Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coast Restaurant and Bar at The Canary Hotel, Santa Barbara

This review is way overdue but here it finally is. Two weeks ago when I visited Santa Barbara during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, my cousin, Anki, and I went to a newly opened restaurant, Coast Restaurant and Bar at The Canary Hotel. Formerly Andalucia Hotel, the property was purchased last year by the owner of Shutter Hotel On The Beach in Santa Monica, where they also have a Coast.
I have stayed several times in the past at the Andalucia hotel, and we've always enjoyed our stay, although the restaurant was never a hit. Now being the Canary Hotel the whole property including the restaurant has been remodeled and redecorated. Peeking in through the windows during the renovation I certainly liked what I saw for the restaurant.

As we entered the restaurant a great ambiance greeted us (along with the pleasant hostess) with dimmed lights, leather and wood furniture, rich fabrics, wood shutters, and a spacious bar in wood and leather, crowded with people visiting the film festival. A happening night I would say. We were both excited about the sophisticated but still casual and relaxed atmosphere, and the reasonably priced menu. A future favorite we were sure of as we discussed the menu.

We started of by sharing the Dungeness Crab Cakes ($12). Very tasty, packed with fresh crab meat, lightly seasoned and not to much of anything else to take away from the crab. Since it's been over two weeks ago I can't remember what the little salsa/salad on the side was but I do know that I thought it made a great addition.
For entree I ordered the Rigatoni with Beef

Ragout and Parmesan ($15), and my cousin the Arugula Salad with Rock Shrimp and Crispy Pancetta ($12). My pasta was tasty but the meat should have been better cleaned of fat. Flavor would some say but I would prefer it without finding pieces of almost all fat/no meat in my pasta. Otherwise good flavors. The salad was a disaster. Sure looked pretty and tasty on the plate but as Anki bit into the shrimp she got a weird look on her face and had to force herself

to swallow. Cold, tasteless, and of jelly-like texture, as if they had been frozen and not given enough time to thaw. Would definitely expect fresh shrimp at a place like this. Our waiter sensed the problem and came over, and when hearing about the food, offered to bring in something else. The halibut was highly recommended and so she ordered the Broiled Halibut with Asparagus ($22). I was just a couple of bites into my dish and they whisked that away to keep warm as well. A while later a new plate of pasta arrived for me (bonus points) and the new entree for Anki. The plate consisted of a long narrow piece of halibut and steamed asparagus spears. Looked plain and boring but not to say it couldn't be delicious. Two bites into the fish she looked at me and declared "I can't eat this. It is horribly over cooked and dry". I reached over for a bite to confirm, and sure enough, she was not exaggerating. It was one of the worst pieces of fish I'd had in a long time. By this time our table was swarmed by waiters and managers approaching us every other minute asking how everything was. When finding out about her second bad dish, they apologized, assuring us that this is not usual how it's prepared, was there anything else from the menu she would like. At this time she had eaten half of my pasta, was no longer hungry, and we decided to move on to the dessert.
A Warm Chocolate Lava Cake ($6) with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce arrived on the table and it was as good as it looked. Warm, molten, chocolaty, what else could you possibly want at the end of a meal?

We ordered wine by the glass with the meal and I really appreciated their selection of mostly wines from local wineries, offered by the glass at a reasonable price. A big plus for them in this section.

The staff made a real effort throughout the whole meal to correct the mishap with the two bad entrees, which certainly made us feel a little better about the experience. The restaurant is beautiful and we expected so much more from the food, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I walked out of there disappointed at the end of the night. Our starter and dessert were really good but they have to be able to serve up better main courses. It is a new restaurant and hopefully they will be able to pull their act together as the get a little warmer in their clothes. Could also be that we just had horribly bad luck with the food. I will return at some point to give it a second try and hope to find the same tentative, hard working to please staff, this time serving up a great meal.
This place certainly have everything else going for it...

Coast Restaurant and Bar at Canary Hotel
31 West Carillo St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 879-9100

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Food and Wine Pairing said...

Good restaurant review! Kudos to the restaurant wine list organizer for featuring local wines.
Kathleen Lisson

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