santos majano, owner of the kitchen at the octagon
Dining Reviews

The Kitchen at the Octagon To Open Late Summer

What’s holding up the Kitchen at the Octagon, plus Ambrosia does tandoori right

Santos Majano, owner and chef at the forthcoming Kitchen at the Octagon, wants to open as soon as possible. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

Breakfast for lunch? Why not? Beer with that? You bet! Chef/owner of the Kitchen at Discretion, Santos Majano, is excited about his new Octagon project at downtown Santa Cruz’s Abbott Square. Like most of us, he wants it to go online yesterday, but the reality is probably late summer.

“Our place inside the Octagon was added after the original project, so it will take longer to get ready,” he explains. “The other six shops have to open first—and all at once.”

Meanwhile he’s busy renovating the former Lulu Carpenter’s Octagon interior for food service and applying for licenses.

“It will probably be August or so,” he says with a grin. Fine. But I’m hungry now! What I wanted was the snapper taco I saw on Richard Alfaro’s Facebook page last week. Santos laughs. “Not today. Tuesday is ramen day,” he says.

I had already sampled the incredible—and huge—ramen creation. I wanted something new. “The duck egg and smoked potatoes. That’s what you should have,” he says.

I figured he should know. Along with a tiny 3-ounce glass ($2) of a new house IPA called Jugo Nuevo—a pale, cloudy, golden hue with a caramel center and a grapefruit finish—I dug into a beautiful plate of red and green lettuces and smoked potatoes, decorated with fresh peas and heroic spears of asparagus. On top of this gorgeous mess was a plump poached duck egg, and everything was perfumed with chile oil and micro toasted bread crumbs ($13). To. Die. For! It was a lunch that brought with it the mighty elements of a hearty breakfast—eggs and potatoes. The little glass of beer seemed to have been made just for this luscious dish. And to think I was sitting in a quiet, secluded gastropub/brewery just a few feet away from busy 41st Avenue.

Discretion Brewing, open daily 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 2703 41st Ave., Soquel—next door to Cafe Cruz.

Cocktail of the Week

The Old Colonel (don’t laugh) at Soif is a serious, delicious, undeniably masculine drink. Shaken and poured over ice into a low-slung tumbler are Diplomatico Reserva rum, Ponal French vermouth, lime, and plenty of mint. The result is both refreshing and quite delicious, with a suggestion of cola (perhaps from Ponal’s gentian?). You could tinker around with these basic ingredients at home. On the other hand you wouldn’t be sipping the Old Colonel in the metro chic setting of Soif’s bar, would you? Ask bartender Manni about the drink’s name.

Entree of the Week

Once again, we’ve fallen for the chicken tandoori up at Scotts Valley’s popular new Ambrosia, home of authentic Indian cookery served by a very warm and welcoming staff. For $12 we are presented with a sizzling platter filled with a half chicken, chopped into easy-access pieces, tinged crimson by the spicy yogurt marinade that gives each bite a luscious moist flavor. The chicken pieces sit on top of a bed of onion, whose aroma rises up and permeates the chicken. On top, a dusting of freshly chopped cilantro adds its own olfactory note. Slices of lime accompany, and its juices make each bite sparkle.

Last week we added an order of saffron rice, plus another entree of fiery lamb vindaloo ($15), whose rich meat sauce also went well with the chicken. When I ordered, I was reminded by the server that the lamb vindaloo is quite spicy. For the record, the vindaloo was assertive but not tongue-numbing spicy. Wonderful.

Ambrosia India Bistro, 6006 La Madrona Drive (across the street from the Hilton), Scotts Valley.

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