The Food’s the Focus: Buellton’s New Bottlest Bistro Raises the Culinary Bar

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 5/4/17

Beef Short Ribs w/carrot puree, roasted carrots & preserved meyer lemon
In Buellton’s steady march toward becoming a culinary epicenter, Bottlest Bistro is the latest major milestone.

The gourmet bistro opened its doors just a few weeks ago, and in a familiar space.  It’s linked to Terravant, a large scale custom crush facility that allows dozens of labels – think handcrafted projects like The Hitching Post II’s Hartley-Ostini – to produce, age and store their wines.  And it takes over for Avant, a tapas-focused eatery that became known for its casual vibe, mainly.


With Bottlest Bistro, the focus is squarely on the food and wine, and on a dining experience that’s meant to be approachable but gourmet.  “My overall philosophy is quality over quantity,” says Executive Chef Owen Hanavan.  “If we have quality service and if we have quality food that we put out consistently – that’s the biggest thing – then our image will speak for itself."


Jidori Chicken w/whipped potato, kohlrabi noodles, grapefruit, chicken jus

Chef Hanavan’s resumé impresses, with stints at Michelin-starred COI restaurant in San Francisco and Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore in Montecito.  As Head Chef, he also helped open the wildly popular Barbareno in downtown Santa Barbara.  And he credits his experience at various country clubs, including Santa Barbara’s La Cumbre Country Club, with expanding his culinary perspective.  “Having to offer members and their international guests a wide variety of food and flavors – it was like getting extensive training in global cuisine,” he says.  “So sneaking Japanese flavors into classic French dishes, for example, is something I love to do.”


Wild Atlantic Salmon w/cooked lentils, sprouted lentils, meyer lemon, mirpoix
He’s crossing borders when it comes to ingredients, too, with a focus on “quality product.”

“It could be a cheese out of the Midwest or a fish from the Mediterranean flown in that morning,” says Hanavan, 29. But, “I’m looking to showcase quality products, starting with our surrounding area.  We have an abundance of farmers and fishermen."

At Bottlest, Chef Hanavan leads a still-growing team of cooks, including Chef de Cuisine Bart Jones, and the menus are seasonally inspired and ingredient-driven.  For lunch, the restaurant’s wood fire pizza oven produces specialties like The California, with chicken confit, garden greens and fontina cheese.  The Buellton Steak Salad features red bell pepper dressing and quinoa, and the Beets Salad (one of Chef Hanavan’s favorites) presents the root vegetable three ways – raw, cooked and pickled – along with burrata cheese and Egyptian spices.  Other lunch options include supple lamb meatballs with mint; a white cheddar Mac and Cheese with chicken, jalapeno and bacon add-on options; Pork Belly with sunchoke; and locally sourced Yellowtail adorned with Japanese-inspired flavors.

Dessert is served: Belgian Chocolate Rice Tart w/house made crème fraiche & seasonal jam
More dessert, please: California Bay Leaf Ice Cream/vanilla & amaretto cookie
On the dinner menu, hearty but elegantly presented dishes include Beef Short Ribs with carrot puree, a Jidori Chicken with whipped potatoes and kohlrabi noodles and the Sixteen-Spice Pork Shoulder served with almond rice, pilaf and a date glaze.  The already-popular NY Strip is attractively festooned with potatoes cooked in duck fat, crispy leeks, a soubise onion sauce and a house-made chimichurri sauce.  For dessert, the California Bay leaf Ice Cream does not disappoint.

Flavors matter, but so do looks.  “I was always taught to season in layers, to develop flavors that are elegant,” says Mr. Hanavan.  “But truth is, we eat with our eyes first, smell afterwards, then dig in.”

Lunch items range from $12 to $18 (the cheese board is $24), with dinner prices between $13 and $33.

 
52 wines by the glass accessible via a high-tech dispensing system
Detailed attention to the wine list is part of the Bottlest DNA.  The bistro, actually, shares its name with Terravant’s new online customization tool – the first of its kind – that allows individuals anywhere in the world to craft their personal bottle of wine from beginning to end.  The Bottlest  website, which is still in Beta testing mode, allows would-be vintners to use a wine profile wheel to control aspects like earthiness, oakiness and sweetness, and then design their own label.  Each blend, made with proprietary Terravant wines, is then shipped out.  Terravant also runs a wine club with a slew of VIP benefits.

At the bistro, guests can choose from 52 wines by the glass.  The constantly changing selections are displayed on the Wine Wall, a unique dispensing system that accepts pre-paid cards in return for one-ounce tastes or half- or full-glass pours.  The wine program, which leans heavily local, is run by certified sommelier Vlad Stojanov, whose international résumé includes, most recently, Bacara Resort & Spa.

The centerpiece bar, which is adjacent to the dining room, is sleek and open.  Local ingredients are a priority here, too, with all syrups and flavorings made onsite.  The Lavender Gin Paloma features house-infused lavender gin and grapefruit juice.

Bottlest Bistro is airy.  It’s one floor up from ground level, and it makes good use of south-facing windows for natural light.  The open floor plan includes several large portals into the busy kitchen and a massive glass frame that overlooks one of Terravant’s production rooms, filled with oversize stainless steel tanks.

Bottlest Bistro is open for lunch and dinner daily, from 11am-9pm Sunday through Thursday and until 11pm Friday and Saturday.  Visit bottlest.com/bistro for more information and reservations.


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