Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vegetar...Au Contraire

Leave it to me to go to a place helmed by a chef famous for her vegetarian chops and order a steak, but there was a meatiness to my madness. I figured thusly--if Akasha Richmond is so acclaimed for her vegetarian skills, she probably isn't going to mess with meat unless it would surely be a treat. Especially if she's going to feature a Kobe rib eye crusted in a chili-coffee glaze as a daily special. And guess what? I was right. The steak was succulent all on its medium rare own, but that glaze really set it off, just enough sweet and spice to give the steak a wider palette for the palate--no monochrome meat this. And it came atop rappini roasted to nearly melted goodness, redolent of fine olive oil and garlic.

Of course I'm ahead of myself a bit, diving right into the beefy portion of the program, for Akasha knows what it's doing all around, right down to a fine by-the-glass and cocktail program. In that latter category, we've been trying to perfect our own version if its Emerald City, namely tru organic gin, housemade basil elixir, and fresh lime. (So far our most successful riff is this per drink: muddle a healthy handful of basil in 1 oz. lime juice and .5 oz simple syrup, add 3 oz. Hendrick's gin--the cucumber taste is a fine addition--muddle a bit more carefully for it's easy to make a mess, add ice, shake, pour into chilled martini glass and adorn with lime wedge.) Akasha also offers a bunch of flatbreads that truly aren't just pizza-tizers; the crust is almost pita-like in its pocketness, and a bit crunchy, too, especially since it's got a good dusting of cornmeal for texture. We split a daily special called the Punjabi, which featured saag, a sneaky riff on a spinach topping, but then there was a vinegary vegetable chutney to add, too. A wonderful first course.

While I steaked (but far from mistaked), my partner enjoyed another small plate as her main, a gorgeous looking albacore carpaccio topped with just enough shaved fennel, arugula pesto, basil, and smoked sea salt to zip the fine fish up a few notches.

We didn't mean to have a dessert, but you tell me how to refuse a salty chocolate peanut bar with candied peanuts, peanut butter gelato, sea salt, and caramel. We're both suckers for that delish mix of salt and sweet, and this dish totally delivered, if it surprised in looks--the plate actually comes with little rectangular chocolates, the rest of the ingredients strewn pleasantly about.Which we only wished we could have, perhaps sipping an Emerald City or two, but we needed to take that yellow brick 101 back to Santa Barbara.

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