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Asian Food in Santa Barbara County

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My friend relocated to Santa Barbara area (Vandenberg Village) several months ago. After numerous attempts at finding decent asian food in the area, she has begun to settle for less than mediocre food. She is on the verge of asking me to overnight her chinese food from the Los Angeles area. Please help me help my friend come up with some decent asian restaurants. Otherwise I can look forward to spending a lot of money on FedEx in the near future.

Cities within her driving radius:
Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Goleta, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria

Types of Cuisine:
Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. "Cities within her driving radius:
    Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Goleta, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria
    Types of Cuisine:
    Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese"

    Your friend is in big trouble - and you should keep the Fedex # handy.
    However - here's some she can try if she hasn't already -
    In Lompoc - there's Suvan's Kitchen, with Thai and Laotian food - the service is a bit spotty there, but some dishes very tasty - I really like their curries. There's also Thai Cuisine, and Thai Fast Food. Forget about Chinese - there's nothing there worth eating.
    In Buellton, - there is A-Ru, a Japanese restaurant, owned by a Korean. They specialize in sushi and sashimi, but have other offerings as well. I think that it is quite good. There is a Chinese restaurant in Buellton, and another in Solvang, but I wouldn't give you a nickel for either one of them.

    I haven't eaten anything in Goleta for too long, so I can't recommend anything - but there is a good Oriental Market in the K-Mart shopping center, opposite the Costco shopping center. If your friend wants to cook her own, she can find plenty of ingredients there. Or maybe they can direct her to some eateries in Goleta worth visiting.

    Good luck. I sure do miss the Chinese food in NYC.

    1. In the past we've always really enjoyed Your Place for Thai on Milpas in Santa Barbara, hopefully it's still good. There's another with a similar name on upper State, but I've heard it's not quite as good as YP.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PolarBear

        In santa barbara it pales compared to big city asian food.
        My favorite is China Pavillion for nice chinese. Madame Lus has some Dim Sum on the lunch buffet that is not bad.
        Thai I gave up on eating out, and cook my own using canned green curry sauce and fresh veggies from the Oriental Market.
        Japanese, I liked Taiko for a while but it went downhill so I gave up on Japanese.

        I did have some pretty good Thai in Oxnard, I think it was Chai's Thai Cuisine.

        Maybe you can make a business out of fedexing us all some good asian fare.

      2. For Chinese, I second the CHINA PAVILLION (West Anapamu/Chapala, Santa Barbara) for their very expert seasoning touch and especially their Crispy Walnut Prawns, which is part of the Chinese Wedding Feast menu at Frank Fat's in Sacramento.

        For a basic take on Japanese, hands down to the string of "SUSHI TERI" restaurants scattered around Santa Barbara - flagship on Bath Street at West Carrillo (downtown).Fast, fresh and simple for around $10: teri salmon or chicken; Calif roll, sliced cabbage salad and rice. Basic, good and cheap.

        There are now two fully Vietnamize restaurants in SB (Milpas Street; K-Mart Shopping Center) - but neither particularly great. Still my overall favorite is Mai's, but this is in Ventura on Main Street. There is a Vietnamize fast food combo take out small cafe in Goleta Old Town - mediocre to bad.

        Thai has several okay places depending on what you order - kind of worth trying what is close by when the urge hits. And yes, YOUR PLACE on Milpas street keeps winning the awards as "favorite" but others also are not bad either.

        A sleeper little SEA place that can be good from time to time and is always cheap so no loss if it is not up to par is the BLUE DOLPHIN cafe in Isla Vista on the main street, a few blocks away from the bike path entrances to the UCSB campus.

        A few years ago they added Malaysian items to their menu. Now run by a Chinese woman, the items stayed but the preparation of them has changed somewhat - i.e. the peanut dipping sauce is sweeter; less hot and musky Malaysian. But some interesting taste combos out there worth the trip for its modest setting and prices.

        Like much of my dining in Santa Barbara, I go for certain dishes at a variety of SEA restaurants, as no one restaurant is 100% good and none are 100% bad. Find what you like and encourage them to keep making it.

        1. Okay, here is the real deal. I've never been to Asia, so I'm not going to claim I know what "real" Asian food tastes like, but I have lived in many different cities, both in the states and Canada and the best I've had in Santa Barbara are the following:

          Best Chinese - definitely the China Pavillion - unless you want take out, then call the Empress Palace on Los Positas

          Best Thai - definitely "Your Place" on Milpas. They may be a bit curt on the service, but the Tom Ka Gai soup with prawns - extra spicey - oh, I could just bathe in that soup!!!

          Best sushi - with out a doubt, bar none...Arrigato's on State street. I know a lot of folks may say it's just a "place to be seen" but trust me, the sushi is the best here in SB and yes, I've eaten at every sushi place here. It's fresh and the service is bar none.

          Vietnamese - the place on Milpas that the other poster reffered to is fairly good, unfortunately it's now the only one in SB...I've had better but it's not bad.

          1. Errr...just to say Santa Barbara is about an hour away from Vandenberg Village, which to me is a long way to go for Chinese food.
            I will agree that the best Chinese food restaurants are in Santa Barbara. The Chinese restaurants in Lompoc are fair only.There is one that has an OK lunch buffet and has Mongolian BBQ on their buffet choice.

            However, the the two Thati restuarnats are both good. One is Thai Fast Food and is located behind CArrow's on Ocean> Their Silver Noodles are great, Pad Thai pretty good, and so on. The other one is closer to MacDonalds, in a very small strip mall.They have been in Lompoc for a long time and have many regulars.

            There is also a sushi place on Ocean ,can't remember th address that I thought was decent. Big crowd on Friday nite.

            1. Recent story that tells the tale about "Asian" food in Lompoc. Heard from Chowounders here there was a good Thai restaurant in the town and happened to be there and drove around the few business streets but did not find any.

              Stopped to talk to some young people sitting outside on a busy corner at a coffee place where the Thai restaurant was. Blank stares, rude comments about what a boring town this was and why on earth would two people from Santa Barbara ever come here for dinner.

              That being said, one young man decided the better response would be to be helpful and tried to give us directions to the Thai restaurant. We followed it closely (not too hard to get lost in this small town) only to find the Thai restaurant was actually a Japanese restaurant - which was pretty good. So much for "Asian" food to the locals - young locals and this is good - it is all one big world for them and that has to be a Good Thing.

              So the Japanese restaurant that was pretty good in Lompoc is on the main street that goes out to the Ocean --is that Ocean Blvd? - towards the flower fields and the train station - just a little bit past the main town intersection. Nice family feeling there and the staff was happy to talk about the food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: glbtrtr

                You got bad information. There IS a Thai place in Lompoc, and it's actually pretty good.
                Next time there, follow Ocean (Hwy 246) until you get to "H" street. Make a right on H and head down H until you see a Walgreen's drug store on your left. Make three lefts at that point, one off H, then the next left you can make (you will now be behind Walgreen's) and finally, one more left into a small, strip mall /industrial type building. Located in that strip of businesses is "Thai Cuisine" and reading my own directions, I wonder how they've survived this long in such an odd location.

              2. The new Sushi restaurant in town in Sushi Teri- which has a great calamari marinated salad- and pretty good sushi- is located at 200 or so W Ocean. It is related to the Sushi Teri gang in SB.

                There is a small Japanese restaurant at the end of town- at 1206 W Ocean- south side of the road in a shopping mall- that must be the one you are refering to- it's name is Oki Sushi Japanese Restaurant .

                Ocean does go out to the ocean, either Surf Beach or Ocean Beach Park- your choice- and depending on the plover breeding at the time-one may be closed. Great birding at Ocean Beach.

                1. Forgot to include a tip about a place in Santa Maria- called Bonnies. It is on E Main, right next to Wienershnitzel. It is owned by a Thai lady and her American husband- heard they make a great team- and some tasty food. Nothing outstanding, but between the good service and the good food, one leaves with a smile!

                  1. Seems to me that Pismo is as close to Vandenburg Village as Goleta, maybe closer. In that case Thai Talay would be the place for Thai food. Many complimentary posts about it on this board. I have had several excellent meals there and think it is better than all that were mentioned in S.B.county.

                    I have not had good experiences at the Sushi Teri in Goleta. When I open the door I am turned off by a very fishy smell. There is a new place for Japanese in Goleta called Goleta Sushi House. It is in old town Goleta (5744 Hollister) where Kashima used to be. The service is very fun and friendly and the food very fresh and delicious. I have only been once, but need to go back and try more. My sister has been many times and another family eating there when we were there go every week.

                    Also in the northern direction we have enjoyed the sushi at Yanagi's in Pismo. They have a million dollar view and a loud festive atmosphere. Lots of great choices for food and the shushi is very good. They also have teppanyaki tables, but I have not tried them.

                    Many people feel that Atari Ya in Santa Maria is the best sushi you can get anywhere. The location is a dreary strip mall, 1551 Stowell. I tried it and thought it was good, but not as good as Yanagi.

                    1. I think everyone started getting a little off-track and ended up with Japanese/sushi, etc! I thought the question was more or less for "Chinese" food, and I'm surprised no one mentioned Ming Dynasty in Santa Maria. They have dinners, and a buffet that is very good. It is located in the large strip mall across from Burger King on South Broadway just north of Betteravia Rd. There is a "back" way to Santa Maria from Lompoc also; check out a map. :)

                      1. I have nearly been in tears over the lack of good authentic Asian food (not to lump together all of the different cuisines but there isn't Asian food that I don't like). Anyway, China Pavillion is the ONLY good, mostly authentic Chinese but is hard to drive to without pre-planning from SY Valley. Mandarin Touch is ridiculously overpriced (for what it is..not authentic) but is palatable in Solvang. A-Ru is good in Buellton but too pricey for me. I still want to try Kabuki in Solvang and a few in Lompoc. I hated Sushi-Teri, though, and honestly think the people who voted it "the best" in the Independant haven't had good sushi. I've also heard Arigato is the best. Although Yanagi is now open in Santa Maria and that also has been recommend to me as the best in Santa Maria. I will definitely post again once I find out better places. I'm planning on doing some detective work tonight, in fact!

                        Camarillo had a decent Chinese restaurant that I think was called Peking Inn and I heard they have dim sum so I'm planning on making a trip at some point. How the SY valley lives without dim sum is beyond me.

                        1. Vandenberg Village is nowhere near Santa Barbara. It's in the County...but quite a distance from the City.

                          She should try cooking up some great Asian food for herself.

                          1. I dunno if anyone's still reading this, but my wife (the Sturdy Wench) and I ate dinner last night at A-Ru in Buellton, 225 McMurray St.

                            I'm still new to eating sushi, but what we had was so far beyond any other sushi I've ever had. We had a yellow fin and then a toro tuna sushi the Sturdy Wench and I agreed was one of the best tasting things we've ever put in our mouths. She especially loved it, and while she likes sushi, she's never expressed any over-the-top appreciation for it until now. As she bit and slurped and moaned, I flexed my hands raised up on the balls of my feet as I was afraid I was about to have to yank her back from lunging at the poor sushi chef and demanding to bear his children. Thankfully, decorum prevailed.

                            We ordered the A-Ru roll and the Golden Salmon roll, and gustatorial ecstasy draws a shimmering veil over my recollection of the ingredients. Suffice to say they were absolutely delicious. (I forgot to take notes.)

                            We were also served miso soup (which was nicely unsalty compared to every other miso soup I've eaten) and a scoop of perfectly cooked sushi rice and several pieces of delicately battered and fried tempura vegetable.

                            The decor was subdued and serene, lots of dark wood and several large posts of bamboo.

                            The food was also reasonable priced, our total (including green tea but no dessert and no other drinks) was about $55.

                            A restrauteur friend who enjoys A-Ru suggests the "chef's selection" and allowing the chef to pick the items. Cost for this is said to be about $100/person, which was more than we could spend that night, but we have absolutely no complaints about the wonderful food we ordered or the outstanding service. We were replete and happy when we left.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: KenWritez

                              the chef's selection is called "Omakase" (oh Mah Kah Say) and is a good way to go in most better Sushi bars! You can ask for it most anywhere.

                            2. I am Chinese and my husband is Japanese, we lived in Santa Barbara. I recommend you to try Madam Lu (chinines, taiwanese) restaurant. If you can read Chinese, ask them for the Chinese menu. And China Pavillion offer Dim Sum on weekends, do not try the dim sum in Madam Lu though. For Japanese food, go for Arigato, Sakana, Ahi or Kopachi.
                              And for Vietnamese food, you can try Saigon in and out, they have several location, go to the one on State street. Their spring roll and Pho is pretty good.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: elliechan88

                                Elliechan, thank you for your local feedback.

                                How do you like the Red Pepper in Goleta and is that Shanghai place on Milpas Street near the County Bowl worth a try?

                                What do you suggest for those who cannot read the Chinese menu at Madame Lu's?

                                1. re: elliechan88

                                  Thanks for the info. I hadn't realized there was any decent Chinese food between Camarillo and Gilroy.