A Whole Lot of Heart

dining sudasalSüda’s inventive menu brings pleasure to Portola

Süda means heart in Estonian, and at the newest restaurant in Pleasure Point, I found a lot to love. It is no surprise, that with seasoned owners Mike Pitt of Motiv, and Dan Voskoboynikov of Harbor Café, it has quickly gained a following. The menu is delightful, and the efficient, knowledgeable, and energetic staff, attired professionally in black, worked together as a well-practiced team.

Located where Rock of the Sea once resided, it is spotted easily at night by the flaming towers on the front patio. The interior was vibrant and boisterous. A combination of bar seating with two televisions, tall tables, and short tables surrounded by molded white chairs reminiscent of the ‘60s and BBC’s The Prisoner, provide options for after-work mingling and families alike.

A very unique array of specialty cocktails included a Rustic Margarita ($9) made the old-fashioned way, without high fructose corn syrup, but instead with fresh lime juice and agave nectar. A float of mezcal, fermented hearts of pit-roasted maguey plants, gave it a dark, smoky flavor.

The splendid list of draft beers included Santa Cruz Aleworks, numerous California microbrews, and a smooth, dark porter from local Uncommon Brewers. A moderately priced wine list ($21 to $38) included local favorites as well.

Our first visit happened to coincide with Restaurant Week, when we could each choose a small plate, entrée, and dessert ($25 per person). Each of the selections was also available on the regular menu.

A taste of Asia was found in the Pepper Seared Tuna Tower ($14). Each of two towers was built of a pair of deep fried wonton skin squares, with cucumber and avocado, topped with finely peppered rare ahi, accompanied by chopsticks, soy sauce, pink sheets of pickled ginger, and wasabi paste.

A trio of Lettuce Wraps ($9) offered flimsy fistfuls of decadent flavors. Frilly red leaf lettuce was piled high with chopped chicken ($3), al dente rice noodles, grated carrot and peanuts, seasoned with ginger and coconut, and served with dark, smooth and spicy peanut sauce; the tastiest I’ve found locally. Our server intuitively offered us a bottle of sriracha chili sauce.

The grilled seasonal catch-of-the-day was line-caught salmon cooked to a tender medium-rare, topped with peak-of-the-season small tomatoes and parsley, and rested upon a bed of green beans and summer squashes, with a steaming hillock of brown rice.

In the Southwest Chicken Fettuccini ($16) strips of chicken breast, speckled with small black beans, cilantro, plump corn kernels, diced tomato and shredded cheese were tossed with a red-pepper-flecked ultra-rich, creamy pesto sauce which was plenty spicy, but a dose of sriracha is never a bad choice. It was served with a quartet of toasted points of garlicky cheese bread.

For dessert, the Sorbet Trio included generous icy balls of passion fruit, deep purple blackberry-cabernet, and tart lemon flavors, topped with a sprig of mint.

The Chocolate Lava Cake, an airy timbale of chocolaty flavor, with a soft, melted truffle center was topped with sliced strawberries and a sprig of mint.

Süda, 3910 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 600-7068. Full bar. Serving lunch from 11 a.m. Lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. Find Süda on Facebook

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