Bright neon lights are nothing out of the ordinary on the main street in Kings Cross, although you wouldn’t really expect a fantastic bar and restaurant at the top of the colourful staircase with random phrases in different languages emblazoned on each step leading up to Santa Barbara. The old Piano Room venue under the famous Coke sign has been transformed into one of the Drink ‘n’ Dine group’s newest ventures (the team behind The Abercrombie, The Carrington and The Forresters) with their signature blend of eclectic themed decor and American fusion menu with some Asian and Mexican/Latin twists (think Korean Fried Chicken, kimchi and tacos).
The Californian is the new-ish dining area inside Santa Barbara and we were invited to try out their adventurous menu, which features quite a few of the trends sweeping the foodie world lately. Here are some of my picks of the night:
The burgers were well represented on the menu by their amazing Calamari Sliders with a refreshing mango salsa and the most addictive habanero mayo ever. This bite-sized parcel of tasty goodness was gone in a flash and I wish it was bigger!
Calamari Slider with mango salsa, slaw and habanero mayo, $4 each
I absolutely loved their Ocean Trout Ceviche which featured fresh raw diced fish cupped within deliciously crunchy cassava crisps (something a bit different) and plenty of shredded paw paw, chilli and lime to season. It was messy to eat as the crisps softened from all the juice, but oh so worth it.
Ocean Trout ceviche, with cassava crisps, paw paw, avocado, chilli and lime, $18
Some of the more unconventional items on the menu turned out to be quite satisfying too. There’s the Grilled Watermelon which had a distinctive smokey flavour as expected, but the texture had become quite soft rather than crunchy. The sweetness of the watermelon was also more intense than the raw fruit as it had gone through some caramelisation, but it’s still fairly juicy. Very interesting when combined with some jalapeno and smoked salt on the side.
Grilled watermelon with jalapeno and smoked salt, $8
I was originally a bit sceptical about the coconut encrusted BBQ corn, but somehow the smoked flavour of the juicy corn kernels melded together with the slightly crunchy coconut flakes. This created a savoury taste, especially with the chipotle seasoning which brought the humble corn on the cob to a whole different level of tastiness.
BBQ corn with chipotle and toasted coconut, $8
There’s plenty to try on The Californian’s funky menu, which has the fun, playful vibe of Santa Barbara infused into the interesting dishes served up. It’s a great spot to catch up with some friends over drinks (their Mojito was divine) and some seriously tasty dishes that are pretty unique in Sydney. The Drink ‘n’ Dine group has another hit on their hands and best of all, it’s priced quite reasonably too!
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of The Californian at Santa Barbara
The Californian at Santa Barbara
1 Bayswater Road, Potts Point NSW 2011
Ph: (02) 9357 7882