Sly's Seafood, Steaks, Cocktails

Steak, Seafood, Cocktails

Sly’s closing in Carpinteria (August 8, 2018)

James and Anny Sly are closing their Carpinteria restaurant after 10 years in business.

Carpinteria icon Sly’s Seafood and Steakhouse will bid its customers farewell on September 23 due to the sale of the building.

Located on Linden Avenue just a leisurely stroll from Carpinteria State Beach, the restaurant’s vintage-racing inspired decor compliments Chef James Sly’s playful blend of California casual and white tablecloth fine dining.

Mr. Sly, his wife and co-owner Annie Sly and their staff have been serving up a staggeringly vast menu of classic French staples and selections from the chef’s favorite San Francisco restaurants since 2008, just before the economic downturn. Sly’s celebrates its 10th anniversary today.

“We had a hugely busy August,” recalled Mr. Sly of the restaurant’s challenging first year.

“Then the economic downturn occurred in September and it was three or four years before we ever did that volume again.”

Mr. Sly said he opened the restaurant on the heels of his departure from Lucky’s Steakhouse in Montecito in June 2007.

“I was 57 years old at that time, 10 years younger, and nobody wanted to hire an old chef. We looked and looked and did not find any jobs that were the least bit interesting.”

He said that he was drawn to the Linden Avenue location after spotting a number of exotic cars along the street. He knew then that there was a market for a fine dining experience in Carpinteria and says customers now come from Ojai, Montecito, Thousand Oaks and beyond.

Mr. Sly spent four years at El Encanto starting in 1989, then worked as a personal chef in Montecito until he helped launch Lucky’s in 1999. His 50-year cooking career includes education at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, the Hotel Paris in Monte Carlo and tutelage under Michel Guèrard at Règine’s in both Paris and New York.

Mr. Sly’s vision for his restaurant was modeled after 100-year-old San Francisco restaurants Tadich Grill, John’s Grill and Sam’s Grill.

Those restaurants used Douglas Fir throughout and Sly’s has done the same in its bar and dining room, using wood recycled from Ryan Aircraft Factory in San Diego.

Char-grilled USDA prime steaks, aged in house and simply seasoned with salt and pepper, are at the heart of the menu, and unlike some of his contemporaries, Mr. Sly boasts he is happy to serve a juicy “well done” steak for anyone who asks.

The kitchen sports a modified grill hot enough to produce the perfect “charred-rare” steak served with one of seven sauce options from creamy Béarnaise to red wine and shallots.

The restaurant’s seafood features some of the freshest lobster and abalone available and the source of the oysters is posted daily on the baby blue Vespa mounted above the bar.

Mr. Sly explained that the inspiration for one of his signature seafood dishes, came during a 1990 conversation with the famous chef, author and television personality Julia Child.

“I remember I sat on the terrace of the El Encanto with Julia Child and her husband Paul and she said, ‘What this town really needs is a restaurant with a great Dover sole meunière,’ and that’s why we have it on the menu,” said Mr. Sly. His restaurant makes theater of the meal by boning the fish at the guest’s table.

Among what Mr. Sly calls his “tired old favorites” are his burgers, spaghetti carbonara, pasta with smoky bacon, onions, cream and eggs that’ll leave you in need of a good nap, and sliced potatoes with a nearly excessive amount of melted Gruyère cheese.

The bread, too, is made from scratch and Mr. Sly estimates he’s sold half a million of his crowd-pleasing rye raisin rolls, all made by hand.

“If something is a classic or if something is a particular thing … that’s how he wants to make it. He doesn’t want to put his own accent on it if he doesn’t need to change it,” said Mrs. Sly. Her husband likened his fidelity to classic recipes to an originalist Supreme Court justice.

But change, unfortunately, is coming for Sly’s as the end of its lease draws near. Mr. Sly says the restaurant’s building has been sold to Los Angeles restaurateur Warner Ebbink.

“It was truly a joy to have our business in this town where we live and to be a part of the community in the way we’ve been accepted,” said Mrs. Sly, who admitted she will miss her staff and the regular customers, some of whom have started families or grown up before her eyes.

“It’s amazing when it all works well, when you do all those dinners and everything is right and you have enough bread and you have enough desserts, there’s nothing better than that” added Mr. Sly.

The Slys say they have no plans to open another restaurant and Mr. Sly confirmed that aside from some consulting work he is ready to retire from the kitchen at the end of September.

For the hundreds of locals who’ll miss their neighborhood hangout, there’s still a little time left to enjoy dinner at Sly’s and, perhaps during a busy dinner service, spot an incognito celebrity or hear the chef ring his signature Vespa horn from the kitchen.

Source: Paul Gonzalez, Santa Barbara News-Press
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