A Three-Course Meal at Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Restaurant Caruso’s

Ocean view from the dining room of Caruso's (courtesy)

The scent of sea salt, the sound of waves gently crashing, and the feeling of the warm sun lightly kissing your skin as it begins its descent over the sea. The delights of nature are omnipresent in Santa Barbara, but at Caruso’s, the Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Michelin-starred oceanfront restaurant, they play a starring role in creating the ambiance that ushers in a night of true sensory indulgence.

And now in honor of their five-year anniversary and recent 2024 Forbes Five Star Award, the Southern Italian/Coastal Californian restaurant is offering their popular prix-fixe dinner option in a three-course format. Guests can choose three out of the four courses from antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci.

My date and I decided to skip the dolci and lean into the savory, but before I even get to the antipasti, the Caruso’s experience truly does begin with the appetizer of nature. Walking through the beautiful white rose studded Miramar grounds, across the train tracks, and down to the sprawling beachside patio just steps up from the sand, worries seem to melt into the background as the sea breeze softly sweeps them away.

The warm welcome continues with the impeccable hospitality professionals who keep things singing from the host stand to the bar. The servers here seem as happy to be there as you are (well, almost!), and their demeanor strikes that perfect balance of upscale elegance without feeling pretentious or stuffy. It’s not every day you ask your server to pull up a seat on a romantic night out, but that’s exactly what I felt like asking Jillian to do as she continued to charm us throughout the night –  patiently talking me through nearly all the course options, answering my queries about the meaning of the word “veuve” as she helped me select their delicious house champagne to start the evening, and somehow seeming just as excited as we were about each dish as it was presented.

Italian Sparkling wine, strawberry puree, and amuse bouche of strawberry gazpacho (Photo: Rebecca Horrigan)

As soon as we sat down, we were greeted with a bright, seasonal welcome drink of fresh strawberry puree and Italian Sparkling wine. The summer vibes continued with a lovely little amuse bouche of strawberry gazpacho, complete with creamy mascarpone and a zippy peppercorn and strawberry puree dotted with ancient grains. The wine list is lengthy and impressive highlighting both local and European options. My date chose a crisp and zippy Chardonnay from Santa Ynez favorites, The Hilt.

With our palates perked, we were primed for our antipasti. When I ordered Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, I expected to see a few big shrimp on my plate, but my expectations were quickly re-routed when a wreath of delicately-chiseled prawns appeared on my plate forming a halo around an umami-rich romesco sauce, lovingly-laced with bits of artichoke and fennel salad.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns (Photo: Rebecca Horrigan)

At Caruso’s the lines between food and art aren’t just blurred, they’re nonexistent – just in the way a spectacular painting can cause you to see things from a new perspective, each dish that came out caused me to tilt my head and look at the meal anew. And don’t worry, no flavors were sacrificed in the making of these aesthetic creations, only enhanced. I licked up every ounce of that tasty romesco sauce and could not believe how tender those sweet little prawns could be.

Whatever you do, be sure to order the Bread Service. For all the complexity of the meal, there’s also a simplicity to Chef Massimo Falsini’s cooking that is perhaps best exemplified in his bread. Stemming from a 30-day starter he’s been feeding for years and served with both a dulse (red algae) butter and green garlic butter, Chef’s bread is made with Tehachapi heritage grains, and tastes just like good bread should, like a warm, sustaining hug (especially when liberally drizzled in their local olive oil).

Chef Massimo
Chef Massimo Falsini (courtesy)

If you want a taste of the ocean without having to dive too deep yourself, order the dulse gnocchetti ai frutti di mare for your primi. Its presentation even looks as if you’ve uncovered a treasure chest at the seafloor. Bright green dumpling-like pasta is swirled together with Sea Stephanie Fish’s golden uni, chunks of abalone, Cardinal Prawns and a briny Hope Ranch Broth.

(Photo: Rebecca Horrigan)

It’s hard to cook halibut just right, but Chef Massimo’s knocks it out of the park. For my secondi and favorite dish of the night, perfectly tender Channel Islands halibut is nestled beside a beautiful pea soubise with snap peas and black trumpets.

Although I was full, I savored every morsel of this gift from the sea. Of course there are plenty of options for land lovers and vegetarians on the menu as well. For my next visit, I have my sights set on the Dry River Farm Dry Aged NY Strip Loin.

Halibut (Photo: Rebecca Horrigan)

But for that night, I was at one with the water, so much so that I was inspired to wander down to dip my toes in at the end of the night. Waiting at the shore, the tide seemed to back away, slowly saying goodbye, but just when I walked forward to try and chase it down, a wave flew towards me with a vengeance, nearly soaking me up to my knees. I squealed in delight looking at my now-sand-sprinkled toes nestled in my wet heels.

The moment was a lot like experiencing Chef Massimo’s cooking, reveling in surprise, feeling at one with the season, with nature, with a taste of summer, and welcoming it all with fresh eyes, and a good appetite.

Rebecca Horrigan

Written by Rebecca Horrigan

Rebecca is a teacher, writer, and lover of food & wine. She enjoys sharing her travel experiences with the Santa Barbara community.

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  1. What do I think about the dreamy three course prix fixe dinner at Caruso’s lovingly described in this article? My reaction is that it is definitely not worthy of publishing since the vast majority of your readers could never afford to pay $165 per person (before taxes and tip) for such a meal. In fact I find it offensive.

    • I find that odd. Do you want an embargo on all information related to people spending money on things that other people might not be able to afford?

      Personally, I’m not interested in that meal and I find the service at the Rosewood to be really mediocre and the experience to be not worth the money.

      If someone spends a vast amount of money on something that I can’t afford I’m okay hearing about it.

    • Then don’t eat there. No need to yuck someone’s yum. Personally I’d prefer to go someplace nice like this for a special night over the Chicken Ranch, but that’s my preference and I won’t judge you for enjoying Taco Bell or whatever you choose to spend your money on.

    • Lofl. If reviews of expensive restaurants “offend” so acutely I assume that the Independent, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, etc., are to be avoided due to their baked in “offensiveness” of their reviews. All ridiculousness aside, even people who don’t have lots of money sometimes attend very expensive high quality restaurants for a special occasion, even if they can’t afford it all the time, or can only afford it once their entire life. Reviews like this, gratuitous as they may be give the reader a decent idea of what to expect and can be helpful in making a decision. I hope other grievances aren’t standing in the way of other pleasures. Personally reviews generally don’t cut a mountain of caca with me since I like Del Taco but the wife and kids consider Honor Bar low grade to the point that I drop the kids at the Collection instead of DTSB some Saturdays and then hit Del Taco on Gonzales before heading back and picking the little money grubbers up (after waiting another 3 hours in the parking lot and speculating about Oxnard guys talking to my daughters).

  2. I may not be able to afford to eat there but I certainly enjoyed the pics and the descriptions. Being offended by others’ ability to enjoy finer things in life is a sure way to manifest that you will never experience them!
    I am happy for people to dine there; keeps the staff and chef in business.

  3. Sounds like someone REALLY enjoyed their meal. That’s great. I think it’s pretty cool that she can describe it so eloquently. Dining at this level is more of an experience than a meal, I think. If that’s something you like, do it!

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