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Mar 4, 2013 09:17 PM

Santa Barbara: El Encanto Hotel and Restaurant finally re-opening - March 18, 2013

Long awaited as one of our local favorite wining and dining spots, the El Encanto Hotel and Restaurant with its marvelous city view deck is finally re-opening March 18, 2013 according to their website:

It will be interesting to see if we locals are still welcome visitors to share this lovely spot or if the new owners will protect it more exclusively for its $595 per night guests. Looking forward to returning myself and to see if they kept the Oeufs a la Niege on the dessert menu, which was one of their long time classics.

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  1. Can't wait to spend a long weekend, eating and drinking at the stunning hotel.
    Report back too!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Beach Chick

      From the looks of it so far I may need to start one of those online donations websites to fund this new El Encanto dining venture before I get to report back. ;-)

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. <Oeufs a la Niege>

        It was the highlight of the evening last night. Our tastebuds woke up with the memory of that delectable, incredible bit of fluffy heaven. It's half the size and, if memory is correct, twice the price.
        I missed my favorite caesar with those wonderful white anchovies. The menu is entirely different and the old, timeless and historical restaurant and cottages are long gone.
        Such mixed feelings today :(.

        4 Replies
        1. re: latindancer

          Thanks for the very first report -- latindancer.

          Can you tell us more as this was in my backyard for over 30 years and I knew it in all its iterations - from student flop house to multi-owner fire sale mix and not match designer showroom - to finally a patina of homey class; musty smell, squeaky floor boards and all. To this up-scale renovation, with an attitude most likely?

          How did they change the lay-out when you say the "historical restaurant" is now gone?

          1. re: glbtrtr

            Of course, you'll remember driving up the hill and turning into the driveway.
            It's the same driveway, albeit grandly updated with carefully laid brick work. It's stunning, to say the least. All the old growth trees, from what we were told, were removed and stored and replaced to fit the many, many buildings in the landscape. There have to be twice or three times as many 'cottages' none of which are original. They're all new, with the attempt of duplicating the old. We chose not to stay but only dine for dinner.
            The restaurant is essentially the same layout as you walk past the entry. They've extended the 'patio' further out toward the ocean. It was a chilly SB night with heaters that weren't working so well so as the sun went down there was a definite chill. The entire foyer has been expanded, there's also a downstairs now.
            We began dinner with Amuse Bouche....chilled asparagus soup with blue cheese. It was a nice, light beginning.
            We each chose an appetizer (2). A french black truffle risotto was a very earthy, under seasoned disappointment. For $26 I would have expected something much more memorable.
            We also chose hamachi with quail egg. It was extremely fresh and delicate. $22. Delicious.
            I chose Lamb Loin Filet served with crisp roasted tiny potatoes paired with roasted tomatoes. $36. Nice but not anything special, in my opinion.
            My dining partner chose Braised Beef Cheek. It was superbly braised, deep and rich paired with roasted carrots. $32. By far the best of the two entrees. Delicious.
            I wish I'd have asked who baked their bread....crusty and delicious.

            For dessert(s) we chose Banana Vacherin and the beloved Floating Island. The floating understand my passion for it :). The Banana Vacherin was okay.

            We spoke to a few people and all around it seemed people were happy with the food. I realize it was their opening night. Our service was somewhat chaotic and inconsistent throughout the evening. I'm looking forward to hearing from locals, including you?
            I just think I'm sadly missing the old. For several decades the cottages were our home away from home. I love your description; 'patina of homey class; musty smell, squeaky floor boards and all'. A perfect description. I'm not sure if the ghosts have stuck around. I, sadly, tried to remember where the old cottages stood and the old, squeaky floors are gone. It's new and shiny and all that's left of the history is the dirt that serves as the base for this incredibly expensive endeavor. I wish them well...the view from the restaurant is still stunning and the bulldozers left the historical wishing well alone.

            1. re: latindancer

              ' For several decades the cottages were our home away from home.'
              WOW. . .how wonderful that must of been..

              I wish they would blend the old with the new a little more.
              Maybe they will with time, realizing we all long for once was

              I can't wait to stay for a long weekend!

              Love how you roll latindancer.

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Thank you, Beach Chick.

                I can say the same for you :).

                As you know, Santa Barbara is a place of pure, colorful, historical, artistic magic. The food, the landscape, the history. It's the place I gravitate to for whatever ails.
                I hope, over time, the unassuming and quiet elegance returns to this old love of mine. For now, it's different and I'm sure there are those who'll disagree.
                I hope your long stay for a weekend is filled with all things wonderful.

        2. I have a dinner reservation there in a few weeks. I asked about the corkage fee and was told its $35. Seems rather steep, but is the same as Bouchon charges on Friday and Saturday nights.

          Does anyone have any comments on the wine list? Fairly priced? Wide selection?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ian F

            From "Brown's Best" blog:

            About 100 wines are featured on the wine list.

            Most are Californian (like 1998 Opus One at $205 and 2001 Far Niente chardonnay at $84), but there are some French champagnes (1993 Dom Perignon is $194) and a few other French bottles (like 2000 Louis Latour chablis at $42).

            Glasses are good (Spiegelau), and I found that waitress Devaughn knew her wines. She brought to me the ever-reliable, big and buttery Robert Mondavi Reserve chardonnay from the Napa, in its 2000 vintage ($48), and a wine new to me, Justification – a blend of two-thirds cabernet franc and one-third merlot – which at first threatened to be light and lean, but then opened up to yield lots of dark fruit and a lovely vegetal nose (Justin Paso Robles - $75).

          2. A somewhat scathing review, but we locals are bit protective about our former backyard hangout:

            3 Replies
            1. re: glbtrtr

              I couldn't have said it better.

              Other than the Floating Island there's really not much on the menu that reflects what I remember. *The* best caesar I've ever eaten is gone, the local fish dishes, gone. Warmed bread from local bakery, gone. Very few wines from local vineyards (we're talking Santa Barbara & Central Coast) appear on the list. Actually, it appears there's really nothing about the original El Encanto the new owners liked so wash it away and on with the new and 'improved'.
              As the author stated, the food is average at best. Other than the beef cheeks, which were good, the rest of the meal wasn't even remotely memorable.
              For a town that focuses, heavily, on period architecture and history it's difficult to imagine how this happened to the old and classy El Encanto.
              So sorry it's gone.

              1. re: latindancer

                Even the new floating island looks alien. They used to show a big pan of elegantly almond-sliver glazed and crackly puffs floating in a vast pool of custard cream on the dessert trolly. Now it looks sterile and frou frou.

                Quite honestly, I think I will give them a pass. We got used to this place being closed for so long, it now will just have to pass into the memory banks. Nothing can beat the view of a picnic up at Franceschi House park anyway. BYO -OA'LN!

                Personally, I will take two Juliennes or two Scarlett Begonias for one El Encanto. And stop by IHOP for their Swedish pancakes for dessert.

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  "Even the new floating island looks alien"

                  Other than the taste there's really no resemblance to the original. I'm not sure why they even bothered putting it on the menu. It's about half the size and twice the price.
                  I used to order room service late into the evening just to have a bowl of it. Oh, the memories.
                  A few major service problems and the mediocrity of the menu and food left me thinking, as I walked out the door....I'll pass. The author's description of the 'palate cleanser' made me howl in laughter...she absolutely nailed it perfectly.
                  Yes; Julienne, Scarlett Begonia, Chase for that incredible Calamari Piccata and a whole slew of wonderful, regionally innovative and creative restaurants that reflect the true taste, food, wine and integrity of beautiful Santa Barbara...
                  These are the places that I'll choose to dine.
                  Next trip....that lovely IHOP for those pancakes :).