Best Thing We Ate

Best Thing We Ate: Beet Arancini at Acabar

By Lesley Balla  |  August 19, 2013
Credit: Lesley Balla

Acabar is one of those places that you hope is as good as it looks, because so often places with that sort of magnificent wow decor fall flat in the food department. But on one recent visit, we found a lot of nice dishes on the menu, which has a lot to do with Octavio Becerra (Palate Food + Wine) in the kitchen, along with his chef de cusine, Kevin Luzande, a 30 Under 30 alum, most recently at Playa.

From a perfectly fresh halibut ceviche with Santa Barbara sea urchin, to a crisp fattoush salad made from Coleman Farms lettuce with slivers of toasted pita (no complaints), or basturma, thin slices of Turkish-cured salmon with caraway potato latkes, it was all pretty on point. The arancini, which we see on a lot of menus around town, were a nice surprise, especially when you bit in to reveal the bright beet-pink rice, and we loved the swipe of orange ricotta on the bottom of the plate. Yes, there's "porn" bread, so named, we think, for the way you have to sort of shake the cornbread from a long tube when it comes to the table. But it has bacon and corn and almond-honey butter, so we can look past the silly name. And larger plates like roast duck or whole crispy fried fish are offered family-style.

The room really is pretty stunning, with its dramatic atrium and skylight, which sits right over a fire pit surrounded by seating, the hand-painted wallpapered ceilings, the carved columns and beautiful tiles. And unlike Dar Magreb, which it replaced, there's now a nice long bar where you can go just for drinks. And since the cocktail menu was created by Julian Cox and Josh Goldman, you'll want to go for things like the fire-lit Zombie on tap - four kinds of rum in that one, so you're limited to only two - or one of the punches. It's certainly dark and sexy, the kind of place you'd least expect to find good food, especially later when the lounge fills up for DJs. But we were pleasantly surprised.