“Carnivore friendly” is not something that you hear very often! Since dipping into vegetarianism is trending, so are vegetarian restaurants. Santa Barbara is a little different, they are not exclusively vegetarian but that’s the main theme, with a few meaty options that sneak onto their menu every now and then. Montreal has quite a few “vegetarian friendly” restaurants, meaning that you can bring along that pesky vegetarian friend for a bite. Santa Barbara returns the favour to that pesky carnivore amongst the vegetarians, by having a “carnivore friendly” restaurant.
As a disclaimer, pesky little Sweet Pea tricked us! On one fine hangry evening she and Diva #1 couldn’t pick a restaurant, Diva #1 was drunk and being non-committal and Sweet Pea was blind with hangry rage. Sweet Pea decided on Santa Barbara, a restaurant that had been growing in popularity on social media. Diva #1 complied in fear of being stabbed… but didn’t know that it was a mainly vegetarian restaurant! FYI Diva #1 is a VERY unfriendly Carnivore.
Easily appeased by cocktails, we enjoyed the Santa Barbara Margarita that was spicy with a chili syrup and chili salt on the rim, and the Patio Sipper with tea, pomegranate juice and vodka. The cocktails were on point, refreshing and fun! Santa Barbara offers a seasonal menu with an emphasis on organic produce and freshness.
We enjoyed two appetizers, our favourite being the crostini with eggplant, tomato and ricotta. A large crostini of pumpernickel bread was topped with a roasted eggplant purée that was seasoned with lemon zest, cinnamon and thyme for a nice Mediterranean flavour. The ricotta wasn’t too wet, but nice and dry, although we would have liked more of it. Topped with a few slices of perfectly room temperature tomatoes, and a few greens, it was an enjoyable appetizer.
The second appetizer may not photograph well but we assure you that it made up for that in taste. Three dense corn cakes arrived with a labneh spread. For those of who are not well versed in Middle Eastern milk products, labneh is a soft spreadable cheese made from strained yogurt. Their take on cream cheese, but we think it tastes ten times better. The labneh spread at Santa Barbara was seasoned with chipotle for kick, sweetened with honey, and topped with corn and scallions. The corn cakes were a little denser than we would have like, but the labneh spread made up for them.
The height of our Santa Barbara dining experience arrived with the mains. The pierogis were incredible, perfectly cooked and full of lovely potato, squash and even caramelized onions. They were lightly fried so that the dough was crispy, but not too much! Whoever invented the combination of potatoes and pasta, carbs on carbs, is a genius! The pierogis were tossed in a buttery sage and garlic confit sauce, with a touch of perfectly cooked rapini, and parmigiano for good measure.
And then came a very generous portion of mushroom risotto! So generous that we took the rest home and enjoyed it for breakfast the next day. The risotto was drowning in shiitake and Blanc de Gris oyster mushrooms. They were both mixed into the risotto, as well as topping the risotto with grilled fennel, which added a peppery kick. The risotto itself was seasoned with caraway, which tied in with the grilled fennel, green onions, and parmigiano.
Santa Barbara, you made us love playing vegetarian for the night! The appetizers were tasty but the mains were incredible. The menu is small and changes with the season, but the dishes are unique and the combination of flavours is exciting!
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 6696 Rue de Saint-Vallier, Corn Cakes, Crostini, H2S 1M1, Montreal Restaurant, Montreal Vegetarian, Mushroom Risotto, Pierogies, Santa Barbara Montreal, Santa Barbara Montreal Restaurant, Santa Barbara Vegetarian