With today’s restaurant review, I feel like no intro is necessary except that I went here, loved it, and you should totally add it to your Santa Barbara restaurant bucket list. (we all have a restaurant bucket list, right?? Well I do lol.) With summer vacation in full swing, it’s high time to take a California coastal road trip straight to Santa Barbara! Read further to get the deets on this SB gem.
In the heart of downtown Santa Barbara lies Somerset– no signage except the golden engraved plaque on the white wall out front. Very high-society, almost like an unspoken hideaway for the residents of the American Riviera. The whole restaurant, from design, to menu, to cocktails, breathes old-world European “Grand Cafe” vibes. Somerset is modern- yet-classic fine dining with a 1950’s Parisian twist. Chef Lauren Hermann cooks food within the realm of seasonal, farm-to-table California cuisine. As she puts it, the menu can be described as “being innovative yet rustic and approachable”. Count. Me. IN!
Upon entering the grand doors at the entrance, right off the main downtown street, guests are greeted with an escape to another time and place. From floor to ceiling, Somerset is glamorously art-deco and modern-contemporary in its design and aesthetic. Think golden velvet tufted booths, geometric floor tiles, and marble-flanked walls. Gatsby would pull up at the bar here if he were in Santa Barbara in 2017. The ceilings are high and the windows are large, making the space feel roomy, but the booths are intimate and the lighting once the sun goes down is romantic and moody. If you are need of a good date spot, take note.
The first course was wild mushrooms with coal-roasted leeks, ricotta, and toasted hazelnuts. Perfection!! Earthy, tender mushrooms accompanied by the crunch of the hazelnuts and the creamy, salty undertone of ricotta. If there was a picture under the term “umami” in the dictionary, this dish would be it.
With no shortage of craft cocktails on the menu, I went with a brilliant lime-green Ortega’s Revenge: tequila blanco, smoked citrus, arugula, falernum (a syrup used in tropical drinks containing the flavors of almond, ginger, lime, and vanilla), Thai chile, and wild elderflower. All the flavors were impeccably balanced, hitting the tastebuds with sweet, spicy, and bright notes, then tingling the nose with aromatic floral and smoky hints. It’s vibrant shade made it look as though I were sipping from a peridot jewel. Very ‘gram-worthy.
The entree caught my eye right away. I saw “Santa Barbara uni”-I MEAN!!!! Uni is bae!!!. The dish was housemade spaghetti with Santa Barbara uni, lobster bisque, and nori breadcrumbs. A luxurious fusion of cuisines if there ever was one. Upon first bite, I melted into my seat while the uni melted in my mouth like buttahhh. The nori breadcrumbs added a salty crunch and depth of flavor. Waiter, I’ll have another!
Couldn’t leave ya hanging without dessert! (It was for blog content, right?) We went with a rye-cardamom cake with almond frangipani cherries and oat streusel with toasted almond ice cream. Pure bliss, not too sweet, and no ingredient overpowering the rest. It’s desserts as divine as theses that make all others seem mediocre. You finish your last bite dreaming about the next time you have the chance to dine here!
Somerset is a literal jewel of Santa Barbara. It’s not trendy or touristy, yet it has all the glitz and appeal of a see-and-be-seen restaurant and bar. You walk in feeling like a welcomed old friend, greeted by attentive waitstaff, bartenders, and managers. The food holds up to Santa Barbara’s fine dining scene ( where the bar is set very high and is deeply rooted). It is worth making a trip to dine at Somerset when visiting Santa Barbara. From food to ambience, the experience is like a trip to somewhere back in time yet modern all at once. Get there, ASAP.
PS, officially done with my first year of grad school!! I’m looking forward to the magic and adventure of summer that lies ahead! As always, have fabulous weekend!