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Restaurants & Bars 3

Small Soif Report Santa Cruz

Nathan P. | Apr 27, 200512:50 AM

Well the new chef at Soif is not so new anymore but it took me this long to make it in for dinner. On a Friday night the only space left was at the center of the communal table. The shared space was fine but sort of put me in more of a snacking mood than a full dinner mood so I focused more on the small plates than the apps/mains.

I started with Piquillos stuffed with Manchego, Prosciutto San Daniele, and calamari with green garlic and pine nuts. (all $3.50) The piquillos(2) had a modest portion of the cheese stuffing which I liked and had a circle of herb oil around them. The flavors were simple and worked well together. The ham was like cured pork. :) The calamri were great. Very simply sauteed with a very modest crunch from the toasted tiny pine nuts and with just enough green garlic to contrast with the flavor of the squid. Perfectly tender as well. I had a glass of Verdichio that went very well with these courses.

For my main I chose the crispy pork belly with crushed avocado and natural jus ($8 or $9) and a small plate of grilled scallions with romesco ($3.50). The pork was about 1" X 1" X 2" piece that was braised tender and then had the skin crisped. I am not sure about the value of the avocado in this dish. It seemed somewhat counterintuitive to add another fatty item to the pork but it may just be that I am not a huge avocado fan. I did find the texture contrast to be interesting with the creaminess of the avocado being similar to the pork fat but contrasting with the meat and skin. The jus was rich and well done and the meat had great flavor. It was very decadent and actually reminded me of the flavor of a bowl of ramen at Ramen Halu.

The scallions with romesco were a nice contrast with the richness of my main. The onions were simple but the romesco was very nice. I liked the balance of oil and acidity and the balance between the thickners and vegetable ingredients. It also had a nice kick provided at least in part by pimenton which added a nice smoky flavor. These courses went very well with a red from Sardignia IIRC.

For dessert I moved away from my cheap glasses of wine ($6) and had a 2oz pour of a very nice nebbiolo. I also managed to grab a few bites off the meatball small plates and a molten chocolate cake that were very good. (and the cake was some major 90's nostalgia) Most impressive was a dessert syrah? that paired very well with the chocolate.

Great meal and I want to go back to try some more of the apps/mains. The portions are modest and it is not a cheap place but I felt everything was worth the price. Add that to there great wine program and I really like this place. Definately not for those looking for a quite meal as this place is somewhere in between a restaurant and a wine bar.



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