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El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 845-5800

Reviews by the General Public

Tea Time not perfect, 12/3/2014
Reviewer: Karen from Santa Barbara, CA
This is the 2nd time I've been here for the High Tea. The first time things were perfect and I would have given the food and service 5 stars. This time around not so perfect. Our table was not ready when we arrived. After about ten minutes I had to go up and ask if our table was ready - strike one. Strike two was the over zealous maître d. And strike three was the tea served in French presses instead of the beautiful silver pots we encountered on our first visit. The view, of course, was stunning and the presentation of the sandwiches and pastries was beautiful. Strike four was waiting for the valet to acknowledge our existence and take our tickets. There are a lot of wonderful things about the El Encanto - service is not one of them. I think our next tea will be back at the Biltmore.

A Brunch Blow Off!, 5/19/2014
Reviewer: Kristin from Santa Barbara, CA
Let me start that brunch is $85 per person. If you're spending this much money on food the idea is you're getting amazing food and exceptional service. Neither of which happened. The location and hotel are beautiful but the service and food was lacking. Our server only realized we didn't get our order when he came to offer us dessert. Our main entrée then took way too long to get seeing as there was maybe 5 tables. Desserts were amazing to look at but lacked flavor. By the end of the meal we had a hard time finding any staff to serve us and had get up to get the hostess for water. Really, is this what we’re paying for??

Surprisingly great
Reviewer: meridith from Santa Barbara, CA
I've heard so many bad things that I hesitated to go here. We went for lunch on a warm Monday and from start to finish it was excellent. The service five star, the décor beautiful, everything well appointed. We will be going here often.

Nice, but not special enough to warrant the price
Reviewer: Kristin from Santa Barbara, CA
Anniversary dinner on the terrace - gorgeous view and nice ambiance. Wait staff had to maneuver around crowded tables & heat lamps near the terrace edge so a little awkward but I did appreciate the heat lamp. The lighting is super poor after sunset if you are anywhere near the terrace edges while lighting looks fine close to the main building. Service was sufficient and food was tasty but for the price of the food I would either expect outstanding service or more food - portions were small. We just weren't blown away by the food and there was no effort by our waiter, or perhaps knowledge, of how to really make it a culinary or "El Encanto" experience. One more note ... valet, they need to figure out an efficient system because when the pulled up our car we couldn't get in/out because they had other cars blocking the driveway from hotel guests who had not yet arrived to their call-ahead car.

Lovely Birthday Dinner
Reviewer: Sharon from Santa Barbara, CA
Things have definitely improved in the dining room, judging by the earlier reviews. My husband and I had a terrific dinner with excellent service. Nothing to complain about...enjoyed it all!

We won't be back...
Reviewer: PZ from Carpinteria, CA
I wish I could say that now they have it right, but they still don't. It was our anniversary and we were sorely disappointed. Our waiter seemed uniformed of the choices of vodkas and scotches..if you didn't name a high end liquor you felt snubbed. Our dinner companion ordered a vodka up and was upcharged $3.00 for the low-end house vodka. Rocks drinks were served in the incorrect glass. The appetizer of a fig terrine was hard to spread and bland. Our entrees were lost and we ended up waiting for over an hour and then they were disappointing. The manager did comp our entrees, but that didn't fix the evening. As others have said, it grew late and very dark...poor lighting. Over all, not a high end experience which is so sad for such a stellar place of beauty and view. Not at all like the old days...

Average food, terrible service and cheap decor!
Reviewer: Sophia from Santa Barbara, CA
The food here is so-so; not great by any means but not inedible. However, the food needs to be amazing here to overcome the logistical issues El Encanto is having. The valet circle only fits 3-4 cars at most, leaving traffic to back up down to APS when I went there for a lunch event. The service is bemused, and slow. The decor swung it for me, though - cheap cheap cheap everywhere. Finish coming off chairs that are faux wood, dirt already showing on walls and table linens that looked shabby, but not chic. Every penny possible was spared in the decoration of this hotel, and because of that, it doesn't qualify as a luxury destination or a Santa Barbara classic. Shame!

It is not cutting it
Reviewer: DPJ from Santa Barbara, CA
This is my third time there and it is not improving. I attended an event in the downstairs ballroom. A long line of cars backed up on Lasuen Rd. was the first negative impression. Clearly they can't handle parking for large groups. The ballroom was cramped. The food service was slow: half of our table was served and the other half had to wait as dishes passed by. I had to ask for a drink re-fill. The baked chicken breast and potatoes had no seasoning. I had to add salt and pepper. So my experiences have been less than good and for the prices not worth it. The only good thing so far is the view.

slow service/not tasty food
Reviewer: Karen from Santa Barbara, CA
Best of hotel: the view and location Decor: Contemporary Hollywood trendy Didn't like the service/food: young college kids as waiters who thought they were doing you a favor waiting on you. Unprofessional attitudes. Need seasoned professional waiters. Food: not tasty and very over priced Atmosphere: loud Sinatra crooner making it hard to converse. I could hear him crooning a block away. Whats wrong with quite background music??? So people can converse???? This place does not meet up to the Santa Barbara style or Orient Express reputation.

Go for the drinks: stay for the drinks
Reviewer: Mark from Santa Barbara, CA
In keeping with the asian theme I will now dishonor this restaurant in the form of a traditional Haiku. el encanto lame: chaotic service bland food: bad dessert to end

A special dinner: Friends - perfect; Dinner - not so much
Reviewer: Oma from Santa Barbara, CA
This was our 2nd visit to El Encanto since it reopened and our first time for dinner. The positives: The view and our waiter. Areas for significant improvement: The bar has not improved since our first visit in March. The service is still VERY slow. The quality of the cocktails has not improved and they still taste watered down like they have been sitting on ice too long. A Manhattan was served in a stemless wine glass accompanied by a small plate holding one lonely and tiny (but very good) cherry on a pic. Had the cherry and pic been in the wine glass it would have been impossible to grasp but on the plate by itself it was completely lost in translation. The martinis (ordered 'up') came in small 'juice' glasses or a large shot glass - we couldn't tell. Their presentation was unappealing as well. When our drinks finally came there was nothing to accompany them - no nuts - nothing. They finally brought us some bread but it was well after our cocktails were served. We don't mind paying $16 for a cocktail if it is prepared well but these were not worth it. Wine glasses: The correct wine glass should accompany the wine. They are using silver at the table so it seems they could offer the correct glasses. The food: While we weren't in a hurry, the food delivery was slow. The lamb loin had no flavor except for the sauce and it wasn't great. The gnocchi that accompanied it was very dry and again no flavor. No one at our table raved about their food. At best it was 'fine'. Our waiter was very nice and seemed embarrassed by the slow delivery, the cocktails and sub par presentation. It was not a busy night so there should be no excuse. I gave the service a 2.5 rating but in my opinion it was not the wait staff who were responsible for the slow service; it was the preparers. Ambiance: The view was wonderful. The table seatings look nice but the deep couches feel too far from the table and I kept adding pillows to be closer to the group. As it got later and darker the little table lights weren't sufficient. Overall, the disappointing service, cocktails and meal did not justify the expense.

Back to the drawing boards
Reviewer: Paul from Santa Barbara, CA
First of all, the ambience of the restaurant is not in keeping with the rest of the property. On our first visit we sat on the patio with its expansive view of Santa Barbara and of the coast looking all the way down to Ventura. As the evening progressed the patio grew darker and darker. The tiny little decorative votive candles on each table struggled to keep up with the enveloping darkness that overcame the diners. The heat lamps struggled along with the votives and by the end of the meal the diners on the patio were in the cold and the dark; to the point that lap blankets had to be issued. Upon our second visit the patio was now harshly lit with a series of bright spotlights on one side, while the tables around the edges were still enveloped in darkness. The patio is heated from below, which is nice, but the poor design of the overhead, overly large patio heaters, along with the harsh lighting does not make for enjoyable dining ambiance for a property of this stature. As for the food, the menu is also not in keeping with the flavor of the property, with a limited menu that is challenging and fussy. The chef having come from the Peninsula in Japan has infused the menu with Asian notes that are nowhere to be found anywhere else on the property, and seem somehow misplaced. The portions are small with busy presentations. With flavors lacking, it seems overpriced and out of place. As for the service, there seem to be too many chiefs and not enough Indians. We recognized some of our favorite waitstaff from the San Ysidro Ranch, so we know they are seasoned pros, but at this point they have not come together as an orchestrated service team. I think it's time for them to sit down and say okay, nice try but let's take it in a different direction. Perhaps some hyper-fresh comfort dishes so prevalent in the Napa Valley would be more fitting for this historic California Riviera property with deep Hollywood ties, rather than the nouveau Asian/French slant, that makes no reference to the site. So their check list includes, better patio heaters and lighting. Revamped menu and service teambuilding. It’s really back to basics all the way around. We’ll give it another try in a few months and see if anyone there will read this and take it to heart.

Nice place for cocktails!
Reviewer: Frank from Santa Barbara, CA
We took some out of town friends here for a drink one evening when it was foggy and chilly. Valet parking only ("complimentary" - but hard not to tip). The bar had a nice fireplace that actually put out some heat. The drink selection was creative, albeit more pricey than others. The complimentary munchies were tasty (olives and mixed nuts), and the service was professional. Next time, we'll stay for dinner, but will raid the bank first, based on others' comments.

Was expecting better for wedding
Reviewer: Mildred from Santa Barbara, CA
Our family would frequent the El Enconto before the remodel and could not wait to attend a friend's wedding. The drinks were well made and the wine was good. The ceremony looked beautiful, but the sound system did not work. You would have thought that the person in charge would have tested this. Vallet was provided, but we had to drop off our car below and walk up the hill. Our food was cold and dessert came at the end of the wedding so most of the guest had left; lots went to waste. Very dissappointed and feel bad for our friends who spent so much money for this event. Glad all our children are married. :/ The staff did not know where and how to direct us to the reception!

Not Ready For Prime Time
Reviewer: OM from Santa Barbara, CA
Was very excited with the re-opening as we used to dine at the old El Encanto regularly. Still a great location with view. Very disappointed in food and service. Service: Sat on veranda for a predinner cocktail and it took over 10 minutes for help to arrive. they hired a lot of servers from San Ysidro Ranch (our regular spot) which is good, except they didn't hire and train their backup bus staff: expect slow service; ask for water refill and it may take 10 minutes, slow to clear table after finishing. Our server who we knew from the Ranch was good but was getting buried by incompetent helpers and slow kitchen. Food: Needs to change. Food was very fussy and doesn't stand up to quality of Lucky's or The Ranch. Thought the chef had some "french attitude" on his appearance on Budi's cooking show episode. Bread basket was average: not the selection of the Ranch or warm basket at Lucky's. Abalone app was a 6 compared to Lucky's 10. Lobster/gnoci app: plated in a very small bowl and "where's the lobster?" for this price. Forget the lamb main, Lucky's beats it hands down. Halibut was fussy with foam all over the place and undercooked risotto. BIG DISAPPOINTMENT: The Famous Floating Island. Menu says it's the original, but it's not! Pretentious Chef just couldn't keep his hands off it because he knows best! It's no way close to the original: just two squares of overly sweet pieces of merrangue on top of some anglace. Bad advertising and execution. Baked apple was ok but sitting on top of a dried out biscuit. I'm sure the service problems will get straightened out over time; but don't see this chef working out unless he steps up his game with great preparation and cuts the pretentiousness.

What a disappointment!
Reviewer: Marilyn from Santa Barbara, CA
Waited forever for this restaurant to reopen and was so pleased with the atmosphere but disappointed in the staff and service; very slow. Food quality and presentation are mixed. Have been in twice. A mediocre lunch; the hamburger was great, the panini pitiful. Returned another day for dinner; risotto with chicken- awful. Be prepared to pay a small fortune.

Pretty Neat, but some odd problems too
Reviewer: steve from Santa Barbara, CA
Just had the lounge menu. To start...wonderful complementary olives and pure nut mix...just first rate French-like! draft beer..daft is so much purer tasting...considering a chef who prides himself on the best of everything. ....unless there is a good logistical reason not known.-So you are stuck with bottles at a reasonable $7. considering the lovely is reasonable to pay a bit more for everything here...their investment was high...and the place is a delight to be in. Mixed drinks were well commented on by our group and reasonable 13-16 range for such a nice place. The $22. hamburger, believe it or not...was worth it...both of us agreed everything about it was great...just baked bun...1 1/2 thick patty of the best tasting meat in a long time...cooked perfect.Nothing much served with it. Another person had Fries with their entre...tasted one...was amazingly poor and undercooked...which is just so odd...considering how nice some things were.(have you tasted Realais de Paris fries downtown? those are Profound...but not an atmosphere like El Encanto) Other food items were not bad...but a little uninspiring too...and then the price kind of stung a little...paying a lot for watch what you get. Wish they would keep a current menu online...but they probably won't..don't want the prices to scare away folks? Place was packed...waiter told us it has been packed every day early and late. A few gripes...Nice looking uniforms on the guys...pathetic looking grey on the gals...even people around us were commenting on how poor a decision...whoever made have every other thing in the place so nice...and then have these lovely gals servicing in geriatric is a good laugh I guess...or a study in contrasts. Still, would like to be able to know the persons thought that made such a decision. Other terrible thing....the only bathroom I saw for the men...was only big enough for 1 person at a time. There were 6 of us waiting IN LINE...for a long time... What POOR POOR planing. did they have some bathroom somewhere was not pointed out when I asked? Wonder if the same person doing the gals outfits also designed the boring backed-up restrooms?(although they did have nice individual cotton cloths for drying hands.) Go back? bet...Wonderful Piano starting at 6 on thurs. fri. sat. Too bad..I could only count 8 tables in the lounge now..vs. I think over twice that in the old it is hard to find a place to sit and hear the very good piano player...this is a big design error for Piano-enjoyers..kind of makes the whole affair more of like just a pseudo walk-by of music...unless one just stands uncomfortably around.. Amazing views...wonderful detail...even lovely perfectly balanced expensive silver plate silverware. Great wine list...easily by far, the best in town. A lot of expensive ones(margaux $3200....Leroy $800...another great burgundy for almost a thousand)and a LOT of near a hundred dollars and much more. But in the mix...they also have placed very nice $ $40-ish wines for us mere mortals... Water glasses were not rubbed after they had been washed...because several of us noticed bad smell from the glass..even though the "house water" itself tasted really good. Wine glass was lovely in Medium size and HAD obviously been clean-towel was perfect...and clean smelling...the lovely red wine was also amazingly chilled to a perfect cooler cellar temperature when brought to us(by the glass!!)--this is amazing class...can't recall anyone else in SB who does this..classy. This place kind of feels like the old Stars Restaurant up in San Francisco...and that is a complement...and it was just as LOUD that night. they could enlarge the men's bathroom into the "office room" right next to it..or I guess they will just have to give out "Wait numbers" for the bathrooms...sort of like Baskin Robbins. See for amazing place despite faults... for a special birthday, occasion, or anniversary.

Re think the menu
Reviewer: Ann from Santa Barbara, CA
Food was artistically presented but disappointing to consume. Too bad. They should be able to do better regardless where the chef is from. More vegetables included with the entree would be nice. The "small plate" seafood offerings were the best of the meal.

Lovely ambience, so-so food and service
Reviewer: Jod from Santa Barbara, CA
The restaurant and hotel look fabulous. However, the staff were slow in coming to take our order, but were friendly enough. We ordered the steak, but were then told that they had sold out of the steak. The appetizer of chicken wings was OK and the gnocchi with lobster had a pleasant sauce, but the gnocchi was slightly over-cooked and poorly presented. All-in-all I would say good for a glass of wine and the great view, but the menu wasn't especially inspired or well-executed.

Wonderful service, wonderful location...
Reviewer: Maria from Montecito, CA
I am a first time diner at El Encanto. I was instantly charmed by the attentive service and attention to comfort and detail that we were paid. The place itself is breathtaking... Very romantic and ethereal... Our server was very knowledgeable about wine and recommended a superb bottle that I will buy again. The only disappointment was the food. I didn't quite understand the menu but I am hoping this is because the chef came recently from Japan and is just now learning California Coastal Cuisine?!? The afore mentioned blue cheese gelle is clearly died with food colour and not something I would consider eating. I thought the portions to be very small and while everything was good, nothing was great. I will give it a few months to grow and return!

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