the centerpiece to this dish but for me, the cauliflower stole the spotlight. It was just the right amount of crunch and season, and if I could have it every day, I would.

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Last but not least, the Tamarind Semifreddo was one of the most delectable desserts I’ve had to date. This tower of vanilla ice cream complimented the subtly tangy flavors of pomegranate and blood orange, while still leaving room for the crunchy and sweet-and-salty flavors of its candied hazelnuts. Although its fruity glaze was tart, the neutral tang of the vanilla cancelled out the sharp taste.

Basically, it was a dream in every spoonful.

If LA was by the beach, Barbareño would be that.
Be back very soon.

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Photography by Justin Quebral

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