Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday Red Red Meat Blogging

First I have to apologize to any vegetarians, fast food fanciers (there's an oxymoron for you), or anyone named Elsie with a bell around one's neck, but there's nothing like a good burger. When done right, the crackly char on the outside should happily contrast with the tasty juiciness of the inside to make for a simple, simply delicious mouth of food. You can gussy it up--I don't get the foie gras burger, which speaks more of wretched excess than taste, but ain't that life?--but table catsup can be enough. Of course, the roll has to be right, too; don't buy the scam that a roll loses its status as bread just because it's functioning as a vehicle. And grilled onions never hurt, especially as they add their own caramel, slow-cooked notes.

But it turns out that bourbon mushrooms are tasty, too--at least that's what I learned dining at the newly opened Quantum Kitchen and Cocktails a couple of weeks ago. Quantum didn't necessarily pick the most auspicious time to re-open, given all the hoopla heaved at the Hungry Cat (well, at least on this blog), but in some ways it's fitting as this version of the restaurant seems much more willing to fly under the hip, hip, so-LA radar. As I wrote when Amy and I ducked in for cocktails: "The previous incarnation of the spot just seemed to try too hard--it wanted to be AOC or some other sophisticated yet fun big city small plate hot spot, but mostly came off like Santa Barbara straining, which defeats the whole purpose of Santa Barbara. Plus, the food back then was hit and miss."

Now, it seems, the hit not to miss is the burger, which comes in numerous guises but that just makes it as pleasing as Peter Sellers in a movie where he keeps popping up in different, just as entertaining roles. (There is no Dr. Strangelove burger, so the blog rests its metaphor.) It was that bourbon mushroom burger I had in mind when penning the first paragraph, as it perfects that crunchy outside/moist inside yin yang and rests on a bun that would be damn good bread all on its own (in a world with La Brea everywhere and D'Angelo right here in town, we should expect nothing less). Multiple ways of fries can come on the side, including sea salt and rosemary or parmesan. The fries themselves are light, small, and non-oily. You will think there are too many of them until they are all gone.

There are other things on the menu, but we didn't get to them, and it might be hard to ever do so in later visits for the burger will sing its siren's song (it goes "yummy yummy yummy you want burger in your tummy"). We did share a slab, yes, slab, of mud pie for dessert. We're talking Claim Jumperish proportions of coffee ice cream and choco-crumb crust. We thought there was too much of it until it was almost all gone, but left a bit to prove we weren't total pigs.

Oh, the wine list's fine, and even is willing to make bottles available for 30ish bucks (a Makor Zinfandel, say). Plus there's those cocktails I wrote about last time.

The help is 2/3 good, at least based on the folks who served us that evening. One person had to crawl under our unstable table to help get it balanced, which was even more important as the banquette in the front room is so cushy you end up sunk to the point where you almost can rest your chin on the table without a strain (they need a sign that says: "You must be at least 6 feet tall to ride this banquette"). One waitress was good at being there when needed and being gone when not, but for some reason we had two working in "it wasn't clear if they communicated" tandem. The other was from the "how are we enjoying our dinner?" school that's over smarmy for me. In many ways she just seemed nervous which translated into an over-abundance of bubbliness including lines like "good choice, good choice" after ordering. Perhaps she needs a couple of those cocktails before making her rounds.

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Blogger DED said...

there's nothing like a good burger

Amen, brother.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I'll second that Amen.

(Though when the fried are juuuust right, it takes up a little bit higher.)

5:04 AM  
Anonymous kusala said...

Oh, man... now you are upping the ante in the Great Burger Quest.

Had the "Pug Burger" at Hungry Cat last night. Yeah, I'm in love with the place already (if only the budget would cooperate). However, I think I've already surpassed my monthly quota of fats (saturated or otherwise): big fat juicy burger, bleu cheese, bacon, avocado AND a side of some of the best onion rings I've ever had. Sadly, I think I'm going to need a fairly long refractory period for my arteries to recover (would a week be long enough?) before I can head over to Quantum, but thanks for the tip.

Regarding Hungry Cat: Let's hope this kitty has nine lives and then some in the dog-eat-dog Santa Barbara restau scene.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Jami said...

So happy that Scott at Quantum has opened up the joint to the public. He's taken one of the best catering services in town and expanded his resume to "restaurateur." Kudos to the Mondial/Quantum staff for making the transition, and may the place survive!

9:25 AM  
Blogger George said...

Kusala--I completely agree with you, as Amy and Tessitura and I all hit Hungry Cat again last night, too. I finally had the pug myself, and you described it very well. A mess to eat, but a fantabulous mess.

We were there till 11:30ish and it still seemed to be going strong, and the local food scene starpower continues, as in our 3 times there we've seen wonderful wine guy Bob from Lazy Acres twice, the whole crew from Holus Bolus (Sashi and Peter from Stolpman, etc., plus Jim Knight from Jelly Roll), Seth Kunin from Kunin Wines, and the whole crew of Bouchon, including Mitchell.

9:52 AM  

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