The ceviche found at The Victor, as part of the Santa Ynez restaurant’s new spring menu, is served with a playful twist.
“Instead of just doing the ceviche on a bowl and serving it with something crunchy, I decided to make a tostada,” Executive Chef Beto Huizar said. “It’s not your traditional ceviche.”
Huizar’s new ceviche tostada is his personal favorite of a special spring lineup at The Victor, which also features an American Wagyu filet mignon—served on smashed Yukon Gold potatoes—and an oven-roasted romanesco dish.
What the new steak option and vegan option have in common is the way they’re prepared: in the restaurant’s Josper oven. The filet mignon is mesquite-grilled in the oven, while the romanesco is roasted. A Josper oven—described as a combination of a grill and oven—is unique compared to regular ovens, as it’s charcoal-fired.
The Victor’s Josper oven is located inside the restaurant’s kitchen, while an outdoor barbecue station can be seen near the venue’s patio seating area, just steps away from other sources of fire—a cozy fireplace and a fire pit—for guests to take advantage of.
Fire is the big theme on Huizar’s mind when he envisions different concepts to incorporate in his ever-evolving menu at The Victor, which first opened its doors in September. He’s a big fan of live-fire cooking.
“Live-fire just brings back memories,” Huizar said. “Growing up, we would cook with fire every day—whether it was my mom or my grandma making fresh tortillas or cooking beans on the actual fire or making tamales. There was always fire involved.”
Huizar has lived in Santa Barbara County since he was 16, and he was 18 when he got his first job as a dishwasher at the now closed Cafe Chardonnay in Ballard. This was the gig that kickstarted his passion for cooking, he explained.
“I would help the chef prep. I’d come in early and help prep for a few hours, and I just fell in love with it. I just figured out that I was kind of good at it,” said Huizar, who ended up running the kitchen himself as Cafe Chardonnay’s chef four years after starting there as a dishwasher.
Before taking on his current chef role at The Victor, Huizar worked at Mad & Vin—which he described as The Victor’s sister restaurant in Solvang, as both eateries are owned by the SIMA Corporation. Development on The Victor began about five years ago, shortly after The Vineyard House—the restaurant formerly located at the site—closed in 2018.
Huizar said that before the pandemic, he already expected the road to opening The Victor to be long, as the building was completely remodeled “from the ground up” with a new kitchen layout and other parts of the venue facing reconstruction.
“When COVID hit, everything was delayed,” said Huizar, who added that The Victor was originally set to open in 2020 or 2021.
When the restaurant finally opened in 2022, he said that the Santa Ynez community quickly embraced it. He sees more than a few regulars come in at least once a week.
“We’ve had really good feedback and positive support from the locals,” said Huizar, who’s excited to see how patrons respond to The Victor’s new Sunday brunch service, which will kick off on April 30.
The weekly brunch menu—which will be available to order from each Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.—will range from classic breakfast staples like French toast to more experimental offerings. Similar to the way he approached the ceviche tostada, Huizar is putting a fun spin on The Victor’s eggs Benedict.
“We’re going to do a tri-tip eggs Benedict,” he said. “Instead of ham, it’ll come with a slice of tri-tip.
“It just keeps me going,” added Huizar, on why he loves to switch things up menu-wise every once in a while, depending on what’s in season or simply on a personal whim.
“We, as chefs, kind of get burnt out pretty easily when we stick to the same thing.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is craving some tri-tip. Send tips and comments to [email protected].