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The Cuisine of "The four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara"****,

"La Marina Restaurant" and
"The Patio Restaurant" are now one.

Peter and Linda D'Aprix 2001 (update 2006)

"La Marina Restaurant" used to be, in our opinion, the best restaurant in Santa Barbara, perhaps even in the Tri-County area. Its' baby sister "The Patio Restaurant", under the same executive chef, Martin Frost, was also superb, less formal and open almost all day long from breakfast to dinner. For the quality and sophistication of taste, the prices are quite reasonable. The ambiance of La Marina was traditional but anything but stuffy. The Patio was light and airy with a green house glass roof that retracts in good weather for "indoor/outdoor" eating and their terrace which is protected from the wind, has a priceless ocean view over the Channel Islands.

However, after major remodeling, the restaurants in mid April, 2006 have been merged into one,
"La Marina Restaurant", that is less formal at the high end and more formal at the middle end. I am not sure how this is achieved, since the aims of the two were quite different, but since the executive chef is the same, we hope that the merger will offer the same great food, but the reasonable prices of the Patio restaurant are now just a memory. Dinner, we are told, will be more formal and "haute" with breakfast and lunch being more everyday. This may be true of the food itself but not of the pricing. We will reserve judgement until we experience for ourselves the results, but it is hard to believe, in our opinion, that this merger can be an improvement. Time will tell.

Chilean Sea Bass

Roast Chilean Sea Bass with three vegetable purees, morel mushrooms, fava beans in a potato-cage. La Marina.

Chefs

Left to Right - Pastry Chef Josef Teuschler originally from Austria and Executive Chef Martin Frost from England.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche of beef carpaccio with the essence of lobster. La Marina.

Peter D'Aprix © 2001


The following is what the two restaurants were up to the renovation:

In both restaurants, the service is very professional but never snooty nor, at the other extreme, overly familiar although during Oct. 2004 our experience in "The Patio Restaurant" showed the service had deteriorated in professionalism if not enthusiasm. Even though some of the waitresses have got to be college students, you never get that impression. There is just the right amount of time between courses. The menus are interesting and all courses have a completeness to them, a balance where starters, salads, main courses and desserts are all of equal quality giving the meal a fine polish.

The flag ship restaurant is
"La Marina Restaurant" with its two story open-beamed Spanish Colonial ceiling, soft earth tone washed walls and comfortable arm chairs. At dinner, part of the treat is watching the sun set over the sea with the pastel colors deepening to night. Our meal started with a palate teaser of beef carpaccio with the essence of lobster. The Terrine of Artichoke-portobello mushrooms and local organic tomatoes was light and refreshing as was the Heart of Romain lettuce with cibatta croutons, shaved Parmesan and eggless basil "Caesar" dressing. What a delight not to have it called a Caesar Salad!

The between course palate cleanser was a marvelous scallop with risotto and a lobster sauce with shredded carrots. Made a great taste transition. Linda' Roast rack of Colorado lamb was perfectly rare without being raw and was served with cauliflower soufflé, roasted baby golden beets and surrounded with a rosemary infused juice sauce. My seared maple duck breast was tasty if a bit overdone for a rare order and a touch chewy, but getting French style duck here in the US is not an easy task. The Hudson Valley foie gras, was tasty as was the rhubarb compote and the port wine-cherry sauce.

Terrin of Artichoke

Terrine of Artichoke-portobello mushroom and local organic tomatoes, petite greens & 50 year aged balsamico. La Marina.

banana meringue

Layered banana meringue with bitter chocolate almond crunch. La Marina.

Basil ice cream sounds a bit of a stretch, but we have to tell you it was marvelous. It was topped with sprigs of green and purple basil. For those wanting a bit more substantial dessert, try the layered banana meringue with bitter chocolate almond crunch (photo above). Next time we go, we will have to try the late harvest peach tarte with the same basil ice-cream or the warm molten chocolate cake with caramel ice cream and mocha anglaise sauce. Since we first had this "moulten" chocolate mini-cake dessert with the syrup flowing from the center with Michel Bras in France in the early 1990's I have been addicted. (for recipe click here). Of course, the iced Hazelnut, apple and frangelico liqueur cake with caramel sauce will be very tempting. The chocolate soufflé was rich and tall. It deflated beautifully when the waitress speared it with a knife allowing it to float back down to the plate making itself available for my spoon. Served with a rich chocolate sauce on the side and a scoop of vanilla ice cream it was a real treat.

The maitre d'hotel could not have been more pleasant and helpful especially since he is also the sommelier with a wide knowledge of the local wines. He introduced us to "Sunstone" wines with their own unique flavors.

The
"The Patio Restaurant" was also a pleasure. Very informal both on the terrace and on the plant filled glass covered patio. It is really a space for all seasons and all times of day. With the early morning sun, coffee and the newspaper, it makes a pleasant place to crank up the mind for the new day. Unlike San Ysidro Ranch and The Ojai Valley Inn, their decaf coffee was at least drinkable if not wildly great. The breakfast are pricey but at least they are very good with excellent pancakes, waffles and egg dishes.

scallops

Ricotta and herb ravioli with pan seared Day Boat scallops, green and yellow wax beans, lobster essence. "Patio Restaurant".

Patio Restaurant Terrace

Patio Restaurant Terrace looking out to sea behind glass windbreaks.

bread

Great bread!" Patio Restaurant"

The lunch menu offers everything from clean, crisp salads to sandwiches and full, filling meals. Executive Chef Martin Frost from England, is responsible for both the Marina Restaurant and the Patio Restaurants' menus so you can count on a subtle blending and balance of tastes even at lunch. The Ricotta and herb ravioli with pan seared Day Boat scallops with green and yellow wax beans and lobster sauce was truly superb. The sun-dried tomato and spinach gnocchi with sautéed baby artichokes, tender green beans and tomato-tarragon sauce was also very good. The roulade of Atlantic salmon with roasted potatoes, cipollini onions, baby carrots, morel mushrooms and sweet pea coulis was all perfect with a clean balance of flavors. No overwhelming spices or clashing salsas.

The sweet pea coulis showed up with the pan seared Turbot served with potato and saffron gnocchi, lobster mushrooms and tear dropped tomatoes. As you can see from the photos, the plates not only taste good, they are filled with color and excite the visual senses before you take the first bite. Every Tuesday they offer a 3 course special for $24.00. A steal at the price.

Salmon

Roulade of Atlantic salmon with roasted potatoes, cipollini onions, bunch baby carrots, morel mushrooms, sweet pea coulis. Patio Restaurant.

Turbot

Pan seared Turbot with potato and saffron gnocchi, lobster mushrooms, pea tendrils, tear dropped tomatoes in a sweet pea coulis. Patio Restaurant.

gnocchi

Sun-dried tomato and spinach gnocchi with sautéed baby artichoke, fine green beans, tomato-tarragon sauce at the "Patio Restaurant".

All of this gastronomic delight is given us by the highly trained and creative hand of Executive Chef Martin Frost from England. A personable and relaxed individual, he has been working in the kitchens of Four Seasons hotels for 19 years. He has been with "La Marina Restaurant" and "The Patio Restaurant" for four of those years. Enough time to really make his mark and have the staff working to his drum beat. He has spent those 16 years in England, Canada, the Caribbean and now in Santa Barbara. And he loves Santa Barbara. "I don't have to go looking across the country for product," he explains. "The natural foods grown in the fields locally, combined with the seafood available off the Santa Barbara Coast makes menu planning a treat."

His staff of 50 have to cater to more than the guests of these two restaurants. The hotel hosts large groups of business seminars, lunches, meetings and other activities all of whom have to be fed. Little wonder that they choose the Biltmore to have meetings that span a meal time!

"La Marinara Restaurant"

Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Drive
Santa Barbara,
California 93108, USA
tel: (1)-805-969-2261
fax: (1)-805-565-8323

Web Site: www.fourseasons.com

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All rights reserved peter d'aprix ©1985-2007.
No copying, reuse or partial reproduction permitted without written permission by the authors, Peter and Linda D'Aprix.

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