When seasonality in a restaurant is more than a buzzword, it makes writing about the dinner you enjoyed a month or so earlier a bit irrelevant. So I could wax on about our longfin yellowtail crudo with mountain berries (“I’ve never had raw fish with blueberries before,” blurted my accompanying amigo Señor M) or wax off about lobster-on-a-spit (its head crammed with shellfish butter that oozed over scrumptious cornbread cakes) — both of which are just hanging onto the menu right now, albeit morphing from what we enjoyed. But it’s better to go to the source of said delectables for an understanding of what The Revere Room is doing for information.
“Really, sustainability is the new immunity,” says Chef Massimo Falsini, who reenvisioned the Rosewood Miramar’s lobby restaurant, formerly occupied by Malibu Farm, and applied his evolving philosophies to every restaurant of the Montecito resort during the brief downtime he had during the pandemic. “The key is very simple. The biggest lesson that Mother Nature taught us during the pandemic is that we really need to take care of the earth. When we don’t, the results are pretty catastrophic.”
The Rome-raised chef, whose résumé spanned from his homeland to Abu Dhabi, Orlando, the Hualalai, and Napa before he was tapped to open the Miramar three years ago, was utterly effusive in our conversation a couple of days after my dinner on that tony patio in April. Though spewing the redundant rigmarole that all chefs appear mandated to say these days — regional sources, sustainable practices, seasonality, and so forth — he does so with an eloquent passion that’s hard to discount.
“My entire career is dependent upon sourcing locally, staying with the seasons, representing the locality of the terroir where I am operating,” explained Falsini, who moved to a plant-based diet a few months before the pandemic, but still tastes the meat as required. “We are so technologically advanced that we can do what we want,” he said of modern culture’s ability to have whatever we want whenever we want. “And then something like COVID happens and makes us question our choices in life.”
For Falsini, who hits the Tuesday farmers’ market in Santa Barbara twice a month, Saturday’s market weekly, and the larger Santa Monica market monthly, that meant honing his already sharp game. For The Revere Room specifically, that called for delivering a sense of comfort that we all need now. “Some food is about the body,” he told Señor M and me as we polished off fried quail breasts and albondigas in freshly made tortillas before slicing into lamb that was charred on its fatty cap. “Some is about the soul.”
Cooking is clearly his calling, but this dude could have been a poet or a priest. “Mother Nature wakes up in spring, and she’s excited — everything is green and fresh and crisp and cold,” he told me of his ever-evolving menu development. “Then, in the summer, she matures, so everything becomes yellow and bright and red. In the fall, Mother Nature gives, so we take what she has given us. The colors become orange and maroon and ivory, so we cook with that. And in the winter, Mother Nature goes to sleep, so we give her rest. Whatever we preserved, we’re using.
“If we live with Mother Nature,” he continued, “we will be healthier and live longer and live more peacefully.”
It’s hard to argue with that, although his creations are unfortunately not affordable for many of us, as the sprawling, but not overstuffing dinner that we experienced would have set us back $300 or so had we not been comped (not including the big tip we did leave). That was in part due to our responsibility to explore the resort’s cocktail creations, from the classic and new-school old fashioneds to the spicy-ish margaritas and ginny Gable Fizzes, all of which were $24 a pop.
Such are resort prices, pandemic and otherwise, and it only amplifies at the flagship restaurant Caruso’s, although the beachside setting of that dining room more easily justifies the splurge. And if you’re gonna go big, go dessert too, as the lemon pie and party-on-a-plate blood-orange-topped cheesecake are a mere $15 to throw on that tab.
Of course, those might not even be on the menu when you go, which is how it should be. “Every week, the menu slightly changes,” said Falsini. “It’s like a progression through the seasons.”
He’s not afraid to challenge his diners either. “I could sell salmon anytime. If I put branzino on a menu, it will sell. If I fly fresh dover sole in from England, it will sell, like many of my colleagues are doing. But I’m not doing it.”
For instance, if someone asks for salmon in January, when it’s not fresh from West Coast waters, he’s clear. “No, you can’t have it,” said Falsini, though he’d happily provide steelhead trout from NorCal. “You should not eat a fish that flies from all over the country or takes a 12-hour flight to come here. Doing that is wrong. It doesn’t make sense.”
I like this guy, and he’s a firm bet when it’s time for a memorable meal. “I go to sleep, and I dream about food. I get up, and I think about food,” said Falsini, who’s fascinated by the transformation of ingredients to finished dishes. “Mother Nature does everything for us. She gives us incredible things we can play with. We are just blessed to have all these gifts. We just make sure to not screw it up.”
759 S. Jameson Ln., Montecito; (805) 900-8388; rosewoodhotels.com/miramar