[EDITOR’S NOTE: Just days after this article published, Renaud’s stopped serving dinner at the Montecito location, choosing to focus on breakfast and lunch.]
If you think of the Coast Village Plaza complex as a sort of mall, it now features two anchor tenants, with Khao Kheng (somehow even better than sister restaurant Empty Bowl) on the west end and Renaud’s on the east. That’s especially true since the latter began serving dinner right before the New Year. “Guests have been asking me for dinner service for a really, really long time,” says founder Renaud Gonthier. “And I wanted to give it a shot.”
As anyone who’s savored Renaud’s pastries knows, dinner would have to be delightfully, deliciously French. “We keep it always very simple,” he explained. “It’s bouillabaisse; it’s hanger steak; it’s snails in garlic butter. I’m not reinventing the wheel here.”
It helps that he’s a classicist — those brilliant, buttery croissants flake in my dreams — with the good fortune of living in a spot where he can get the best ingredients. “We’ve got great produce, great wines, great fruit,” he enthused, insisting they source locally as much as possible.
While he suggested other restaurants tend to go for California fusion, he said, “I just want to keep to what we’ve done before, things I’ve experienced before, traditional dishes. We just do it better.” That “we” includes new hire Chef Owen Hanavan, who has worked locally at Barbareño and Bottlest Bistro. Gonthier couldn’t be happier, praising Hanavan not only as a cook but as “a powerful leader — he’s really good at team building.”
The Montecito team gets to work in a spot specifically built to accommodate dinner service, especially since its separate patio means patrons can get alcohol inside and outside. And while he offers some French wine (naturellement!), there’s still room on the short but sweet list for beloved locals Margerum, Zaca Mesa, and J. Wilkes, too.
Wine dinners could be in the works — “We’ll just set one big table up in the restaurant and have some fun,” said Gonthier — but for now, the best deal is prix fixe options for two or three courses that shave a bit off the total bill, bring free bread and gougères to the table, and allow you to get wine pairings at bargain prices. Gonthier calls it “fast, casual fine dining” that will remain seasonal and fresh. “This is all about the food,” he explained. “It’s about what comes on your plate, and we only serve food that is amazing.”
While Renaud’s is now open for dinner service for good, you can’t blame Gonthier if he was spooked about evening service from the first night he served a special wine supper with Jaffurs at the original Renaud’s Loreto Plaza location. The evening of that dinner: November 13, 2008. Yep, from Loreto Plaza, a dinner-goer could see the ugly red streak of the Tea Fire begin its destructive roar above Montecito.
1187 Coast Village Rd. Ste. 7, Montecito; (805) 324-4200; renaudsbakery.com