Three times, must be charming

If you eat at restaurant 3 times in a week, you either work next door or you really like the place.  We’re certainly not working here in Santa Barbara, so we must just love Cava, the little Latin restaurant we stumbled into in Montecito early this week and can’t seem to stop returning to.

Cava (Spanish for wine cellar), is right on the main street of Montecito.  It looks to me like the building originally housed a coffee shop situated in front of a motel, but as the city has grown rich it morphed into a fine dining establishment.  The decor is latin, of course, and quite dark. I greatly enjoyed the background music, which I usually tune out.  As with most places here, there is dining both indoors and out.

The goodness of Cava starts right at the beginning–chips come with the standard red salsa, and this delightful addition:

Black bean salsa to start with.

Black bean and corn salsa to start with.

Finally!  A salsa that is something more than spicy ketchup.  We went through several dishes of it.

If there is pozole on the menu, Gail is interested.  After Gail had some on Wednesday, Linda needed to order it on Friday, too.  Pozole is a pork and hominy stew:

Pozole, the pride of Montecito

Pozole, the pride of Montecito

The dish comes with a plate of condiments so you can flavor it to your personal perfection,

Lime, onion, radish, cabbage, avocado, oregano and cilantro.

Lime, onion, radish, cabbage, avocado, oregano and cilantro.

I’m a big fan of rack shrimp, which taste like tiny lobsters.  Therefore, the rock shrimp soft tacos were my first choice: The presentation is both eye catching and confusing. I like the look of it, but found it hard to actually eat.  There is a humongous pile of red cabbage and crispy tortilla strips atop the two tacos, which you have to sort out and dig through to get to you meal.

There ate excellent rock shrimp tacos under there somewhere.

There ate excellent rock shrimp tacos under there somewhere.

I ended up snitching a tortilla from Gail to make yet another taco out of the excess.  I ordered this dish twice it was so good.

Time to fess up–most of the time at a Mexican restaurant, I read the entire menu thoroughly and carefully, then order the fajitas.  Just can’t resist them.  Our first night here i had the tacos, but the second night I reverted to type.

A sizzling plate of chicken, onions and green peppers, the heart of the fajita.

A sizzling plate of chicken, onions, tomatoes and green peppers, the heart of the fajita.

Why does anyone eat green bell peppers?  They’re bitter and I don’t like them.  Red, yellow or orange peppers are so much sweeter and more pleasant.  I know the green ones are cheaper, but that’s because they taste bad.  You can get lots of things that taste bad cheap.

Fajitas also come with a plate of condiments:

Sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa verde

Sour cream, guacamole, rice, beans and  salsa verde

The fajitas were fine, but no match for the rock shrimp soft tacos.

Mike tried the Spanish dish, paella.  It was pretty good, but not as good as what I make at home.  Of course, I don’t have to turn a profit at home.

The wine list made the wine lovers happy.  I was pleased to get a slice of orange in my iced tea.

Gotta talk about the service:  it’s great.  They took excellent care of us during our meals, and then went above and beyond the last night, when it started to pour rain just as we finished.  One of the bussers went to the patio and unfurled  and extended a large outdoor umbrella to aid us in getting to our car without being soaked.  Then he even refused a tip, which he had well earned.  That’s my kind of place.

So that’s all there is to say today.  If you are in the Montecito/Santa Barbara area, Cava is the place for very good Mexican food in an upscale atmosphere with above and beyond service.

Cava Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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