Back when the Canary Hotel was the Hotel Andaluc-a, it was hard to tell where the lobby ended and the then-restaurant, 31 West, began. But after a spruce up by designer Michael Smith (the Obamas hired him as Decorator Force One, if you didn’t know), the restaurant is inviting, warm, and graced by a convivial bar. Now called Coast, the restaurant hopes to blur the line where the hotel ends and Santa Barbara begins. It doesn’t just want to welcome hotel guests-it wants all of town to drop in.
“I see Coast as a destination not only for our hotel guests, but for the community,” explained chef Brian Parks, formerly sous chef at Casa del Mar, the Canary’s sister hotel in Santa Monica. “We offer different venues and specials throughout the week to allow the community to enjoy the hotel and the restaurant.”
When Parks first started working there a year ago, he began cultivating ideas that brought extra value to guests, beginning with the wine tastings on the rooftop Perch Bar and farmers’ market dinners. Those were successful, “so we brainstormed to create the rest of the week,” said Parks. “I particularly like the Sunday Family Dinners. The idea of getting a family or a group of friends together for a dinner is how dining should be. Large plates, shared sides, family-style entrees. Everybody enjoying the dinner with the people they know and enjoy.”
Like any good restaurant these days, Coast is pleased to offer locally grown ingredients-Parks said he particularly likes produce from BD Farms, Tutti Frutti, and Regier-and then let them shine. But it’s one thing to know a good vegetable when you see one, and it’s another to conceptualize a dish. Parks has that down, too. Take, for instance, the wild striped bass with market vegetables and red wine-olive jus. That sauce might suggest some side more Mediterranean, but Parks instead offered perfectly roasted cauliflower and carrots, the dish an emblem of the changing seasons. Parks said the dish sings because “natural sweetness from the vegetables and the salty-acidic flavors from the sauce” blend so well. The combination of seemingly disparate flavors rounds into something wonderfully full and pleasing, especially with the tasty, perfectly cooked bass and its crispy skin.
It’s not surprising that a place called Coast proffers plenty of seafood. But in addition to the entree items like yellowfin tuna with asparagus and heirloom tomatoes, and beyond the raw bar, there’s one selection that should bait plenty of people: a daily ceviche. At a recent meal, halibut was the star, practically swimmingly fresh, which it has to be as it’s only cooked in the acids from lime juice. It was complemented by just enough jalape±o heat, plus some finely diced tomato and red onion for color, zip, and zest. Accompanied by freshly fried tortilla chips-and enough of them for a change (why do so many restaurants skip on the scooping “device” for dishes when one must dip?)-it was a true appetizer, awakening the taste buds for what was to come. The bottle of Brander Sauvignon Blanc didn’t hurt.
Of course, not hurting clearly is Coast’s goal. That gets back to the establishment’s series of evening specials, such as Off the Hook, Friday’s $28-per-person, three-course seafood menu featuring something snagged right off our shores. Even more aimed at locals might be Saturday’s $35-per-person Dinner and a Movie that not only cooks up a romantic dinner for two that ends with a movie theater concession candy dessert, but gives you a pair of movie passes to boot. “Coast is here for the City of Santa Barbara,” Parks asserted. “We offer a casual, friendly place for people to enjoy good drinks and great food. Even though we are in a hotel, we classify ourselves as an independent restaurant. I price our menu items to be competitive with other restaurants in town and still pass on a value to the guest.”
Coast is located in the Canary Hotel at 31 West Carrillo Street. Call 884-0300 or see canarysantabarbara.com.