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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 12:43 pm | Fair with Haze 65º


There’s Nothing Fishy About the Dining Experience at Something’s Fishy

For 20 years, the downtown Santa Barbara hot spot has been a hit with its dinner and a show

It’s 4:15 p.m. on a Saturday when Rosendo Perez, the general manager of Something’s Fishy at 500 State St. in Santa Barbara, walks through the front door of the popular Japanese restaurant. An hour later, crowds of patrons will begin pouring through the door in steady streams, eager to enjoy the complimentary pyrotechnics display that comes with every meal.

But for now, the calm before the inevitable weekend storm is only disturbed intermittently by short bursts of fire exploding from a flat grill just feet in front of the cheerful faces of a few rapt early birds, who are enjoying dinner and a show. A round of excited “aahs” is heard from a table in the corner, as a group of diners watches flames shoot toward the ceiling from an onion “volcano,” a concentric stack of onion rings into which oil and sake are poured before being ignited, resulting in a veritable geyser of fire and smoke.

It’s just one of the many crowd-pleasing tricks that the restaurant’s chefs spend months practicing before being allowed to cook for customers.

Perez, who was a chef before taking the managerial reigns, said the quality of the show put on by his staff is as important to the continued success of the restaurant as the quality of the food.

“We are celebrating our 20th year in business this year, and we are still the only restaurant in town that serves hibachi style food like this,” Perez said. “A lot of our clientele is college kids, so we try to give them a great show. Thanks to the loyalty of our customers, we’ve been here a long time, and our chefs know how to entertain the guests.”

Watching the chefs’ blades and spatulas arcing and slicing through the air with ease as they prepare fresh seafood, meats and vegetables, it’s hard to imagine that they ever experience any anxiety, despite the fiery distractions they face. But Perez says that sometimes the calm exterior of a newly trained chef may belie some rookie jitters.

“They make it look easy, but I can tell you that it is really tough to cook in front of a bunch of people,” he said. “People get to see everything cooked right there in front of them, so if you make any mistakes, you can’t hide it. At first, it can be scary — it takes a few times to get your hands to stop shaking.”

As local diners will tell you, there is nothing shaky about the food or the service at this downtown hot spot. While Perez does much of the training himself, teaching newcomers the tricks out of his own playbook, he also encourages his chefs to be creative, and to always experiment with new ways to wow the crowd.

For customers who can’t stand the heat, there’s a sushi bar in the middle of the restaurant where guests can order expertly rolled sushi and watch as it’s prepared from fresh ingredients.

After two decades as a staple of Santa Barbara’s downtown dining scene, Something’s Fishy continues to provide show-stopping entertainment and palate-pleasing fare, and Perez says they intend to keep the flat grills hot, the beers cold and the guests coming back for another 20 years.

“It is just such a great, fun atmosphere. It is a perfect place for birthdays, celebrations, or just to bring a date,” Perez said. “It inspires love.”

Noozhawk contributor Kevin McFadden can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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