Dean Clough

April 21, 2021

Portico Darwin: Exit Montecito

First, some travel trivia (mixed with my own opinion - shocker):  name the 4 world capitals.  And by "capital", I don't mean in a governmental sense.  Rather, what 4 cities are the premiere hubs of business, culture, food, etc.?  My answer - and of course there is no "right" answer - is below.

Today we head home to SF from Montecito.  You can read my fawning Travel Guide post at your leisure, but for today, I wanted to recount the dinner we had two nights ago, on Sunday.

We began the day with brunch at 11:30 at Cold Spring Tavern.  We wrapped up there and headed back for a leisurely late afternoon napping and relaxing outside of Palm Cottage.   The resting was important, for tonight, we're dining at 9PM, crazy-late for us outside of Europe on any night, let alone a Sunday.  The destination:  an omakase dinner at the recently reopened (closed due to the pandemic) Sushi Bar | Montecito.

Who cares, you say?  We've all been to sushi bars, and many likely have had omakase experiences - probably even very special ones.  But this was - different.

First:  the setting.  Tiny and by that I mean its size and also that there were a total of 4 tables for two, ours included.  So it's really private dining with 6 other guests.  The room was essentially made of wood, providing for a very Nipponese feel.  We sat at tables facing the stool-less and glass-less sushi bar, where we watched what can only be described as Diamond Certified dinner theater.

Second:  the service.  There were 8 guests, and by my count, at least that number of staff.  It starts with the classically wise-ass but on-it Maitre D', Braden.  Then there's the famous, tatted-to-the-max sushi chef, Phillip Frankland Lee.  There was a sommelier/bar man.  There were servers.  There were bus people.  It was something and it was impeccable.

Third:  the food and drink.  SEVENTEEN courses of very fresh fish, with many times that in terms of the cornucopia of flavors.  My only peeve was that most were served as nigiri sushi - I might have enjoyed a couple of more sashimi-style dishes, and you'd think a Top Chef alum could do both.  But that's a very minor quibble and really a personal preference (like this entire f'ing blog).   Julie and I got different wine/drink pairings, and both were exceptional and complemented the fish perfectly.

Last:  the celebrity.  Yep, as if our CoCo sighting wasn't enough, one of the other 6 guests on this Sunday evening in Montecito was the bona fide movie star James Franco.   Donning his (sockless) shower sandals, and resplendent in clean-ish (but nice!) sweats and a white sweater that had the words "Animal Magnetism" embroidered in big, black letters on the back (I'm not kidding), the actor entered, on time, with his decades-younger (but hot!) sig other, the comely Isabel Pakzad, herself opting for moonboots on this crisp spring evening.

Sadly, he did not flip over a table, perform Macbeth, or otherwise distinguish himself.  Even the seen-it-all Maitre D' Braden - experienced with many A and other alphabetical list celebrities - said he was fine.  But it certainly added something to an already extraordinary evening and meal.  Not cheap - all in it was $500 for the two of us, so it's clearly not something we're doing very often.  But it was a heck of a unique splurge and one I absolutely recommend.

Here are a few nice shots from the trip.  Goodbye, Montecito - we hope to return soon with about 10 - 20x the money we have now, such that we could afford a small cottage here.

My post on 43's immigration proscriptions did not garner much in a way of response, which is to say it got none.  But as always, that's fine and I have zero expectations.  I will continue to mix in the political with the ridiculous.  Oh.  Whoops.  It's the same thing.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Bathing in the glow of the celebrity vibe here, I give you a band led by someone tragically ill-equipped to handle that glow.  Here is Nirvana and their towering plaid rocker "Nevermind".
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And drum roll, please:  the answer to the all-important trivia question.  New York City, London, Paris, and  Tokyo.  I await your challenges to this list.

About Dean Clough