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Week in Reviews: Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, Alibi Room, 15 in Echo Park, Auntie Em's and MORE

Hungry Cat, 5/8/07

The entire LAT food section went to Santa Barbara this week, so S. Irene Virbila gives her full review to David Lentz and Suzanne Goin's northern outpost of The Hungry Cat. Why check out other restaurants when there's a copy of one of her LA favorites? Eh, why not. We did too. The big difference between the two kitties is the abundance of local seafood on the menu: Fresh Channel Island sea urchin, gold spotted sand bass, whole steamed rock crab. The open kitchen is fun to watch, the "surfer laconic" server mentality apparently has its charm, and fresh-fruit cocktails are a treat. There's only one thing wrong:

GETTING into the Hungry Cat is the problem, since it has a confusing no-reservations policy. If you go at 7 or 7:30, you could easily end up waiting for a table for an hour and a half. Seats at the counter or tables for two seem to be in bigger supply than tables for four. The trick is to go at 5, when the restaurant opens, but if you're not used to dining early, this may not be so appealing. Otherwise, you can call ahead and ask to be put on the waiting list for a table. However, if there are any tables open, you can't get on the waiting list and have to take your chances that one will still be free when you get there.
That's the kind of policy that automatically fills a restaurant: The less chance of getting a table, the more they want it, ergo, the place will always be packed. No stars for the Santa Barbara eatery, unless someone just forgot to program that and the business info online, and who reads print anymore. (But please find it here.) Today the "S." stands for "Sturm und Drang, really?" [LAT]

ELSEWHERE: Giving the new Alibi Room a whirl on opening night; $20 short ribs at 15 in Echo Park; biscuits and gravy at Auntie Em's; just not feeling Abode or Ammo at all; and Matteo's tries in earnest, still feels like a mausoleum.