Santa Barbara: SamaSama Indonesian Test Kitchen
Here is a bit of a twist. Recently returned from Indonesia and asked Hounders if there were any Central Coast Indonesian restaurants. Zip response, which was no surprise. But then after plowing through the back-log of news papers while we were gone, lo and behold one opens in right in downtown Santa Barbara. So it had to be at the top of next new restaurant to visit.
Here is my review of SamaSama Indonesian Test Kitchen - 1200 block of State Street, under the Granada Theater building squarely in the prime restaurant zone in town:
Love the originality and accessibility of this menu. Yes, there is Indonesian heritage to some of the ingredients and flavorings, but their take is highly unique and creative. Even if not on the menu, ask for the shrimp chips and house-made fresh sambals as a delightful way to get started. Crispy scoops picking up micro chopped herbal/veg combos set the tone for what was to come, taking one thousands of miles away from our more local chips and salsa.
Their chicken satay appetizer (two sticks) was a whole new take on this classic and absolutely delicious with perked up, intensified flavors and succulent pieces of meat. Ordering a double portion of this would have satisfied me for an entree. Just these first two choices alone would be reason enough to come back over and over again.
What on earth could be an Indonesian "poutine" other than more evidence of this eclectic fusion of fanciful and flavorful - excellent choice. Yup, sauced curds and chips, but so much more - pork and a delectable SEA flavored topping with fresh SEA herbs. Lovely to look at as well as to taste.
The sampler nasi rice plate is exactly what it intended to be - a sampler of flavors, textures and ingredients from this 17,000 island nation, where the star attraction was the intensely flavorful and exquisitely textured rice itself, playing counterpoint to about 6 others small additions making up the whole - gado gado salad, tempeh, bean curd and a few other savories made this a taste kaleidoscope.
But wait, there is more - all three of their custom made ice creams exceeded flavor perfection: Thai Ice Tea; Lemongrass Ginger and a haunting German biscotti. My goodness, what a good start. Wishing this newcomer every success.
Prices good; variety of non and vegetarian options, small plates concepts to share, service friendly and attentive. There is a lot to love about this restaurant. Only minor, minor and subjective drawbacks were the practical, but industrial paper table cloths, lack of napkins, tiny water glasses and the overly coy ice cream service in small mason jars.
The food deserved a little more opulence in its setting and service, but why gild a lily when everything else works so well. Hope they pump up their online presence to show off this place more easily to those who go searching for it. But do seek it out anyway. Very casual with an outdoor patio in the back that lets you wave as you pass the very talented kitchen crew.