In contrast to the bohemian posture of its neighborhood, this sterling debut by Chef Val M. Cantu is a luxurious oasis. A gleaming open kitchen and burnt caramel-hued banquettes pop against the dark lacquered walls, while sparkling chandeliers and shelves of cooking and design books further punctuate the upscale look of this intimate room. You'll feel as though you're dining in a chef's private atelier, complete with a polished, professional, and tight-knit staff that delivers truly impressive service. While the feast set forth by Chef Cantu is inspired by Mexican flavors, it is modern Californian at its foundation. Produce plucked from nearby farms is transformed into stimulating bites to begin this tasting menu. Highlights from which have included delicious interpretations of menudo featuring fresh raw hamachi slices doused with a succulent tripe broth; and esquites that top a creamy sweet corn pudding with charred kernels and decadent Santa Barbara uni. Fourteen-day dry-aged Wagyu ribeye cap is grilled over the binchotan and served with charred onion, dabs of avocado purée, tomatillo salsa, as well as puffy, griddled sourdough tortillas. And for dessert, if the sound of foie gras-and-coffee ice cream drizzled with cajeta seems crazy, just trust us-it's brilliant.
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