Having mastered several subsets of Chinese cuisine, the chefs at China Pavilion couldn't fit all their entrees onto a single menu. So they created three: one with America's popular staples, one brimming with traditional platters, and one showcasing chef specialties. The first lines up dishes that are now familiar—sweet 'n' sour chicken and mongolian beef—as well as recognizable feasts served in new ways, such as the peking duck wrapped in crepes. More traditional and exotic options abound on the Chinese menu, such as pickled cabbage and pork noodle soup, or spicy king crabmeat sprinkled with basil and served in a clay pot. The chefs’ selections, meanwhile, range from classic to experimental: strips of Angus beef sizzle in oyster sauce, and garlic-pepper salt coats Alaskan halibut in a wok. China Pavilion’s full cocktail bar balances meals with citrusy sips of sour plum martinis, and on weekends, visitors can drop by for a dim-sum brunch that leaves tongues more satisfied than an astronaut wearing Moon Boots.
From its perch at the end of Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company looks over the rolling ocean waters where much of its menu originates. Established more than three decades ago as a buying station for locally caught seafood and a rumor mill for the whereabouts of the kraken, the restaurant was a natural outgrowth of the market. Today, chefs turn the sea’s bounty into specialties that range from ceviche and oysters rockefeller to cioppino—a medley of crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels in a bread bowl. The culinary explorers also embrace the seasonality of aquatic life, filling their menu with timely dishes of local delicacies, such as spiny lobster and dungeness crab, as well as catches shipped from afar, such as Alaskan king crab and Maine lobster.