Last Bite — Late Summer/Early Fall’s Don’t-Miss Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
Want the Halibut Crudo with Leche de Tigre recipe? Get it here.
Fresh, seasonal fish is abundant in our local Santa Barbara waters, which is something that gets Chef Jaime Riesco excited. He and his wife Tara Penke quietly opened Gala on Anacapa in January, and have been building its presence slowly and deliberately.
Riesco likes to go out with local fisherman to really experience the seafood he sources for the restaurant, sometimes even catching two fish at a time, as one is eating the other. “It’s just amazing,” he says. Riesco is also very interested in experiencing our local farms, visiting them to discuss ingredients with the farmers. “These relationships are very important,” Riesco says, “now these farmers call me when they have interesting produce or fish, or large quantities of something in season. It’s how I like to cook.”
He has been offered a small plot to farm with one of them, where he will try planting varieties of things he hasn’t yet seen here, but could easily be grown in our Santa Barbara terroir. “Cooking with what’s available keeps it interesting for me.” The result is a very fluid menu; it’s alive, changing with what is coming out of the ground and sea.
The two met in Spain, where Penke moved after graduating from UCSB. They then worked in restaurants in New York, where he honed his craft of fine dining, molecular gastronomy, and experimenting with all the different foods and flavors available there. He also cooked in Spain, but grew up in Chile and had Italian grandparents, which all influenced his tastes and style.
After living and running a restaurant in Barcelona for almost 10 years, the couple returned to Penke’s hometown of Santa Barbara to raise their children in a smaller community where they can enjoy the outdoors. Now, Gala is a reflection of them both: simple, informal, international flavors with an emphasis on quality and seasonality. It offers casual, comfort-food style dishes for dinner, local wines, and craft cocktails (make sure you try the carrot-infused Scotch by drinks maker Dakota Lopez).
This dish features produce from Babé, McGrath, and Givens farms and includes elements from Riesco’s wide array of culinary influence: Italian crudo and Peruvian ceviche. Leche de Tigre (or Tiger’s milk) is from Peru, where these originators of ceviche made sure none of its fresh, citrusy goodness would go to waste. When you’re finished eating the ceviche, whatever marinating liquid leftover in the bowl is meant to be drunk right down, or used for another dish or drink.
Halibut Crudo with Leche de Tigre Recipe
Want the full recipe? Get and print it here.
You’ll want to make your Leche de Tigre ahead of time by combining lime and lemon juice, cilantro, jalapeño or other or spicy chile, and some shallot if you like. Blend this, strain it and add salt to taste. Store it in the refrigerator.
To make the Halibut Crudo, start with the freshest local fish you can find (Riesco gets his from the Santa Barbara fish market). Freeze the fish a short time until almost frozen, so that you are able to cut it into very thin slices. Press parchment paper onto the fish slices to absorb the water. Once it’s totally thawed (should only take a few minutes), lay the slices out on a plate, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, then cover with a thin layer of Leche de Tigre. Top with diced pickled red and golden beets, fresh daikon sprouts, spring pea shoots and chopped chives.