Tacos Gobernador and Tropical Shrimp Ceviche: Delicious Additions to the Kanaloa Lunch Menu

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Tacos Gobernador and Tropical Shrimp Ceviche: Delicious Additions to the Kanaloa Lunch Menu

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Under Chef Antonio’s careful eye, some additions have been made to the lunch menu. Back by customer demand is the tuna melt, a fresh ahi tuna salad with melted Swiss, garlic dill pickles, and caramelized onion on rye bread. For those who fancy a change from fish, the new chicken club sizzles with jerk seasoning, bacon, avocado, and chipotle aioli on sourdough.

I start with the tropical shrimp ceviche, a light, summery salsa that starts with ceviche shrimp folded into well-minced jicama, cucumber, and tangy pineapple. A little red onion and cilantro put this into familiar territory, but Chef Antonio throws in the twist of a little sweet passion fruit and pineapple juice. The shrimp is ethically and sustainably farmed in Asia and the flavor is sweet and clean. I scoop up a generous bite onto one of their thick, homemade corn chips, and my mouth starts to dance with the myriad flavors and textures.  It’s beautiful to look at and even better to eat.

But my true objective on this visit is the new shrimp gobernador taco. A specialty of Chef Antonio’s hometown, the gobernador may well be the richest, most luxurious taco I have ever tasted. And they do it right at Kanaloa, starting with a homemade tortilla made with corn and…wait for it…butter. Yes, a buttery corn tortilla with deep grill marks holds shrimp sautéed with peppers and onions with a hint of chili and lime. Add in generous amounts of cream avocado, a smoky chipotle aioli, and melty jack cheese. This sumptuous taco left me dazzled. And that is hard to accomplish in a town known for fish tacos. I recommend this as one of the best in Santa Barbara.

Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.

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Introducing Kanaloa Seafood’s New Executive Chef, Antonio Almeida

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Introducing Kanaloa Seafood’s New Executive Chef, Antonio Almeida

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Please meet Kanaloa’s new executive chef, Antonio Almeida. Before I sat down to talk with him, I had already seen YouTube footage of Antonio instructing younger chefs at the exclusive Puerto Clandestino, where he worked after attending five years of culinary school in Mexico. Perhaps that is where he gained his food aesthetic.

As he says, “With food, you first have to enjoy with your eyes and then enjoy it a second time when you eat it. Food should be a form of art.”

He also studied with the famous French Chef Antoine while in Mexico. So there is no doubt that Chef Antonio could be cooking in any number of exclusive restaurants. Lucky for us, he has chosen Santa Barbara as his home and Kanaloa as his kitchen. The fit is symbiotic, as Kanaloa is known for its superbly fresh, sustainably farmed seafood, and Chef Antonio’s first love is seafood. He grew up in Los Mochis, a Mexican beach town where the eating culture showcases fish caught, prepared, and eaten right on the beach.

When I ask him what he most likes about cooking at Kanaloa, he says without hesitation, “The fish. It’s so different from other restaurants. They really respect the fish, and I can make superior dishes because of that.” His favorite item on the menu may be the swordfish tacos, with jerk spice, peppers, and mango, although the Korean tacos with marinated salmon are a close second.

It’s really clear talking with Antonio that everything in this kitchen is made from scratch and with great pride and devotion. Even the spices used on the fish are custom blends designed especially to compliment the fish (I especially recommend the Charmoula, which takes chili, garlic, and ginger as its base and is available for sale at the counter). Antonio is in the kitchen every morning at 7:30 a.m. to receive the two truckloads of fish from Kanaloa’s wholesale processing facility in Oxnard. Based on the fish and the particular produce he receives on a given day, he creates on-the-spot daily specials, such as the extremely popular octopus tacos. On the day I am there, he has a special “Bloody Mary” ceviche. He is particularly insistent that most restaurants over-marinate their ceviche, because the seafood is not fresh. Because the fish and shrimp at Kanaloa are of such high quality, a quick margination in lime juice “cooks” them without losing their flavor.

Antonio started off life with the first love of soccer. But during a hiatus for a leg injury, he stayed with his grandmother, who introduced him to the food that would form his own style. “Every day she made me something different. I’m a chef now, but when I go home, my grandma still cooks for me.” This heart, as well as his passion for food, are what really shine through in Antonio, and that makes for amazing dishes at Kanaloa.

You can see some of Chef Antonio’s tempting creations on his Instagram: jorgetortoledoo.

Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.

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