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Aug 6, 2007 08:48 AM

Wine Cask in Santa Barbara

This weekend, I invited a friend to dinner at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. The service was impeccable. Our wiatress was efficient, non-obtrusive and always nearby. The food itself was well prepared and tasty,though the portions were rather small. I figure, if you're paying between $30-40 per entree, they should at least give you a little more actual food.
I had the cod with miso sauce which was served on a bed of green beans. My date had the wild salmon which came with rice. For dessert we shared a goat's cheese cheesecake, with honey,ginger and rasberry sauce. Ultimately, with two glasses of wine and cappucino ,the bill came to $120. With tip, the total bill came to $144. It worth eating here to sample the food, but I must say that I've had much better meals at half the price at many other restaurants. I still prefer my local Thai place by far over this extravagant, but pricey excursion.

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  1. Your experince at Wine Cask jibes with others. Food is okay, lovely setting but not all that great for the price. For much more modest dining costs but a nice variety of quality, look into Main Street in Old Town Ventura, about half hour drive away.

    7 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Well, I thought it would be expensive, I just wasn't all that impressed with the food.
      I was entertaining a friend who is leaving the country soon and wanted to take her to a restaurant that is consistently ranked as one of the best in Santa Barbara.

      1. re: kaki3152

        A couple of thoughts here: I personally never include it in Santa Barbara's best lists; and it shows dining in Santa Barbara is not all that great in the big picture. We have some nice restaurants, but no really great restaurants.

        And we have way too many over-priced restaurants. Which is why I often recommend the fish sandwich at MacDonalds and the Swedish pancakes at IHOP. And the under $10 plate specials at Sakura in Paseo Nuevo shopping mall on State Street.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          Globe trotter,

          I quite agree with you. I lived in SB for 10 years and now live in Santa Maria so I can still go to SB anytime. There are too many overpriced restaurants that serve adequate not great food.
          Still, there's always Brophy's, the original Sambos, the little Japanese restaurant(I-Tsuki) near the 154 exit, and a few other gems.Not that these places serve epic food, but they can always be trusted to turn out tasty dishes at a reasonable price.

          I have eaten some memorable meals in SB, including such events as "Taste of the Town" and still hope to repeat the experience sometime in the future.

          1. re: kaki3152

            I have to disagree about original Sambo's. On someone's recommendation here, we reluctantly stopped there on our way through SB very early one AM for breakfast, when nothing else was open. The dining room was freezing and the food was mediocare at best. We didn't eat more than a few bites, yet they charged us for all of it -- not good food or good value in my book.

            1. re: Moka

              Did you actively complain about the food? I don't think Americans complain enough to the restaurant when the food/service is bad. This is standard in Europe - not really "complain", but constructively give the restaurant feed back because Euros start out assuming the restaurant wants to serve and feed them well.

              Here I think we act like sheep and think are supposed to take whatever they dish out, pay for it without complaining and leave a large tip on top of it all. Boo. Plus we run into too many snotty and vindictive service people, if anyone does complain.

              If the food was so bad at Sambo's you could not eat it, you never should have been asked to pay for it ... had you stated your case to the restaurant. At least, not in my book.

              Nor should one complain, just to get the dinner discounted. That is abusive, and sadly is also a peculiarly American trait.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                We complained. Our daughter sent her food back, and the replacement was a little better, but not good enough to eat more than a few bites. I picked through mine. Even the pancakes, which they are supposed to be famous for tasted old. We gave up after a few bites. My husband paid the bill, so I didn't know until later about the charges. But, this was the first meal of our trip and none of us wanted an argument, so we chose to just let it go. Our terrific lunch in Los Olivos made us forget all about Sambo's, anyway...

            2. re: kaki3152

              "Tasty dishes at reasonable prices". I like that. Yes, Santa Barbara does have a number of those that we can count on and get us to return over and over again. Gee, have I mentioned the Antipasto Assortiti at Ca Dario ...???? ;-)

      2. I love that place. Definitely my favorite place in Santa Barbara.

        2 Replies
        1. re: oerdin

          Sorry, but wine cask is my favorite upscale place in santa barbara. But I have to agree in most cities you could find better. I need to try Bouchon again, since my one dinner there was with a large group which could have affected the quality.

          1. re: majmaj4

            When we were in Santa Barbara several years ago, we loved our food at the Wine Cask. We were extremely disappointed in Bouchon, however--very expensive, especially considering the mediocre food. And it was just the two of us.

        2. Our dinner at the newer Wine Cask in Los Olivos about a year ago was very good. As you described in your report on the SB Wine Cask, service and food were just as they should be, though our duck and scallop entrees were in the high 20's then and didn't seem skimpy to us. We were very surprised to find one of our favorite Santa Lucia Highlands pinot noirs on their excellent wine list selling for less $$$ than on the wine lists in Monterey County.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Moka

            sad to report, Doug Margerum has sold the Wine Cask and the Los Olivos location has reverted back to Fess Parker's ownership.

            1. re: peasoup

              Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, too. The Wine Cask was such an improvement over the old Vintage Room. Have you heard what is being planned for that space and if Doug M. will open another place seomwhere?

              1. re: Moka

                Peasoup, at first glance, I thought you meant that only the Los Olivos Wine Cask had changed, but now I understand your post better -- that the SB Wine Cask was sold, too. You probably already know this, but I'll report that an article in the SB Independent said DM wanted a break from the restaurant biz and might look into cheesemaking, to go with his own wines or wine importing -- good for him.

                I see the new restaurant at FP's in Los Olivos is open and called Marcella's (surprise!) and that the new chef is the former sous chef from Bacara.

          2. Completely concur. Great wine list (obviously) but the food feels very outdated, the fish wasn't super fresh, and the oysters were a little cold/frozen. I think the cooking is a little schizophrenic; weird poop like droplets of squash puree on an otherwise beautiful venison dish, a really homey salad with prawns that was stacked and over-plated. For the kind of cooking and the ingredients it really should loosen up. This is homey cooking with beautiful but very thick reductions and sauces. Why plate them like it was 1999 at Girraffe or whatever it was called?

            Anyway.. I don't think we'll go back. As good as the wine list was, it wasn't exceptional enough food to pay that kind of cost. We could have dined at Providence here in LA for the same price and had a far better selection of food.

            Great staff though. Really nice folks.