West Coast Paradise found in Southern CA

Our good friends had their wedding nuptials in Santa Barbara over the weekend, and we took this chance to explore the area and get a feel of the West Coast. I can pretty much sum up this trip in one word – LOVE. We fell in love with Santa Barbara. It was beautifully lush and laid back; it totally reminded us of Hawaii, a tucked away piece of paradise only a few hours from LA. There was no hustle and bustle of the big city; instead, people were super friendly and the surroundings were straight out of a travel magazine. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway was one of the best road trips I’ve ever taken. I’m so thankful to have been able to experience this little piece of paradise, and cannot wait to go back, soon! We did get to sample some amazing cuisine and got to experience some of the freshest ingredients to be found.

Seafood World Restaurant – LA

This dim sum place is about a 45 minute drive from downtown LA, located in Little Saigon. But the dim sum was worth it. We had the normal shu mai, har gow and chicken feet. All were delicious and super fresh. I don’t think I can even have dim sum back home anymore; Seafood World set the bar for me. The dish that really stood out to me was the special lobster platter – an extra large lobster cut into chunks and stir fried with some amazing spices and scallions, all served on top of stir fried egg noodles.¬† The sweet and succulent lobster meat just soak up the flavors of the sauce and each bite is amazing. The noodles are a little bit more mild and balanced in flavor, so it compliments the lobster really well.

Kiwami – LA

I couldn’t visit the West Coast without trying some sushi; I could only imagine how fresh the sashimi would be. So after reading through countless reviews, I decided to visit an establishment of the famous Chef Katsuya, Kiwami Restaurant. Now this fun fact has nothing to do with food, but normally when I sit down, I tend to hang my purse¬† on my chair, but the waiter promptly came up to me with a beautiful dark wood basket and a plush hand towel and gently placed my purse in the basket and slid it underneath my chair. How genius is that? I was thrilled with that idea. So back to the food, we ordered a few rolls and a lot of sashimi. It was unbelievable. The blue fin tuna and yellowtail belly sashimi just melted in my mouth; I savored every bite. The piece de resistance for me here was the kobe beef, teppanyaki style. It came out in a sizzling bowl, sauteed with straw mushrooms and shitake mushrooms with grilled asparagus. The kobe was as buttery and tender as ever; the sauce was a hint of soy sauce and some rice wine. It was beyond delicious and hands down one of my favorite dishes.

Longboard’s Grill – Santa Barbara

We spent a good amount of time roaming and exploring the area around the Santa Barbara pier and happened to stop into Longboard’s Grill for a second breakfast. This rooftop restaurant provides amazing views of the ocean; I really enjoyed sitting back with one of the best bloody mary’s I’ve ever had and just watching the sailboats and kayakers. For breakfast, we got the Santa Barbara omelet, a hearty egg omelet filled with ham, baby portabella mushrooms, potatoes and bell peppers, smothered in cheese and all topped with a super fresh tomato salsa. This to me felt like a quintessential beach dive.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. – Santa Barbara

I had read about this place, it was suppose to have some of the best shellfish in town. It’s located at the very end of the pier right next to all the folks who are fishing. So we walked up, wrote our name on the clipboard and was called to our seat next to the window within minutes. A couple I had met the night before had raved about the spider crabs here, so that’s what we ordered, a 5 lb spider crab, which was the smallest they had. I’ve never had a spider crab before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But we got 2 huge plates, one with the claws and the 2nd with the body quartered into some massive pieces. The shell on this crab is extremely tough, and I’m glad that the cook hammers the pieces for us. The meat itself was very new to me. It was very flaky with a subtle briny taste. It wasn’t as sweet as MD blue crabs or dungeness crabs, but still very tasty and extremely meaty.

Kristy’s – Malibu

After a long drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, we decided to detour up a mountain to Kristy’s and check out the views of the coastline. Sitting outside, the view was breathtaking and I had a hard time remembering to order food. We finally did settle on their fried mushroom risotto balls to start. It was served with freshly grated romano cheese overtop, and biting into it, my mouth was shocked to find an incredible burst of flavor. The risotto was so creamy and the mushrooms gave it a very earthy taste that went to well with the cheese.

I ordered the breakfast pizza for my meal – a pizza topped with sausage, bacon, cheese and grilled onions. I’ve never had a breakfast pizza before, but it’s a great way to deliver all my favorite breakfast meats. The bacon pieces were oh so thick and smokey and salty. The sausages weren’t the links you find in the freezer section at the grocery store. Instead, it was a great mix of meat and spices. The pizza was way too much for me, and I was sad to leave 3 slices on my plate, but the open road was calling my name.

This was an amazing journey to Southern California. It never crossed my mind to ever visit LA, Santa Barbara and Malibu; but am glad I got the opportunity. The West Coast vibe, especially in Santa Barbara, is something I can really get accustomed to; and the food was everything I hoped it to be. It was a beautiful vacation, we got to help celebrate the union of two incredible individuals and I got to pack on the pounds with some amazing food.

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