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Best Bites

September 06, 1990

The following are capsule reviews of some of the better restaurants recently visited by our critics:

The owners of Jag's India House call their Northern Indian cooking "royal Mogul cuisine." Ventura County is indeed lucky to have such a good example of this wonderful, exotic food. The hot fresh breads alone are worth the trip to the restaurant. There are dozens of versions of curries, each remarkably unique, from a fabulous shrimp masala with fresh coriander and bits of lemon rind to a lamb rogan josh in a savory sauce with almonds, green herbs and yogurt.

MK's is hot and cold. Hot in that it's frequently packed, cool as an oasis on a summer afternoon. Some dishes are very, very good, notably the seafood Vera Cruz and the "grazing platter" of grilled vegetables, grains, soft cheese, chutney, and salsa. The bread is great, and when it is dessert time you'll go far before finding a better apricot cobbler. MK's is at 139 Ojai Ave., Ojai 640-8001. Breakfast 8-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday; until noon Saturday-Sunday. Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday; noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Dinner 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Monday. Meal for two, food only, $26-$58.

Downey's is expensive, and sometimes it is worth it. The duck, no matter how it is prepared, is excellent. Add some of Downey's outstanding appetizers, such as the grilled squab, and flawless desserts, the Belgian chocolate marquis, for example, and you'll avoid the pitfalls--overcooked fish and undistinguished beef and lamb dishes. Downey's is at 1305 State St., Santa Barbara, (805) 966-5006. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5:3O p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $65 to $80.

Voila Cafe may be in an ordinary little California stucco house, but the food is anything but nondescript. This restaurant knows how to come up with a fine dining and Sunday brunch experience. Calling itself a bistro cafe, it serves a variety of interesting dishes accompanied by superb vegetables. Baked chevre is a salad of crisp romaine and raw vegetables with warmed, pungent goat cheese on top. Filet Madrid is steak in a sauce of red peppers, fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Summer pasta comes with onions, mushrooms, broccoli and big succulent shrimp. Desserts are spectacular. Voila Cafe is at 1095 Thompson Blvd., Ventura, (805) 643-9445. Lunch and dinner are served 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Breakfast, lunch and dinner 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner for two, food only $27 to $46. Sunday brunch with champagne $16.50 per person.

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