Toma Restaurant and Bar, Santa Barbara

In Dining by Susan Watkins

It’s our first night in Santa Barbara, and for dinner we head to the hottest place in town – Toma Restaurant and Bar.  Recently opened in April of 2013, this restaurant is a “must dine”!  With soft lights and the hum of happy diners, a charming ambiance is created at the trendy waterfront bistro with views of the famous Santa Barbara harbor. The restaurant has a stylish Tuscan feel, with modern art on the walls and smooth jazz playing softly in the background.  The pride of owners Tom and Vicki Dolan is evident and well founded in all aspects of Toma.  To dine here is to feel like you are part of something special.

We start off with a couple of Toma’s many hand-crafted cocktails -the Tuscan Pear (Grey Goose La Poire, Ventura Limoncello, King’s ginger liqueur, orange juice and mint) and The Local (Square One Cucumber Vodka, strawberries, basil leaves, agave nectar, drizzle balsamic reduction).  These innovative cocktails are the perfect blend of tart and sweet, and are accompanied by Toma’s signature flash fried green olives stuffed with blue cheese.

As we peruse the menu which is is a combination of Mediterranean and Italian dishes, my dining partner keeps pointing out the fabulous looking plates of food emerging from the kitchen.  It’s clear that we are in for an extraordinary dining experience.  Our server is attentive, knowledgeable and spot-on in his recommendations.  With his help, we choose from a tempting array of dishes.  When our appetizers arrive, we see from the generous servings that they are practically meals in themselves! Each one is uniquely delectable, and we enjoy shamelessly:

  • Tuna Cones Ahi Sashimi, Ginger, Sesame, Soy, Chile and Chive in Crisp Sesame Cone
  • Crostada Baked Goat Chevre, Caramelized Pear, Walnut, Organic Greens, Shallot Dressing
  • Grilled Romaine Warm Lemon Parsley White Beans, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette, Shaved Parmesan

Whew!  We need to rest between courses, and our server offers a smooth Napa Valley Cabernet to accompany our entrees – Heaven in a glass!  We sip and savor the ambiance of this little restaurant – looking around, our fellow diners appear to be having as much fun as we are!  Before too long, here come our entrees, and they are absolutely mouth-watering:

  • Lasagna Braised Beef and Pork Ragu, Spinach, Fresh Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan.

I ordered this because Toma is famous for their home made pastas – this lasagna is off-the- chart delicious (and that says something coming from someone who is married to an Italian.) I’m not sharing!

  • Braised Short Rib White Polenta, Red Onion Confit, Natural Jus, Arugula, Lemon Oil.

My husband’s choice – the look on his face as he tastes this savory dish tells me that he isn’t sharing either!

  • Breast of Duck and Duck Confit with Cranberry Reduction.

One of the evening’s specials which our server brought us “just to taste” – I’m not sure that I’ve ever had duck prepared quite this beautifully – it’s lean, tender enough to cut with a fork, and the sauce is a perfect compliment

We’re not done yet – there’s a seductive dessert menu, and we succumb to sharing a Phyllo Crisp, filled with local strawberries, strawberry mousse, pistachio pastry, and vanilla bean cream served with fresh berry sauce.  Divine and decadent!  Only a romantic walk by the beach after dinner would make this evening more spectacular.  Cheers to Toma – it’s not to be missed.  Be sure to book a reservation as this place is an attraction for locals and tourists alike!

http://tomarestaurant.com