••• We joined some friends at The Dutchess, the new restaurant in Ojai, the other night. I had forgotten how large space is—there’s the main room you see from the street a side room, a back room with a pool table, and I think even an outdoor area behind that. While our server seemed in a little over his head, there were several manager-level types playing safety, so we never felt like we weren’t being taken care of. And the food—the menu is “Burmese-Californian”—was uniformly interesting and not once disappointing. Standouts included the terrific naan, the already famous lamb biriyani in pastry (above), the tea leaf salad, and the chocolate tart (above right). The drive at night remains a pain, but it’s less terrifying if you take Route 33 to Highway 101 instead of going around Lake Casitas.
••• I don’t generally post about restaurants being for sale because it’s not always meaningful—sometimes they stay on the market for years. And I wouldn’t want to discourage people from patronizing them. But brokers for the Black Sheep (Anacapa/Ortega) have now emailed the database of local real estate agents twice about the establishment being for sale, and there’s also a website about it, so I think we can safely say it’s not a secret. From one of the emails: “Family run, profitable and well established restaurant with over a decade of operation in the same location. Unique menu prepared by a well trained chef de cuisine and kitchen staff and served in a casual, comfortable setting. Excellent lease terms. With over 100 seats and a layout that makes for endless possibilities this is not one to miss. Price: $325,000.”
••• Petit Valentien has begun a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony on Monday mornings, reports the Independent: “The tradition […] involves a full preparation and ingestion process, from washing and roasting the green beans, to cooking the coffee, to drinking three small cups. Meanwhile, frankincense—also from Ethiopia—is burning, snacks (typically popcorn or popped sorghum) are being enjoyed, and conversation is rampant.”
••• Now that Alma Fonda Fina has signage up at the Montecito Country Mart—it’s in the former Little Alex’s space—Julie asked if there is any intel. Here’s what I wrote in the recent roundup of forthcoming restaurants, which I can’t blame anyone for missing because that post went on forever: “The second* new endeavor from Corazón Cocina’s Ramon Velazquez is in the Montecito Country Mart, where Little Alex’s used to be. ‘Alma’ means ‘soul’ in Spanish, and Velazquez says we can expect ‘soul food, if you will—tacos, soups, enchiladas, and tamales. It’s home cooking.’ Opening forecast: Early spring.” (*The other two are Little Heart Cafecito, which just opened in the Public Market, and Del Corazón on E. Victoria Street.)
••• Bedda Mia, the Sicilian restaurant in the former Mollie’s space near the Granada Theatre, has quietly opened for dinner. The Olio folks are running it for an unnamed owner. Below: “Gemelli cui broccoli arriminati—a quintessential Sicilian dish reflecting the rich history, including Arab, Spanish and Greek influences, of Sicilian cuisine: pasta twists, broccoflower, golden raisins, pine nuts, saffron, breadcrumbs.” I’ll see if I can get my hands on the menu…. Update: It’s a soft opening, so no menu yet.
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