Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Garden Room (Santa Maria, CA)

Garden Room
801 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454
Wed 06/06/2007, 07:00p-08:15p

The Garden Room is the main restaurant at the historic Santa Maria Inn. I had seen it on a top ten list of restaurants in the area, so I decided to give it a shot (big mistake!).

The decor is a bit tired, but acceptable. The dining room was almost empty when I arrived, but quickly filled up with German tourists, who apparently had vouchers for free dinners.

The menu is fairly standard, with nothing too adventurous or inventive. Prices are reasonable.

Things didn't start of well. When I sat down, I immediately ordered a mojito (my drink of choice as of late it seems); after conferring with the bartender, my server told me they couldn't. I then decided to order a kir royale; again, my server left for a few minutes only to return and tell me no. Miffed, I asked for a glass of Champagne; surely they could do that, right? Well almost. I was brought a split of J. Roget, which was simply the worst "champagne" I've had in recent memory. What do you expect for $3.49 a bottle, I suppose? I also thought it was odd that they brought out a tray with a few stale veggie pieces and some ranch. Strange.

The meatball soup was decent but tasted like it came from a can (and not even Campbell's). The bread is often a good indicator of a restaurant's quality and unfortunately, in this case, it was spot on. The bread had a strange mineral-y taste that foreshadowed the food ahead.

Sauteed Mushroom Cups
Drenched in marsala wine, shallots, butter in Demi-glaze. The mushrooms were pretty tasty, though they were a tad large. In fact, the whole dish was a bit large. I would've been content with 3/4th of the course. Also, the included pieces of garlic bread were rather redundant. This was a passable dish, but unfortunately things quickly went downhill from here...

Lobster Cakes
Served with a red pepper sauce, garnished with a fennel, onion salad and elephant garlic chips. This was advertised as lobster but I could detect no such thing here. Texture-wise, the cakes were akin to a very poorly prepared incarnation of crab cakes - all filler - think paper pulp. Taste-wise, all I could discern was the red sauce, which overpowered everything on the plate. An absolute mess.

Charbroiled Albacore Tuna
Thai BBQ sauce, rice pilaf and vegetables. This was the special of the night. Unfortunately for me, the only thing special about the tuna was that it was especially awful. I'm normally a huge fan of tuna, but this, this was something else. Tuna is best served seared rare, but this albacore was overcooked to the point of being bone dry and hard as rubber. As far as taste went, all I could taste was the sickly sweet BBQ sauce (nothing Thai about it). I ordered a glass of EOS Sauvignon Blanc with the tuna, but I don't remember anything regarding it, as I was in a state of shock and awe about the abject horror of the dish.

Chocolate 3-Layer Cake
Strawberries and raspberry sauce. At least the meal ended on a semi-high note. This was a competently prepared chocolate cake (though chocolate cake is pretty hard to screw up; come to think of it, this probably wasn't even made in-house). My problem with it wasn't taste, but portions. It was huge! In fact I couldn't even finish it (and I'm pretty good about finishing everything I order); 40% of it would've been the perfect size.

Wow. When I talk about "hotel food," this is what I'm talking about. This was easily the second worst meal I've had in the past few years (the first was a godawful lunch at Todai). Almost nothing went right. The decor was depressing and the service slow, but they were nothing compared to the food, which was borderline inedible. They seem to try to make up for the sub par quality but piling it on; but when the food tastes bland at best, the last thing I want is more of it. And I was not alone in my sentiments. I overheard one of the Germans say: "I'm not happy, and I don't want to talk about it!" In der Tat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind told you to eat at Garden Room? The food is horrible...From what I remember, the "chef" reheats food brought in by a catering company and they store all the pre-cooked meals in a giant freezer in the back.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 8:51:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I'd never been to Santa Maria before, I saw that somebody recommend it, and I went. Never again!

Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to respond to the annomynouse comment. the statement about the chef reheating catererd pre cooked food is false. the hotel jsut The Garden Room now has a new Restaurant Manager who was trained at Le Cordon Bleu and has done a complete face lift of the restaurant and complete over haul on the staff, the goal there is to become a 4 star restaurant. the only one in santa maria

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 3:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the hotel just completed a 1.5 million dollar kitchen renovation which was well worth it. Now with finally a focus, and concept.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 3:19:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anonymous 2&3, I hope you're right.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there ANYTHING edible in santa maria? My boyfriend and I just moved here from santa ynez valley and have yet to find a decent restaurant besides klondikes pizza. It's pizza for chrissake! How often can we eat pizza? What the hell do people eat around here?

Sunday, March 14, 2010 5:58:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Good question -- In-N-Out perhaps? The city is a bit of a culinary wasteland. I liked Wine Cottage Bistro in Orcutt, but the place has since closed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 6:15:00 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Holy cow this looks terrible

Thursday, January 14, 2021 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Ah yes, I'd largely forgotten about this meal, but it was one of the worst I've ever had, perhaps the worst that's made it on the blog.

Monday, January 18, 2021 5:32:00 PM  

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