The Santa Barbara you find in Potts Point is not like the one that appears in maps of California. The latest venture for the Drink N Dine group (Queenie’s, The Carrington, The Abercrombie) audaciously redirects American cuisine by taking left-turn swerves into Asian territory.
So there’s Char Sui Ribs ($18), Salt N Pepa Crab ($16), and “Bings” (think Chinese pancakes) filled with Peking Duck, Kung Pow Chicken or Korean Short Rib ($5.50 each). There’s even popcorn sprinkled with Japanese furikake, sesame, bacon, pineapple, coconut and Parmesan as an appetite-kickstarter. (You can get it bacon-less, too, if you’re vego.)
Appropriately enough, given Santa Barbara’s location under a certain neon-bright cola sign, there’s Coke Can Chicken with Sesame Slaw and Sweet Potato Fries ($18), which is Will’s pick of the menu. My favourite is the awesome K-Town Pizza ($12). It was schemed up by Drink N Dine’s Jaime Wirth and the group’s executive chef Jamie Thomas and it’s genius. The dough, made by The Forresters’ pizza chef, is crisply grilled on a barbecue. Then a paint-bomb of flavour is detonated over the zebra-like char marks – you’ll see generous squirts of jalapeño salsa, queso cheese, red dragon sauce, black sesame and mayo all over the slices. It’s really about the high-contrast overload of toppings. I learnt Jaime’s intention was to create something “kinda fiendish” that was inspired by LA street truck food. Think of something you’d find in a pub in that city’s Koreatown – even if you haven’t been there – and you’re mighty close.
Like the other Drink N Dine venues, the interiors at Santa Barbara are wonderfully “out there”. There’s a brazen excess of decorations that I last saw at Chinese family weddings attended in the ’80s, while all the neon signage is as colourful and loud as the food. And, at the entrance, there’s a seven foot taxidermied bear to greet you. Welcome to Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara, 1 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point, NSW (02) 9357 7882, facebook.com/santabarbarasydney