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Restaurants & Bars 18

Santa Cruz/Watsonville first impressions: Sabieng, Crow's Nest, Lil India (long)

Carb Lover | Feb 17, 200503:44 PM

Had my first bite at all of these places, and interestingly, they all fall into the same category: decent (not wow) and worth a second try under the right conditions.

1) Sabieng Thai (1218 Mission St., westside SC)
Went for dinner on a Fri. night. Very crowded but seated immediately. Three of us ordered: squid salad; tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup); lamb curry (a special); and roasted duck (craving duck but dumb order for a Thai place). Remember Nancy Berry suggesting that we emphasize "spicy", but since our first time, wanted to gauge their baseline heat.

Squid salad was best dish--fresh, piquant dressing, no "dumbing down" here. Soup and curry were ok, but def. needed more heat and general complexity. Duck wasn't bad, but tasted like something you could get at any Chinese deli. Food w/ 2 Thai iced teas was around $35 before tip. Cheap eats. Service was gracious and efficient.

Next time: Will try their other curry and noodle dishes; many of the apps that whizzed by looked good...and def. ask for *spicy*

2) Crow's Nest (2218 E. Cliff, SC Yacht Harbor)--see link
Went there for a late lunch/midafternoon snack on a weekday. Place looks much nicer on inside compared to their shabby, outdated exterior. Downstairs restaurant is more formal w/ dark wood, booths, glass decorations--people were actually dressed up here. Opted to go upstairs to their more casual bar and grill area for a small bite. Cozy w/ fireplace, nice view w/ adjoining patio.

Menu offered standard seafood and grill items, leaving us to order cliched dishes of Dungeness crabcakes and fried calamari. Friend got a glass of CA chardonnay. Wines BTG were standard but decent. Crabcakes had little crab, too much filler. Accompanied by a tomato and mustard "coulis", it was flavorful, but lacking crab. Calamari were heavily-breaded and soft in described them as "tenderized." Total w/ glass of wine and iced tea was around $27 before tip. Service was adequate.

Next time: May give the downstairs restaurant a chance for a nice seafood dinner, but keeping my expectations in check. This place is probably best for a glass of wine and small nosh on their upstairs patio to enjoy the view and one's company.

3) Lil India (1040 E. Lake in East Lake Shopping Center, Watsonville)
Can you believe that this is the FIRST Indian restaurant to ever open in W-ville??!! Been open for almost 2 months now and has gotten some good reviews. Went for lunch a couple of days ago. Buffet ($7.99) is only offered for lunch while they have a buffet and menu options for dinner. Don't generally like buffets myself, but good way to sample a range of their dishes, I suppose.

Place does North Indian style of food which often means stewed dishes, heavy sauces, fried items. Buffet had about half veggie/half meat dishes. Some buffet items: chicken vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, a ground meat dish, veggie pakouras, aloo palak, mixed veggies in paneer sauce, basmati rice. Small salad and dessert buffet w/ mix of chutneys, raita, rice pudding. Fresh naan brought to each table.

Overall, food tasted fresh and chicken was moist. Naan and vindaloo were my favorites. Problem w/ buffet was far too many chicken dishes and potatoes were ubiquitous, incorporated into nearly every item. Where was the spinach, cauliflower, eggplant that I love? Perhaps on the dinner menu? Would have liked more intensity in the spicing, too. Service was fine, but kind of half-hearted since we were only one of two tables (it was nearly 2pm). As a side note, we were so full from the buffet (didn't really gorge) that we didn't eat anything for the rest of the day--leading me to believe that they use A LOT of ghee and dairy in their cooking.

Next time: Willing to give it a shot for dinner in order to sample non-buffet items. Want to see what they can do w/ lamb, dal, and other veggie dishes.

P.S. Businesses in the new white building next to Crow's Nest are opening up. Noticed a deli there that I need to check out. And that upscale seafood restaurant remains a mystery...


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