The globally renowned Michelin Guide — considered the go-to publication for quality dining across Europe, Asia, Brazil, and North America — just listed three more Santa Barbara restaurants on its website: Bibi Ji, Caruso’s, and Loquita.
“These establishments are highlighted as ‘New’ on guide.michelin.com to help food lovers identify new discoveries prior to the annual announcement of Bib Gourmands and Stars,” explained an August 18 press release. That means that the three have not received any stars or other awards as of yet, but are now firmly on the Michelin radar.
Five more Central Coast restaurants were also added: Alderwood in Santa Cruz, Mentone in Aptos, Ox + Anchor in San Luis Obispo, and Six Test Kitchen and The Restaurant at Justin, both in Paso Robles. New additions for Los Angeles will be announced on September 1 with Orange County and San Diego additions coming two weeks later.
The guide was founded in France in 1889, but only started covering Santa Barbara and the greater Central Coast in 2019. (Santa Barbara got no stars during the 2019 awards.) It’s wrapped in plenty of mystery and intrigue, relying on undercover “inspectors” to review restaurants. Their resulting reports have turned many restaurants into world-famous establishments, while some chefs have turned to suicide when their star rating drops.
Here’s what the guide said about the eight new Central Coast establishments.
Alderwood: The menu stars responsibly sourced oysters and choice cuts of aged beef. Get going with a crispy crab sandwich offered with cool tartar sauce and piping-hot fries. Then, tuck into wood-roasted shrimp with leeks and pancetta, before calling it a night with the raspberry dream sundae.
Bibi Ji: This trendy Indian dining room makes quite a splash. Harnessing the best of land and sea, these dishes are born for sharing. Behold such inventive bites as crispy cauliflower tossed with chili-garlic sauce and finished with sesame. Barra kebab highlights intensely spiced tandoor lamb chops with mint chutney.
Caruso’s: The Rosewood Miramar Beach is its home and contemporary Californian food with Italian leanings is the team’s dictum. The seasonal prix-fixe takes center stage. A chilled minted pea soup with pickled fennel makes for a rich kickoff and may be tailed by gnocchetti Sardi mingled with dulse, uni and caviar for zest and decadence.
Loquita: Servers know the menu by heart, so follow their lead and start with tapas like crusty pan con tomate, before digging into hearty chorizo y pollo paella. An homage to the El Bullí olive is a contemporary signature, while carpaccio garnished with pickled mustard seeds and aged sherry vinegar is forever popular.
Mentone: Soft hues, dark green-framed doors, and a barn-like structure foster a communal sense. The carte is unusual, unveiling fried sardines with Meyer lemon aioli or white bean soup with chickpeas in a prosciutto broth. Pizzas take the cake, such as the “Pesto” shimmering with fromage blanc, Crescenza and caciocavallo, or “Sardenaira” with tomato sauce, anchovies and olives.
Ox + Anchor: Chef Ryan Fancher’s modern steakhouse is set on the grounds of Hotel San Luis Obispo. Charred steaks and sides including creamed spinach with onion rings are the main event, but also make room for room for such elevated comfort fare as savory goat cheese croquettes with sweet lavender honey.
Six Test Kitchen: A multi-course tasting inspired by the seasons of the Central Coast is on the books. Fridays and Saturdays feature an expanded menu with dishes that highlight the chef’s unique style. Imagine chicken liver mousse with shallot-onion jam; tailed by crispy duck with jus and pickled beets.
The Restaurant at Justin: Happily set in the Justin Winery, this Californian-centric haven is a celebration of the seasons and abundant local ingredients. Lunch is dialed back, but the menu truly shines at night, when the kitchen team flexes their creative skills to churn out deliciously complementary items.
Sign up to get Matt Kettmann’s Full Belly Files, which serves up multiple courses of food & drink coverage every Friday, going off-menu from our regularly published content to deliver tasty nuggets of restaurant, recipe, and refreshment wisdom to your inbox.