Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Uptown dining at The Market in the Santa Maria Town Center mall
BY WENDY THIES SELL
The Market, a fine dining restaurant at the Santa Maria Town Center mall, is dramatically different than its predecessor, Central City Market. The stylish new restaurant and lounge quietly debuted a few weeks ago.
The most visible change is the major renovation to the front room, where what used to be a deli is now an attractive lounge with leather couches, chandeliers handcrafted by Buellton artisan Hans Duus, a wine and beer tasting bar, and on the walls—stretched canvas photographs of Santa Maria Valley wineries.
The emphasis here is now on wine country cuisine inspired by the excellent wines grown in the nearby vineyards and produced locally.
The new lunch menu consists of nine salads, including the fried chicken salad ($14), with house bacon, bib lettuce, pickled onions and Fresno peppers, avocado, crispy cornbread, and buttermilk-white cheddar dressing.
There are seven sandwiches, such as a Drunken Reuben ($13): smoked pastrami, bacon braised wine-kraut, house local beer mustard, and mezzo secco jack cheese on marble rye.
There are soups, sides, and plates to share such as The Market Board ($24); three cheeses, three meats, olives, pickles, served with house accompaniment, baguette, and crackers.
The enticing bar menu has more than a dozen appealing appetizers such as Thai pork meatballs with kimchee puree, Hawaiian sweet potato chips and truffle hollandaise, beet salad with fried goat cheese and citrus-hazelnut dressing, and crispy duck wings with house sambal.
The local wines by the glass here are inspiring, including Goat Bubbles blanc de blancs, Beckman sauvignon blanc, Rock Hollow cabernet sauvignon, and a gorgeous grenache by A-non-ah-mus Wines.
The Market’s new executive chef, Joe White, who is also a sommelier, trained at culinary school in Arizona and has worked in restaurants across the country for the last 14 years, most recently in Portland, Ore.
“He has a talent for food,” The Market owner Greg Kozak said. “He’s got a flair with food that’s pretty amazing!”
Chef White’s new dinner menu will debut on May 2, The Market’s grand opening. Dinner will be served 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Manager and catering director Justin Bruner, formerly of Adelina’s Bistro and Trattoria Uliveto, describes the cuisine as “Americana-style, bistro-wine-country-friendly food.”
“We’re trying to make it ‘fine dining casual,’ l like to call it,” the enthusiastic Bruner said. “There’s a movie theatre in the mall now, so it’s a great place to bring a date before the movie.”
One night last week, several friends of the restaurant were invited to taste and discuss more than a dozen of White’s creations in an effort to narrow down the final dinner menu debuting in a week.
I had the pleasure of sitting at the table that night to try a refreshing Thai-basil crab-stuffed avocado with papaya and edamame appetizer; the seared scallops and market succotash with green garbanzo beans; and the deliciously creamy sheep yogurt, goat butter, and cheese risotto with roasted baby artichokes, roasted tomatoes, homemade pepperoncini, and an olive fritter.
Chef White’s filet mignon was prepared to perfection, served on a potato cake with crispy Swiss chard, demi-glace, and topped with a poached farm egg.
The finale was a hearty individual lasagna with layers of house-made egg pasta, veal ragout, watercress and roasted shallot béchamel sauce, and tomato demi-glace with melted burrata cheese.
And everything, from the appetizers to the entrees, was paired with impressive local wines—which is the whole point, according to the owner.
“It’s about bringing Santa Maria Valley wineries and wine into Santa Maria, which I don’t think anyone in town does,” Kozak said. “Nobody has successfully married up with wine country correctly like they do in Paso [Robles] and Los Olivos. That’s really our mission.”
Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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