Safire Bistro sports a stylish Craftsman-style logo.
Camarillo is a Ventura County town best known for its “premium outlets,” a row of high-end shops visible from the 101 that generate a frenzy on a typical weekend, and a retail firestorm the day after Thanksgiving. Thanks to Michael Muirhead, chef and co-owner of Safire Bistro, Camarillo finally found something else to tout in 2007.
Despite the mini mall location, the stand-along restaurant is refined, with dark wood, high back blue booths, an exhibition kitchen and boxy golden lanterns and sconces that cast an amber glow. Near the entrance, don’t be surprised to find a jazz trio playing stand-up bass, keyboard and drums.
Muirhead was Lee Hefter’s sous chef for three years at Spago Beverly Hills, and Hefter has notoriously high standards, so that credit was a good sign.
Fried Spanish Olives ($8) were outstanding, explosively flavored pitted fruit that didn’t really need garlic aioli, but it didn’t hurt.
Crispy Sesame Dusted Calamari ($11) weren’t all that crispy, but they did sport whispy tempura-like batter and come with dippable hot & sweet Chinese mustard. The plate also came with sunomono, sweet, thin-shaved pickles dusted with sesame seeds.
The evening’s special turned out to be the best dish, which should probably be the case. Five pepper-crusted New Bedford (Massachusetts) sea scallops came with caramelized cuts of Japanese eggplant, Thai red curry with just enough kick, escarole, scallions and cilantro. An accompanying mound of jasmine rice soaked up the curry to good effect.
Un-Banana Cubana ($8) amounted to a Cuban-style “banana split.” They rolled bone-dry fried plantains in toasted walnuts and cinnamon and drizzled with bourbon caramel sauce, plated with a rich scoop of dulce dé leche gelato and a fluffy cap of house-made whipped cream. Overall, the dessert worked pretty well, but was too sweet and the bananas should have been caramelized.
Safire Bistro was a solid restaurant. Was it worth an hour drive on its own? Probably not, but if you’re going to be at the outlets, it’s almost undoubtedly your best dining option in town.
December 30, 2009 at 2:51 PM
My favorite restaurant! It’s consistantly good everytime we go and it is beautiful inside. We arrived 5 minutes after closing time, and the hostess asked the chef whether to refuse us due to the time, and the chef happily told us to come on in.
January 20, 2009 at 4:26 PM
nice to know, i’ll remember this next time I’m in camarillo