The Hungry Cat, Santa Barbara
When we were in Santa Barbara last weekend, I ate at The Hungry Cat…twice. I lunch at the Cat on Friday for a bridal lingerie shower, and my husband was so sad he missed out on the deliciousness, he made me promise I would eat there again with him. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to make that promise. We discovered The Hungry Cat last August when we travelled to Santa Barbara for vacation. A friend recommended the restaurant and we made reservations, not really knowing what to expect (and more than a little worried about eating at a place with the word “cat” in the name). We have yet to be disappointed in something we’ve ordered at The Hungry Cat.
Like everything in Santa Barbara, the restaurant is casual and looks like a corner bistro you would see in Paris. It has probably 40 seats and the specials are written on a chalkboard on the wall.
They always have several different kinds of oysters and several different kinds of cheese, as if they invented this restaurant just to satisfy my wishes! I shared a dozen assorted oysters with my friend Annie, I love Kumamoto oysters so I assumed those would be my favorites, but the Pacific Gold oysters from good ole’ Cali stole the show. They were briny, not too big and very meaty. The Hungry Cat also had Mignionette instead of plain old cocktail sauce so I was incredibly happy.I also had the fish tacos. They were amazing. I’m not typically a huge fish taco person because I feel like putting fish on tacos is like putting bacon on a salad: it overpowers the other flavors and makes everything taste like fish (or in the latter comparison, bacon).
But these fish tacos had homemade tortillas AND queso fresco so I decided, worst case scenario, I could eat the fish separately and enjoy the tacos sans fish. I shouldn’t have given it a second thought because the tacos were amazing just as they were.
They put pickled carrot on top of the tacos which at first seemed decidedly un-Mexican. But then I remembered that some of the Mexican joints around town serve relish alongside the chips and salsa. This mexican relish is pickled veggies, including carrot so I retract my original statement.
The homemade tortillas really made the dish complete. They were the PERFECT texture. Slightly doughy and warm, but not as thick as pita.
This fish was mild and sauteed, and the whole dish was fresh and light!
After I ahnialated the fish tacos, we ordered dessert. We ordered 5 cheeses and a meyer lemon parfait. They were both SO good. The parfait was sweet, tart and creamy. The lemon curd was perfectly gelled and the whipped cream separated the curd like a cloudy little barrier. The sugar cookies on the side were also amazing.
And oh Jesus, the cheeses! They were served with marcona olives and a fresh honeycomb alongside grilled bread that had a very delicious, smoky texture. There were five cheeses, and I wish I could remember all of them. Unfortunately, the only one I remember is Humboldt Fog. It was so amazing, especially with the honey.
On Sunday, I had oysters again. Then I had something VERY uncharacteristic for me. It was called the pug burger, and I’d been dreaming about it since we ate at The Hungry Cat last August. It’s a hamburger topped with bacon, bleu cheese and a FRIED EGG, and served with french fries. It is seriously messy and really difficult to eat in any kind of polite and ladylike way which makes it pretty much the perfect burger! It was so freaking good, I ate it, made a mess of myself, and ate it some more. It was amazing.
My mom had the crab cake benedict. It was made with black kale and
bacon and hollandaise, of course. It was a really interesting twist on a traditional eggs benedict.
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