Julienne, probably my favorite Santa Barbara restaurant, reaffirmed its hold over my stomach on the eve of my birthday. Chef Justin West and wife Emma West, his front of house partner, demonstrate a mastery over seasonal produce and proteins from one of the world’s great growing regions. Pretty much any chef worth their salt now knows how to stretch those seasons, and a terrific example from Julienne’s kitchen is their Smoked Local Mussels ($14).
Some of those plump mussels, which come of age in the cold waters between Santa Barbara and the nearby Channel Islands, were going to waste, since the shelf life is just so short. To salvage these mussels, Chef West and his crew turned to preservation, as in, jarring. They submerged a handful of mussels into olive oil seasoned with aromatic thyme, dill, oregano, parsley, shallots, salt and pepper, and sealed the lid, which lifts with each order. The supple, beautifully marinated shellfish came with a stack of waffle-cut sour cream and onion potato chips, which were judiciously seasoned and served as great vessels for said mussels.