Introducing Cadiz Restaurant
Cadiz is the most buzzed about new restaurant on Santa Barbara’s dining scene. Granted they are just in a “soft opening” phase right now, having only been open two weeks, but I think it’s safe to voice a prediction that they will be here to stay.
The Mediterranean restaurant and lounge concept is different enough to stand out and flexible enough to invite frequent repeat visits, be it for artisan cocktails and tapas or a full on multi-course dinner paired to local wines. They have a talented chef at the helm in John Pettitt, whose credentials include Seagrass, Hungry Cat and Wine Cask locally, in addition to top-rated restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ve happily devoured his creative cuisine on several occasions, and think my fellow Santa Barbara foodies will agree his talent in the kitchen is a big draw. As our delightful, informative server Natalie explained while familiarizing us with the menu, “Chef is all about balance.”
Thanks to Natalie’s welcoming enthusiasm, the delicious food and the sense of adventure that comes with trying out a brand new restaurant, our debut dinner at Cadiz was a fresh, fun and friendly dining experience. We started by ordering a very reasonably priced bottle of Spanish wine, in the spirit of embracing their Spanish-Italian-Californian fusion vibe. Local Santa Barbara and Paso Robles area wines are on the list alongside European selections.
The dinner menu is categorized by Starters, Tapas, Flatbreads/Salads/Soups, Entrees, Artisanal Cheeses and Desserts. To start, I had the Riviera Salad, which was light, crisp and refreshing with slivers of red bell pepper, baby artichokes and olives atop a mix of lettuces. I also sampled a few spoonfuls of the Chilled Cucumber Soup with marcona almonds, golden raisins and picholine olives (my favorite!). The soup was magical — so good, I will absolutely be ordering that for myself next time. Next up was the artfully plated Grana Padano Risotto with wild mushrooms and a sassy port wine reduction. While I went to vegetarian heaven, my dinner companions delved into the surf and turf, savoring Chicken & Leek Kabobs, Grilled Beef Sirloin Skewers and Grilled Baby Octopus. We all commented on the unusual and unexpected flavors of our respective main dishes. Of course, there’s always room for dessert and we wanted to continue the flavor parade, so we ordered two to share: Almond Cake with Satsuma mandarins and orange caramel sauce (OMG!) and Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse with raspberry sauce and sea salt. The two desserts complemented each other beautifully and we left no evidence that they ever existed. In fact, with each dish we ordered, we pretty much cleared every plate–a testament to the quality and tastiness of the food, and a reflection of the moderate portion sizes. (And maybe our healthy appetites, too!)
Overall verdict? We’ll be back!
Cadiz is located downtown in the nightlife hub at 509 State Street between Cota and Haley — the coordinates really matter right now because they don’t yet have a sign up! That didn’t seem to be a deterrent, as we watched the restaurant fill up throughout our dinner with what looked to be a mix of people casually passing by and customers who were making a beeline specifically for Cadiz. The inviting space is open and airy, with patio, dining room, bar and lounge sitting areas. According to one of the owners, Chris Salazar, they will be taking advantage of their central location by operating as a late night lounge once the kitchen closes around 10pm Thursday-Saturday nights. Santa Barbara could certainly use more “grown-up” night life venues, so that’s a smart move. He also said they would soon open for lunch. I can envision their front patio packed with people on a warm afternoon — the patio is only partially open, making it protected from the elements so heat lamps will keep it cozy on cooler nights.
Smaller plates and starters at Cadiz are priced in the $8-$15 range, while entrees run $18-$28. They don’t have a website yet so call 805.770.2760 to book a reservation, or simply walk-in.