Located on 324 W. Cabrillo Blvd., Toma, a gorgeous restaurant with an Italian-inspired Mediterranean menu, sits on the oceanfront near the Santa Barbara pier. 

The warm candles, low ceiling and white covers draping over the tables created a romantic ambiance. Everyone was dressed to the nines. My kindred spirit and I came with reservations — outdoors because the indoor reservations were fully booked. I did not know how to feel about the plastic covering stretching like malleable windows around the outdoor seating. The wind battered the plastic as uncomfortable background noise. 

We came at night, so the ocean view was a cozy pitch black stretching through the horizon. Toma offers a full bar with a long wine and cocktail menu, but as it was a Monday school night, we decided to stick with water.

First came some complimentary fried olives and bread and butter. I personally am not a strong fan of olives, but these were exciting, as they burst and melted in the mouth. The bread was a soft baguette, and we used a unique-shaped butter knife to smear the fat slab of room temperature salted butter. They offered more complimentary bread and butter if we wanted, but we wanted to save space for the dishes we wanted to try.

Celine Pun / Daily Nexus

Then, the server brought the grilled Spanish octopus. Long octopus legs — perfectly succulent and not rubbery — were intertwined with a cornucopia of toppings: romanesco, fregola pasta, olives, gremolata, tobiko roe and large dollops of smoked tomato remoulade. I had never worked with any of these ingredients before, so I was pleasantly surprised. It was such a busy sight: colorful with explosively fun textures. 

Our entrees of duck confit flatbread and ravioli plus a side of mushroom risotto came together. Two servers had to balance and move the table decor around to fit on our two-person table, which we were lightly humored about, as we often enjoy ordering more for leftovers.

Celine Pun / Daily Nexus

The duck confit flatbread was served on a wooden paddle, wealthy with toppings. The balsamic-glazed onions and honey-roasted pears made the dish powerful with sweetness. I loved how bright the arugula pesto tasted and how crumbly the herbed ricotta was. The duck confit tasted a little dry and near crispy. Overall, I thought this dish had an exciting combination of ingredients that worked really well together. 

The ravioli dish consisted of five pieces, plump with ricotta and kale. I loved the aromatic basil and the halves of cherry tomatoes that dissolved in a bite. The mushroom risotto was thick and homogeneous, except for the sprigs as garnish. We found the dish extremely creamy to the point where the rice unfortunately lost its shape. It was more of a porridge than anything. 

And of course, we couldn’t leave without tasting their desserts, which all sounded extraordinary. We ordered the citrus olive oil cake and vanilla panna cotta. The citrus olive oil cake was saturated; so moist that it became overwhelming toward the last few bites of the cake. The chunky, chopped almonds offered a nutty texture to the cake. The peeled grapefruit and orange segments looked like synchronized swimmers in the zesty sauce. The scoop of vanilla bean ice cream was my favorite part: refreshing and creamy. It was almost like an orange creamsicle.  

The vanilla panna cotta was so smooth with a gentle bounce, it almost reminded me of chocolate mousse. The strawberry basil broth in which the panna cotta sat reminded me of strawberry lemonade. 

We spent almost three hours here enjoying the food and catching up. Between meals, they swapped our plates and utensils. Perhaps, next time we return, we ought to brush up on our table etiquette and learn both the names and order of the different tools to maximize our enjoyment of this intimate food experience.