Summer’s Don’t-Miss Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
Jan 2016: The restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern is currently closed. It’s available for events and accommodations, and will reopen the restaurant in Spring 2018.
What started as an experiment in cooking California’s signature fruit quickly became Chef Robbie Wilson‘s signature dish. The Grilled Avocado with Ponzu sauce and fresh wasabi at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos stemmed from Wilson’s love for tempura-fried avocado, and is now the dish that every table wants.
Wilson wanted to do something entirely new with local produce, and dreamed of an avocado dish to be eaten with a fork – something savory and something very California. Grilling it over red oak on the restaurant’s 1889 grill was right in line for this historic landmark. Wilson says the trifecta of smoke, acid and the fruit’s buttery texture is what makes this simple, yet adventurous dish. He only uses Hass avocados from Bliss Family Avocado Ranch in Carpenteria because of their large size and amazing taste – Hass avocados have higher fat content and larger yields. Bliss also grows different varieties that produce fruit year-round, keeping Wilson’s most-popular dish always in-stock and always local.
To grill the avocado, Wilson halves it and scoops out each half, then brushes each side with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure the grill is hot – as hot as possible. Place the halves crater side down on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until they easily release from the grill. Turn them over on their backs for just a minute, then remove and sprinkle again with olive, sale and pepper. Fill each crater with a Ponzu sauce of equal parts soy sauce and acid (rice wine vinegar + citrus juice), nori (seaweed) and garlic. Serve with freshly-grated wasabi. If you can’t find fresh wasabi, Wilson says don’t use the dyed green stuff; instead, use thinly sliced local hot chiles and float in the Ponzu.