Bantam in Santa Cruz Is Open
My Santa Cruz contacts are telling me that Bantam is making great pizza, not just compared to local standards but competitive with anywhere. It opened last week. Since it will be a while before I get over there myself, hope to hear from one of you about it.
I just stopped by with a couple of friends this past weekend. The short: I feel that the food is inconsistent and the service is shoddy. The place definitely have potential though.
Pickled carrots and turnips - bland and boring. These tasted barely pickled and had no real flavor. The inconsistent size (rustic I suppose) meant inconsistent pickling and the smallest pieces almost tasted like a pickle, the larger pieces tasted like nothing.
Sheepsmilk ricotta and anchovy toast - good, but needs more anchovies. It was about a fist's worth of toast, spread with ricotta, but maybe 1 anchovy on the whole thing. It might have even been half an anochovy. I think this dish would work if it had maybe 3x the anchovies. The toast was fantastic though, a good toasting and strong buttery flavor.
Avocado toast with radish and valencia orange salad - decent, good flavors. The toast was again awesome, the avocado was ripe. Everything in this worked, maybe a bit more salt and some sour could have helped. It was good, but not great
Kabocha fritters and fried broccoli with red and green mustard salad - pretty tasty. This came with like a yogurt sauce. Fried things are always great. They used an heirloom broccoli in tempura batter which was great (when it was warm) and the kabocha fritters were properly fried. The salad had a good sour vinaigrette to accent the bitter greens.
Corned beef brisket with housemade saurkraut and lentils - solid. This came with a large dollop of mustard. The corned beef was properly near falling apart and had a good beefy flavor. The saurkraut, unlike the pickles, did have a good sourness to them.
Mozzarella di bufala, tomato, and oregano pizza - disappointing. The bottom was blond and the top was as well. I liked the sauce, it had a good tart tanginess. It was a bit light on the mozzarella. I feel like it should be about 50% cheese, and 50% sauce peeking through, this was more like 30% cheese. The flavors were good, but it could have used another 30 seconds.
Sweet and hot peppers, housemade sausage and fresh ricotta pizza - not bad. This one had some decent char on the bottom but the top still didn't have much. Here, I felt like it was just severly undersalted. Even the sausage didn't taste like it had much of any salt.
I'd say the dough is pretty good. It had reasonable hole formation and chew, it just needed more char.
I felt that the service was weak. They don't quite have the timing down as the pizzas came out first, followed by the corned beef, then what should have been the first course. It also took like 15-20 minutes before someone brought us our check despite the restaurant calming down since we first entered.
I think that the place definitely has potential, but it really isn't there yet. The food is too inconsitent to be fantastic. I may have just gone on a mediocre night, but based on that, I don't intend to go back until I hear a string of good reviews. Maybe you'll get a better night.