Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz
121 Soquel Avenue,
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-7427 | Reserve Now
|Dining Style||Casual Elegant|
|Parking||Garage & Public Lot|
|Reservations||Suggested (Reserve Online)|
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Payment Accepted||Cash, Credit Cards|
|Additional Info||Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Cafe, Full Bar, Non-Smoking Restaurant, Personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), Wine|
Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz - Summary:
(from santacruzsentinel.com, Ann Parker) -Damani Thomas, arguably one of the best chefs to lift a knife in Santa Cruz.
I met my discerning foodie friends Laurie and Salem for dinner at Oswald on a recent weeknight. First we admired the inside/outside open kitchen, fully visible to passersby through vast windows. It's like a tasty terrarium -- or an Edward Hopper painting minus the angst.
Inside, we chose a comfortable banquette with a straight-shot kitchen view and considered the intriguing cocktail list. Our personable server, Allison, praised the Apio Gimlet $8, something I might not have chosen -- tequila with fresh celery juice and lime? But I was instantly addicted to the earthy, salty bite of this cleverly named concoction apio is celery's botanical moniker.
Our appetizers arrived with perfect timing and beautiful presentation. My Prawns with Orzo Salad and Tangerine-Carrot Broth $12 was a thing of beauty and lived up its looks. A pool of vividly colored and flavored sauce -- dotted with toothsome orso and tiny potato and apple cubes -- was the perfect foil highlighting three huge, perfectly cooked prawns.
Although the Venison Tartare with Toast $11 was gorgeous and meltingly tender, it lacked a distinctly Indonesian hint that I had loved the last time I ordered it. Even Laurie, who hadn't tasted the dish before, said, "There's something missing."
But Salem's Black Trumpet Mushroom Bruschetta $15 hit a home run. The dark tangle of local trumpets lent their seaweed-like texture beautifully to the rich, complex, puzzlingly delicious sauce. We knew better than to ask about ingredients; Damani is notoriously close-mouthed about his recipes, and rightly so.
We were still praising the mushrooms when Allison brought our entrées. My Sauteed Trout with Green Beans, Sunchokes and Brown Butter $22 was a pretty package, crisp fil lets of rosy trout generously stacked on the vegetables. The sweet, succulent fish was enhanced by nutty-flavored sunchokes; faultless green beans added texture and verdant flavor.
Sampling her Seafood Stew with Scallop, Prawn and Mussels $25, Laurie declared the broth "impeccably seasoned." The seafood -- including some delicate trout -- was all precisely, admirably cooked. I was particularly impressed with the huge, buttery scallop; Laurie loved the tiny PEI mussels.
Salem's choice, Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cabbage, Spatzle and Poached Prunes $22 met and matched ours. Every bite was a revelation of supple, flavor-plump pork and perky little dumplings, illuminated by luscious fruit.
Dessert was de rigeur. The exquisite, barely sweet Chocolate Soufflé $10 was well worth 15-minute preordering. "Essence of chocolate," sighed Laurie. And "heavenly" was my assessment of the White Chocolate Bread Pudding $10 with its crust-edged bread, light custard and killer caramel sauce. "This is the best food I've had in Santa Cruz in a long time," said Salem.
Let's be clear: Oswald isn't without faults. I'd like to see more local wine offerings, the view of downtown sidewalks isn't the most romantic and the space, although urban-chic and attractively designed, still seems a little bare. Most important is the restaurant's significantly "live" atmosphere -- that's "noisy" in restaurant-speak -- but that problem is supposedly being addressed.
Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz - Reviews:
Positive Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz Review:
This new Oswalds lacks the intimate charm of the old space, but the food is just as good. I had been a regular patron of the old one, and I believe that despite the increase in the number of tables, the same care to the cooking of fresh and seasonal dishes is manifest. This new space just has a more urban hipster vibe to it, with the full and bustling bar. Making a reservation here means you'll wait for your table for at least 1/2 hour when you arrive anyway. I guess the concept is to enjoy some of the excellent and creative but expensive cocktails before being seated.
-Alex C., Meadow Vista, CA
Negative Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz Review:
The wait is over.....but was it worth it? In my opinion NO. The former Oswald was a quiet restaurant with wonderful wait staff and fabulous food. The new version of Oswald is extremely loud and the food only mediocre.
My husband and I had dinner at the new Oswald on January 4th and were very, very disappointed in the menu. We ordered an ahi salad, a frisee salad, mussels, an entree I can't even remember and the scallops entree. There was nothing special about any of the items ordered, all tasted fine, just the old Oswald flare was missing.
The other issue with the new Oswald is the noise level. There is nothing to soften the sound. Floors are concrete, one wall is cinder blocks and there are no table coverings which makes for a very loud restaurant when full.
We plan on going back to Oswald to see if the situation improves after they are open for a couple of months.
-Cheryl G., Santa Cruz, CA
Average Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz Review:
If you are hoping that the new Oswald will be like the old one, you will be disappointed. Unlike the cozy bistro off the street that Oswald was, the new restaurant is much bigger, much noisier, and definitely not cozy. There is a lively bar scene at the entrance that sets the tone and the enjoyable paintings are replaced by mirrors and windows. A number of dishes on the menu have the same name as in the old place, but in our one visit, they just weren't the same. The interesting complex and unique tastes were replaced by simple, straighforward dishes that one could find in dozens of restaurants. There really was nothing wrong with the new Oswald, it just isn't anything to get excited about.
-Jerry F., Santa Cruz, CA
Oswald Restaurant Santa Cruz - Photos: