Make the Orient Express’ El Encanto Hotel Your Next Dining Destination

After a seven-year renovation the iconic Santa Barbara Hotel reopened in March of this year. More than a hotel they want to be your dining destination

Monday, October 28, 2013 | 3:05 pm

Pasadena is a great place to live, but it is missing one key thing, an ocean view. That prompts many of us to head for the wide blue Pacific when we want a change of pace, some fresh ocean air and balmy temperatures. There are any number of locations and restaurants to choose from but Santa Barbara is definitely one of the more beautiful locales.

Chef Patrice Martineau

A mere 90 minutes from Pasadena, Santa Barbara is definitely a do-able dining destination. Let the newly renovated El Encanto Hotel and the Dining Room and Terrance with breath-taking views of the ocean entice you.  For further incentive add the innovation of French Chef Patrice Martineau who takes California-costal cuisine and infuses it with Asian notes and his own French flair.

I was recently invited to a taste of the Dining Room when chef Patrice visited West Hollywood treating me (and a few others) to a tasting of his fall menu. Using fresh ingredients from the land and sea (some from his own garden), chef Patrice crafted a menu of innovative bites.

Beginning with locally-caught uni and an assortment of baby root vegetables from his garden we graduated to the dinner where we were treated to crab, Scottish salmon, short ribs and some very special cheese.

Amuse Bouche touched with fresh flowers

A refreshing Amuse bouche touched with fresh flowers was a delight on the palate as was the crab salad full of succulent sweet crab and served with a cranberry gelee, chilled verbena hollandaise sauce with a raspberry vinegar glaze.

Blushing pink slow-baked certified organic Scottish Salmon was the next course. Served in a smoked bonito flake-orange broth the Salmon was yuzu-kosho  (type of Japanese seasoning made with chili peppers, yuzi rind and salt) encrusted and served with baby vegetables and glazed gnocchi. The fish was delicate, the seasonings bold and the overall experience tasteful. A crisp Pascal Jolivet Sancerre from the Loire Valley was served with both the crab salad and the Scottish Salmon.

Crab Salad with cranberry gelee, chilled ginger verbena hollandaise sauce, raspberry vinegar glaze

Melt-in-your-mouth short ribs were perched upon a delectable mound of crushed celery root in our next dish. Served up with some roasted fennel, tomato compote and roasted tombolina carrots the beef short ribs made a bold statement which was tempered with white wine and accented with the savory taste of celery and licorice. A local Summerland Pinot Noir accented the dish with a light fruit-forward finish.

Fresh from El Encanto’s own Holstein cow, Ellie, our next dish consisted of jagged chunks of Silver Mountain Aged Cheddar with fresh fig and cream of balsamic. Aged to a puckering sharpness the cheese was a delight when tempered with the fig and a glass of Far Neinte, Late Harvest “Dolce”. It’s always a treat to know where your food comes from. Also Ellie is expecting; if you want to join a contest to name the calf click here.

El Encanto's Holstein Cow Ellie Photo: El Encanto

A Florentine of dark, sweet Manjari chocolate was accompanied by a traditional mousse and an almond hazelnut nougatine. The sweet-smoky chocolate made a happy ending to a wonderful meal.

El Encanto is located in Santa Barbara at 800 Alvarado Place. For more information call (805) 845-5800 or visit

blog comments powered by Disqus