My dearest dining partner and I took a trip to Santa Barbara to visit some wineries and explore the Santa Barbara area. We visited Larry Schaffer (Tercero Wines) at the Fess Parker winery, Larry is making some out of this world Rhone Style blends in Santa Barbara-area, his Cuvee Christie (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is a dense concentration of bright cherries and ripe red fruits, delicious! Then we made our way into Santa Barbara.
After checking into the crappiest motel I've ever stayed at for over $130 a night it dawned on me.. Santa Barbara isn't really as pretty as the pictures show .. at least the beach and downtown weren't. Luckily there was a diamond in the rough. Square One
Located off of Main street Square One is making some very fine inventive and daring cuisine. I looked forward to each and every dish that we ordered wondering what surprises were in store. I was not disappointed. We were treated to one of the more imaginative menus I've seen in quite some time.
The restaurant itself is rather small, about 6-7 tables and a bar sitting area... but plenty of sunlight filters into the restaurant.
Instead of doing the set tasting menu (which didn't have anything we really wanted) we ordered directly off the menu.
The first item served was the Amuse Bouche, Duck Confitt with Arugala and Currant Dressing
Unlike more amuse that tend to be something refreshing to awaken your pallet, this dish was a strong concentration of Indian spices and intense flavors of gamey duck and off-bitter arugala. I wasn't sure if the chef was crazy or we were in for a real special treat for the rest of the meal.
Our first appetizer was Fried Abalone with Mustard Pearls and Sweet Celery Carrot Reduction
I was surprised to find Abalone on the menu, but definitely not disappointed. The coating was a fine layer of fried panko crisp. The abalone itself was soft and smooth with a light meaty flavor. The real flavor from the dish came from the mustard pearls, little bursts of flavor with each bite. Yumtastic.
The next dish got me real excited. Fried Jalapeno accompanied by Rock Shrimp Ceviche in Avocado Foam and Ruby Grape Fruit.
The ceviche is served on a bed of ice ready to be devoured. Creamy chilled avocado foam acts as a pillow for the Ceviche. This is a twist on the traditional ceviche. Instead of lime/lemon they use grapefruit citrus, so you get a very unique and less tart flavor in the shrimp. Mixes really well with the foam.
What I really liked about the dish was the pepper. It was prepared in a Chile Relleno style with a hot crisp batter on the outside. When you cut the pepper the cheese oozes out. The pepper was perfectly spicy, it hit your tastebuds and settled there for long enough for you to savor the heat. The next dish was their famous Kobe Burger served with home-made Ketchup, Mustard, and Aoile and a side of Onion Rings.
The mustard was crunchy and spicy and the onion rings were made in the same mind numbingly good batter as the pepper in the previous dish. The hamburger was well spiced, good but nothing special.
And the star of the evening... Pan Roasted Quail with Buckwheat pancakes
The quail was served with a reduction with mustard greens. When I say WOW I mean WOW. This dish really blew my socks off. It looks like a mishmash due to all the dark colors (probably the one thing the dish needs to improve on) but the quail was so flavorful and moist I almost picked it clean to the bone. The buckwheat had a mild flavor that helped as an accompaniment to the quail.
This is definitely a restaurant that needs to be on your TO VISIT LIST whenever you visit Santa Barbara.
14 E Cota St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101