Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 30th
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Pleasure is the Point

dining-1532Süda Restaurant’s dynamic menu and lively bar scene light up the Point

From its polished concrete floors to its booths, chic central “bar” seating, and eye-catching custom light fixtures, Süda Restaurant is announcing itself as a hip destination for the Pleasure Point neighborhood. No longer a steak house, this landmark location at 41st Avenue and Portola Drive fits in nicely with surroundings that include Verve Coffee Roasters and the Penny Ice Creamery. So we were definitely looking forward to trying out the seasonally inflected menu.

Given the warm weather, we found ourselves adding ice cubes to our glasses of Pinot Noir. Mine was an excellent 2010 from Soquel Vineyards ($10), Katya’s was a 2011 Chandon from Los Carneros ($9). A shared appetizer of rabbit and pork belly terrine ($9) arrived with delicious pickled cauliflower and wine-marinated beet garnishes, and a fluff of arugula on top. The arugula was studded with pistachios and very lightly dressed with what hinted at an orange vinaigrette. A chutney or mustard sauce for the terrine loaf might have added a welcome touch of moisture and flavor contrast.

Katya’s entree of fat succulent scallops was memorable ($26). The delicious scallops were flattered by a salty golden crust, the interior remaining utterly moist and tender. Surrounding was an unusual and successful border of pureed parsnip and a fresh corn succotash hinting of bacon.

My order of grass-fed flat iron steak ($28) arrived with a huge posse of lentils, everything topped with a riot of green—asparagus, leeks and a tangy chimichurri sauce. Alas, it also arrived much too rare—I had requested it between rare and medium rare. So it went back to the kitchen, and when it returned I was able to enjoy the fine steak and especially the asparagus.

Süda’s entree listing aims to please all tastes. I liked the looks of a pasta with broccoli rabe pesto, English peas, and morels. A cauliflower mac and cheese with pork belly, another offering of ancient grains, seasonal veggies and curry sauce, as well as a grass-fed burger to which a Mary’s Farm duck egg can be added also caught my eye. Maybe next time.

Boxing up some of our entrees in order to save room for dessert, we savored a glass of Chandon bubbly ($9.50) while perusing the chef’s experimental desserts. The lively destination bar scene was gearing up as we considered our desserts. Brie panna cotta with pickled green strawberries and puff pastry sounded like a walk on the wild side to be sure. So did flour-less chocolate cake with candied pistachio and whipped sumac cream. But we both zeroed in on zucchini cake with whipped goat cheese and pine nut brittle ($9). I enjoyed the plump pliant texture of the very lightly spiced cake squares, and thought the mild goat cheese rosettes made a surprisingly smart accent. The thick tooth-challenging slabs of nut brittle seemed out of step with the rest. Had the tasty brittle been crushed into smaller shards, maybe the size of rock salt, they might have made a perfect texture contrast to the soft cake and cheese. I’ll be interested to see how this kitchen continues to evolve over time.

Süda is open from 11:30 a.m. daily. 3910 Portola Drive, Capitola. 600-7068,

Wine of the Week

Birichino’s 2012 Grenache from Besson Vineyard’s Old Vines. A supple bouquet of plums, strawberries, and even a hint of ripe carrot in the center, this is a savvy medium-weight red wine that can swing both ways, food-wise. Three ways, actually. It likes veg-intensive pastas, meaty meats and seafood. At 13.5 percent alcohol, it can be enjoyed with whatever passes for abandon in the 21st century. $20-ish.

DELICACIES OF THE SEA An entree of fat, succulent scallops served with pureed parsnip and a fresh corn succotash hinting of bacon, at Süda Restaurant. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

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