Mushroom Bisque @ Barbareño
Usually there’s no risk to bisque: It’s supposed to comfort you in its creamy arms. Of course Barbareño is all about the clever curve, the elegant update, as now embodied in this gorgeous mushroom bisque.
First, it’s thinner than most, which simply means there’s more flavor and less cream, and that’s a trade anyone who owns a scale will make. It’s all that mushroom earth but no heaviness, thanks to shiitake that gets smoked. (Why not a wisp of barbecue for depth, for Santa Barbara?)
And then there’s a surprising amount of lift. Perhaps there’s a good shot of acid (a vinegar? some citrus?), or maybe the tang all comes from the inclusion of wood sorrel, a wild green that looks like shamrocks and is lucky for a diner, with its crisp zip.
Vegetarians can stop there, but the full-menu version offers a crostini crusted with foie gras, a gilding of the lily, a bronzing of the orchid (for a more local overdone-ness), a depth charge of organ meat funk and haunting flavor. $9, 205 W. Canon Perdido St., (805) 963-9591, barbareno.com.