Sherry Villanueva and Acme Hospitality have proven to be unrivaled culinary hitmakers in Santa Barbara’s red-hot Funk Zone. Loquita is their modern Spanish restaurant that combines classic and atypical influences in an inviting setting that includes an ivy-lined patio, dining room with floral chandeliers, and tile floors. Loquita also contains a counter that faces an open kitchen, home to a red oak grill and chef Peter Lee, who delivers a fresh take on the time-honored cuisine.
I enjoyed Loquita’s versions of traditional Spanish dishes like pan con tomate and patatas bravas, but left most impressed with a fish special. Whole roasted Branzino ($33) featured crispy skin, beautifully flaky white meat that was mostly deboned, and a bevy of accompaniments that weren’t recognizable as Spanish, but sure tasted great. The fish hosted tangy pickled squash coins, crunchy watercress, and a fragrant dusting of fennel pollen. The rest of the set included a bed of crispy farro and sticky sweet Medjool dates, with the plate painted with judiciously sweet squash puree.