We were staying in the area last weekend and were fortunate to secure a last-minute reservation at the Ballard Inn's restaurant for Saturday night. We'd eaten here before and also knew Chef Kazali's reputation from his association with Chef Ming Tsai, so we were very much looking forward to the evening.
Even though we'd made a reservation for a relatively late time in these parts (8:30pm), we were never rushed during our meal, and even when we were the last diners in the delightful restaurant, we were surprised by a visit from the Chef who chatted with us for some time and was very interested in our views of our dining experience.
The food is an French/Asian fusion style which merits exploration; the highlights of our meal were
- a wonderful bouillabaise with a depth of flavor that was really remarkable
- this sounds crazy, but the salad, almost just a garnish, which accompanied the avocado-wrapped crab appetizer was an explosion of fresh tastes - cilantro, lime, celery leaves, etc (the crab and avocado was also pretty good!). I'd go back just for the garnish!
- a vanilla-scented creme brulee accompanied by a glass of Muscat de Beaume de Venise. In the Santa Ynez Valley, it's unusual to find a wine list that strays far from the local wineries or, at a stretch, Napa. This is a good thing, but there are some varietals that are not available, or not avaiable to a good standard in the region. The muscat is one example, and we applaud the Ballard for both making these wines available, and, importantly, having a large selection available by the glass.
We'll be back, again. In fact, we've already booked our next weekend!
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