Film Feast review by Santa Barbara View Restaurant Correspondent
Oh Bunuelos, where have you been all my life? You had me at the first heavenly bite of cinnamon, honey and crunchy goodness. The super-frozen creamy vanilla ice cream, rolled in more crunchy goodness was icing on the cake, or in this case, the clincher for the best dessert in town.
But before I get to the conclusion, let me tell you about my journey to finding my new favorite dessert. It all started on the loveliest patio on State Street. Perched on the corner of Gutierrez and State Street, under mature oak trees that are decorated with white party bulbs, you will find a romantic, friendly and inviting place that you will likely remark upon more than once during your stay. I am not exaggerating, ask anyone who has enjoyed a drink or a bite to eat on the patio of the Casa Blanca Restaurant in Santa Barbara and they will tell you the same.
Opened in 2011 by the owners of some great local eateries; The Fish House, The Boathouse, and the Shellfish Company, it’s clear they know how to build a beautiful restaurant. The interior is worth a stop to see what they did. I bet you’ll even be tempted to take a picture of the gorgeous tile work or the simply stunning Black Acacia bar. The owners didn’t cut any corners during their 6 month renovation project, adding beautiful details like hand blown glass light fixtures, imported tile, mahogany hand rails, and artistic rod iron. But alas, I didn’t eat inside. The patio is where I dined, and lucky for me I got a table near the outdoor fireplace where I could people watch and enjoy my tasty Jamaica (pronounced ha-mike-ah) margarita. This is one of many specialty tequila drinks on the menu and is made with pure agave tequila, agave nectar, fresh lemon, lime and hibiscus (Jamaica) juice. I didn’t get a taste of the Prickly Pear Margarita, but I did sample the Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita and I might get that next time.
So, about the food. For those of you who are picky about their guacamole, you will either love it, or think it’s too expensive for what it is. For me, it was exactly how I prefer it. There was no raw onion that I had to pick out or extra “stuff” in it. It was just ripe, fresh, buttery avocado with a few tomatoes and not much else. For me, it was delicious. And although I truly enjoyed it, the guac was not my favorite appetizer. My favorite was the Garlic Shrimp. This is where the seafood roots of the restaurant really shined. This is a Mexican inspired dish, but it was clearly concocted with a French flair. White wine, butter and garlic mingled deliciously with the perfectly cooked shrimp and red pepper. Yes, that was my favorite.
For dinner, since there was a group of four of us, we decided to each get something different from the menu and share. I had the Paella Valenciana, which was on their special menu and recommended by our adorable and attentive server, Allyson (with a Y). With mussels, clams, shrimp and saffron rice, once again, I was treated to a seafood dish crafted with years of aquatic food experience. The Chicken Enchiladas are and were fundamental for our Mexican feast. I think they might be some of the best enchiladas in Santa Barbara, but then again, I am a sucker for enchiladas. I discussed this with a friend (who was not there that night) to get her opinion and she said she came in for the enchiladas one night and came back the next night so she could order them again! Anyway, I would encourage someone at your table to order them so you can taste and decide for yourself. The next dish we ordered was the Chile Verde. This dish was nice and spicy and the tender braised pork fell apart on your fork. I would order it again on a cold winter evening to warm my belly and enjoy with a cold beer. Last but not least we had the Especial de la Casa, and it was indeed Especial. Roasted pastilla pepper baked with Oazaca and Monterey Jack cheese and shrimp was a keeper. This was the table favorite and after our musical chairs of tasting everyone’s dish I have to say I did reach over for one more bite.
And this brings be back to the end. My new favorite dessert is Bunuelos. It’s hard to believe that after meal like this that I had any room for dessert, but happily I did not pass it up. One bite and you will see what I mean.
Hats off to talented chef Onofre. I will be back, and I might just start with dessert next time!