Mash-ups of the culinary variety are always a favorite. The proverbial melting pot comes to your mouth for a party of cuisines for your taste buds. We’re fortunate to have some really fun and funky fusion dishes right in downtown Santa Barbara, so here are three to track down.
Reuben Egg Rolls at the Pickle Room: Chinese food and deli food are two cuisines that have a long tradition of being served together. But in recent years, thanks to restaurants in New York and San Francisco, Kung Pao Pastrami and, yes, Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls now exist. Santa Barbara’s own version are the Reuben Egg Rolls with Russian dressing at the Pickle Room. The mixture of corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut is classic, but subbing a wonton skin for bread is genius. There is simply no better way to bring cultures together than wrapped and fried and dipped in creamy dressing. Well, maybe Irish whiskey with a pickleback to wash it down does improve it slightly.
126 E. Canon Perdido St.; (805) 965-1015; threepickles.com
Five-Spice Confit Duck Paratha Taco at Goa Taco: An Indian flatbread taco with Chinese-spiced duck using a French style of cooking is the stuff of fusion fantasies. It began in Brooklyn, thought up by a South African–born culinary mastermind who worked all over the world and who now has a Goa Taco location gracing our State Street. They serve up many varieties of these massive paratha tacos, from pork belly to ahi tuna to paneer, but my favorite has tender duck meat, hot-mustard-pickled cucumber, carrots, radishes, and herbs. It has a bánh mì element, but the doughy, buttery, multilayered paratha shell enhances all of the filling possibilities.
718 State St.; (805) 770-7079; goataco.com
Carne Asada French Fries at Presidio Market Liquor & Grill: You might not expect forward-thinking fusion and culinary innovation at a liquor store market, but you are wrong. While other national fast-food chains are just getting around to nacho french fries, Presidio Market has long had a special on construction paper near the deli counter, offering carne asada french fries. This dish is the brainchild of my hungover dreams. The back corner of this market serves burgers and fries, nachos and burritos, and shawarma and falafel and has combined some of these specialties beautifully. The carne asada fries with cheese and pico de gallo are a must-have, and I have seen pictures online of something called shawarma fries. But perhaps I wasn’t hungover or hungry enough to convince them to concoct this off-menu item for me.
1236 Santa Barbara St.; (805) 965-8770