Next month, chef Ricardo Zarate and business partner Stephane Bombet of chef Zarate Restaurant Group will open Blue Tavern, a restaurant situated just two blocks from the ocean amid Santa Barbara’s most coveted real estate on State Street. Showcasing a natural progression of Zarate’s proficiency for blending cultures, Blue Tavern will feature quintessential Californian fare, such as pizza, pasta, and grilled meats, envisioned through the culinary lens of a native Peruvian.
The group’s fourth restaurant—following the success of Los Angeles concepts Mo-chica, Picca, and Paichẽ—takes its inspiration from Zarate’s heritage and the relaxed ethos of its guests, resulting in a location that is at once international and local, inspired and approachable. “Launching our first restaurant outside of Los Angeles, and to be opening our doors along the most vibrant street in the city, is truly the realization of a dream for Ricardo and me,” Bombet says. “By utilizing local Santa Barbara seafood and produce on our menu, Blue Tavern will offer our guests a new way to experience Peruvian culture in a relaxed environment.”
Zarate, a 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef and two-time James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best chef: West, fully realizes the symbiosis of Californian techniques and Peruvian ingredients throughout the menu. The quintessential beet, tomato, and burrata salad is reimagined when tossed in a huacatay-pesto dressing; seafood medley risotto receives a Peruvian makeover with a tomato-aji panca base and salsa verde; and the traditional dish lomo saltado is recast as housemade tagliatelle with filet of beef, tomato-onion stew, and pecorino. The modern space is anchored by a wood-burning oven, which produces hand-tossed pizzas (prosciutto, goat cheese, and burrata, will be topped with huacatay pesto); seafood (steamed mussels and chorizo are given a Lima accent with aji amarillo butter and lime juice); and meat (anticucho-marinated grilled rib eye meets a potato tarte tatin).
“I always try to blend inspiration from my past and present when I create a menu,” Zarate says. “To update classic Californian dishes with ingredients from my country, along with produce from local farmers’ markets, is a culmination of decades of cooking which I am looking forward to introducing to Santa Barbara.”
Acclaimed mixologist Deysi Alvarez also utilizes this unique blend of cultures as inspiration for her cocktail menu, which features classic drinks made with housemade tinctures and small-batch spirits. The Margarita features Espolón tequila, house orange reduction, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and Gusano salt; the Mojito de Martinique showcases Clement Rhum VSOP and clement cane sirop; and the Old Fashioned takes a trip to South America with the replacement of bourbon with mezcal. Blue Tavern’s wine list will focus on local vintners, many of whom have tasting rooms just blocks from the restaurant.