Next Wednesday is the time to wine and dine your boo. Although most of us consider splitting nachos a romantic gesture, sometimes it’s necessary to class it up a bit. You and your partner need to get snazzy and then get grubbin’. Luckily for you, if you’re looking for fine dining, Santa Barbara has a myriad of options to choose from. In fact, there are so many options that it can almost immobilize you. So I’m here to bestow all my dining expertise and give you my ultimate date night location. Whether it be for Valentine’s day or another special occasion, if you’re looking for a delicious and price-worthy restaurant, look no further than the Goodland Hotel’s Outpost.
Located just up the street from the Calle Real Center, it’s close by while still allowing escape from the drab of Isla Vista and providing a separate and more sophisticated ambience. The restaurant has a beach hacienda vibe and just the perfect touch of retro flare. With dim localized lighting, ornate clay pottery and lush green flora, the cool yet vibrant colors of the restaurant and incandescent candlelight help create a nouveau riche atmosphere that oozes exoticism and romance while maintaining that hip Beach-Boys vibe. The patrons are both formal yet lax, allowing for a feeling of elegance without feeling stiff. The dining area itself is modest in size but open and airy. In the central back is the bar, offering an ever-changing, locally sourced and vibrantly fresh cocktail menu along with local crafted wines and beer for the 21+ crowd.
The restaurant’s menu focuses heavily on Californian cuisine, specifically its fresh and diverse components. The executive chef James Siao finds a clever and unique way to fuse Asian and Latin inspired flavors into a plate that will stun the senses and inspire creativity.
I had the unique opportunity to sample a wide range of options from the menu to give you a better chance of finding the perfect dish to accompany your perfect night. I started the night with one of their seasonal cocktails called The Good Mule, consisting of Grey Goose vodka, Meyer lemon lavender cordial and ginger. It’s safe to say that this cocktail was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had in my life. Unfortunately for you this was the Autumn drink and isn’t offered at this time on their menu; however, if you were looking to imbibe, I suggest one of their classics, The Aviation: Beefeater gin, Luxardo maraschino, fresh lemon and crème de violet.
On to appetizers; I tried a few options, and my two favorites had to be the burrata plate — which consisted of a creamy burrata cheese that was rich and velvety and complemented by a carrot jam — broccoli salad, pumpkin pesto and toasted bread. The sweetness of the jam was pleasant and a different taste than my normal cravings. It was light enough to leave room for the rest of the meal but substantial enough to possess flavor. However, the best appetizer had to be the fried cauliflower. The dish is served with a head of tender cauliflower, caper aioli, charred lemon and tōgarashi crunchy garlic. The smoky lemon made the dish phenomenal, melding all the flavors into a bright, creamy, garlicky delight. The best part is that for every order of the dish, $2 gets donated to No Kid Hungry.
I then moved on to lighter plates that could be ordered if you were not that hungry or wanted a heavier appetizer. The crispy chicken wings were very moist and had a kick of flavor. They are served with a garlic, ginger, jalapeño and chili vinaigrette and are something that even the most reserved of diners can enjoy. The star, however, was the mussels plate: fresh local mussels served in a red curry coconut broth with braised leeks and a grilled baguette. The mussels were superbly cooked but it was really all about the broth. I could have ordered just a bowl of that and chugged it because it was so aromatic and flavorful while still being light and warm.
Then I moved onto the entrées, although I was getting dangerously full. The roasted sea bass lettuce wraps were a fun and tasty way to split a plate. The plate is served with a filet of seabass, some large lettuce pieces, crispy shallots, local greens, herbs and Vietnamese dipping sauce. The fresh herbs pair really well with the acidic vinegar of the dipping sauce, and the plating allows for customization and easy sharing. If you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, though, the strip steak served with a poblano parsnip purée, marinated wild mushrooms, chimichurri and crispy onions is quite possibly the best steak I’ve ever had. Served at a perfect medium rare, the juicy steak pairs so well with the bright purée and earthy mushrooms. Even though I was near maximum stomach capacity, I finished every last bit of this dish.
As for dessert, although I didn’t get to try it, I was strongly tempted to try their Mexican-spiced chocolate pudding or their fried carrot cake. Both were huge reasons I plan to return again. So if you are looking for a restaurant with flare and flavor for your special someone, check out the Outpost at The Goodland Hotel.
Reservations will likely fill up quick for Valentine’s Day, so book yours now at outpostsb.com.