Saturday, January 19, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

SY Kitchen is still going strong in Santa Ynez


It’s so easy to get used to a good thing.

That seems to be the case with SY Kitchen. Although it’s only been around for about five years (a significant number in the restaurant business), it won an instant reputation as one of the best eateries on the Central Coast.

Organic King salmon, puttanesca sauce, and asparagus make up SY Kitchen’s salmon puttanesca, one of their best dishes on their daily dinner menu.

But in truth, I hadn’t been there in more than a year, perhaps longer. I wondered why—the food is nothing short of perfect, and Alberto Battaglini’s cocktails are the best of any bar around. Luckily enough, an event brought me to Solvang on a Saturday evening recently. We were running through ideas for places to eat when I suddenly just blurted it out, “Let’s go to SY Kitchen.” Boom. Done. (There’s never any resistance to that idea.)

There are a few things to be aware of when you plan an impromptu visit to a hugely popular restaurant on a Saturday night. Chiefly, if you don’t have a reservation, good luck getting a table. Luckily, we put on our best poor pathetic sweet starving journalists faces and managed to snag a small table tucked away in a corner. I would have sat on an upturned apple crate and eaten off old newspapers, so I wasn’t complaining.

One thing that struck me was the menu is still pretty familiar. Certain items change seasonally but the artifacts of your favorite dish are still evident in the details. We started with a burrata appetizer, a salad-like treat that features red beet, avocado, pistachios, arugula, aged balsamic, and basil oil. Burrata cheese is still my favorite cheese (I’m sorry, brie, I didn’t mean to cheat on you!) so I’m never disappointed in it. One of the nice things about this appetizer is that it’s very refreshing, a nice clean way to prepare your palate for a more robust or heavier course to follow.

You don’t go to SY Kitchen without sampling their famous cocktails, conceived by Alberto Battaglini. The Valley Girl (pictured) features vodka, dried elderflower, strawberries, mint, lime, and vanilla simple syrup.

We also indulged in one of their grilled artichokes, with parmigiano cheese. The contrast of the crunch of the crispy parmigiano with the fork-tender leaves and heart is really something. Also, I recommend not sharing this appetizer (or any of the others). They are just the right size for one, and they are so good it’s hard not get greedy about it. My fiance may or may not have a fork-stab scar on this hand after reaching for one too many bites of the burrata; I’m neither confirming nor denying this.

It was really hard to make a selection for dinner because when you’ve had a dish at a restaurant you love, you want to go back for seconds, so to speak. But you also want to free yourself up to try some new things from the chef that you haven’t seen before. I went with the gnocchi al sugo d’anatra, a filling dish for a nicely priced $26. It’s spinach ricotta gnocchi with a duck ragu and porcini mushrooms. A ragu is dish made of minced meat, vegetables, often some red wine, and a bit of tomatoes or tomato sauce. I wasn’t entirely sure if the duck would work in this (or even if it was necessary) but it paired very well with the mushrooms. If you read this column regularly, you know I loathe the fungus-y food, but in this meal, I ate every single one. OK, everyone, you’re right; it is how they are prepared and served that makes the difference. I’m still not a fan.

SY Kitchen’s gnocchi al sugo d’anatra features spinach ricotta gnocchi, duck ragu, and porcini mushrooms.

If you’re looking for something off of the fish menu, I highly suggest trying the king salmon, served with a puttanesca sauce. Puttanesca is a garlicky sauce typically made with tomatoes, capers, and olive oil. The flavor is subtle and very refined. If you’re going big, the T-bone truffle sliders are—well, what can you say about steak, truffled cheese, and caramelized shallots in one bite? It’s heaven. Just like pretty much everything else at SY Kitchen.

After all these years

SY Kitchen is located at 1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez. More info: (805) 691-9794.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is, like, totally a valley girl. Contact her at



Chipotle tri-tip tacos at Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen.

• Chipotle tri-tip tacos are a thing that exists, and Kay’s Orcutt Country Kitchen has them. The menu item features corn tortillas with tri-tip, shredded cheese, red onion, cilantro, fresh avocado, and a chipotle sauce (pictured). Try the clam chowder that comes with them (you won’t be sorry) at 135 E. Clark Ave, Orcutt.

• It’s 2018 and I’m still not over flatbread pizzas (lalala, I can’t hear you, food bloggers complaining about this trend). Over at Full of Life Flatbread, they’ve got a Coachella Valley date and bacon fatbread that includes walnuts, onions, blue cheese, and a smoked leek sauce. So no, I’m never getting over my love of flatbread. Visit them at 225 Bell St., Los Alamos.

• I tried to make my own scones last weekend, and let’s just say it went about as well as trying to dress a rabid hyenna in a ball gown. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but in the future I’m sticking with the scones at Pattibakes where they know what they’re doing (unlike some redhead would-be bakers who insist they know what they’re doing even when their fiance says, “I don’t think smoke is supposed to come out of the oven like that.”). Go scone it up at 240 E. Highway 246, No. 109, Buellton.

Weekly Poll
How do you feel about the ongoing government shutdown?

It's hurting hardworking people. It needs to end!
We need a border wall. Keep it shut down until we get one!
I don't care. It doesn't impact me anyway.
I didn't even know there was a government shutdown!

| Poll Results