The following are capsule reviews of some of the better restaurants recently visited by our critics:
Sushi Marina may not look much like a traditional Japanese restaurant, but the sushi is wonderful, and the place has a kind of happy-hour energy even during the week. Soft-shelled crab is a wonderful appetizer, crisp, crunchy and delicate; and the teriyaki beef is as good as it gets. A few untraditional sushi rolls include the Philly, made with cooked salmon and cream cheese, and the dragon roll, a deft concoction of sea eel and avocado. Sushi Marina is located at 120 S. California St., Ventura, 643-5200. Lunch Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Monday-Sunday 5:30-10 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $22-$62.50.
It's not back in Texas or Tennessee, but off the highway going into Saticoy that Buster's Original Bar-B-Q and Bakery sits, dishing out down-home style ribs, chicken and the house specialty--the best tri-tip sandwich between San Diego and the Oregon border. The line in front of the outdoor grill goes into the parking lot, and the baked goods can be tasty or just so-so, but Buster's brings an authentic bit of barbecue to Ventura County. Buster's is located at 1201 S. Wells Road, Saticoy, 647-2103. Open Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Meal for two, food only, $10-$20.
Heard of Mariscos Miguel? Not many people have, and it's a shame. Owner Miguel Gonzales serves some wonderful Mexican dishes, particularly the seafood, in this former coffee shop.
Some of the appetizers can make great light lunches. The tostadas de ceviche consist of pieces of fish marinated in citrus juice, with chunks of tomato, cilantro and cabbage. And for one quesadilla dish, shrimp are sauteed in onions and herbs and tucked into corn tortillas and fried.
As for entrees, there are the traditional tamales, chiles rellenos and enchiladas, but it's the seafood dishes that stand out. Pescado alla Gonzales is fresh halibut sauteed with tiny shrimp and served in a lemony salsa de una butter. The mahi-mahi is served crisp on one side, tender on the other, with a cilantro-butter sauce, homemade tomato salsa and a delicious fruit salsa.
For breakfast, there is a choice of American dishes--pancakes, French toast, omelets--or Mexican dishes. The chile verde omelet is filled with cheese and covered with a green chili sauce.
Mariscos Miguel is at 1812 Cliff Drive, Unit C, Santa Barbara, 687-7783. Breakfast and lunch are served 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Dinner is served 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Monday. Dinner for two, food only, will cost $11 to $32.
Start with a house salad. That's the easiest way to initiate the palate into the Turkish and Mediterranean dishes served by Abraham Aymelek, the owner-chef of Moonangel.
Actually, why not start with several house salads? A sampler features tastes of five selections, highlighted by the patlican salatasi --an eggplant dish that is mousse-like in texture--and the sweet and tart grape leaves stuffed with rice. The borek, or spinach pie, is pretty tempting too.
Following that introduction, move on to the main course. One of the traditional Turkish menu items is mantarli kuzu, a lamb and mushroom stew. The list of Mediterranean dishes is topped by the poached seafood wrapped in paper and steamed in a wine-based, seasoned broth.
Moonangel is located at 302 W. Montecito St., Santa Barbara, 962-8949. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, dinner 5:30 to 11 p.m. daily and brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Buffet lunch for two, food only, will cost $15. Dinner for two, food only, will cost $32 to $50.