“Doesn’t it remind you of being a kid again?” I’m asked by bartender Joseph Sabato while sipping on an Amaretto Sour in Vaquero Bar, the first part of the Coast Range restaurant complex to open in Solvang. Indeed, with frothy egg-white foam and soda-like flavors, the almond-liqueur-based cocktail proved comfortingly familiar and fun, causing myself and other nearby imbibers to crack congratulatory smiles for accepting the advice to order this lower-octane, candy-leaning cocktail.
It went down rapidly, even faster than I could snag a proper shot — see photo above — and almost quicker than I could even try it with the day’s crudo, the supple bluefin that was treated to oil, salt, dashi, koshu, cilantro, and chiles. “They’re catching bluefin right now, which is rare,” said Coast Range’s co-owner Anthony Carron, a longtime Los Angeles chef who’s lived in the Santa Ynez Valley with his wife, co-owner Hillary Calhoun, for seven years now. “I couldn’t say no.”
The amaretto’s citrusy spunk sliced through the crudo’s almost overwhelming umami character, becoming this pandemic-emerging year’s most off-the-wall pairing for me. Not that I didn’t try other combinations at the small bar, which opened inside of the former Mandarin Touch location in early April, with the attached restaurant, deli, and two upstairs lodging units expected to come this summer.
There was the Ramblin’ Man, a pineapple, champagne, and black salt spin on the margarita, which handled the oysters in pink peppercorn mignonette and strawberry-grapefruit-almond-tomato burrata salad with ease. Then came the 9-5 Martini, whose silky purple color (thanks, elderflower!) and fat white lychee balanced the rich Wagyu steak tartare, topped with cured egg yolk, capers, and watercress. Then there were possibly the most texturally on-point fries I’ve ever tasted, served alongside an off-menu “pastrami on weck,” dripping in horseradish sauce and accompanied by au jus. The latter was a completely unnecessary partner to the already overloaded sandwich, which nourished me for two more meals that week.
These were just early indications of what’s going to pop at a fully functional Coast Range, a Central Coast–sourcing super-group partnership between Carron, Calhoun, their L.A. chef friends Steven Fretz and Lincoln Carson, and sommelier/winemaker Raj Parr. So hit the bar now, and then stay tuned for a longer story on Coast Range when it fully opens.
1635 Mission Dr., Solvang; (805) 691-9134; coastrange.restaurant
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