Topa Topa Brewery
345 E. Ojai Ave.
Having spent a couple of weeks in Bali to celebrate my 30th birthday, I developed an affinity for the complex palate of Indonesian cuisine. The combination of multiple exotic spices creates a cross-pattern of flavor that is unique to the vast collection of islands. I was seduced by these amalgamations, and found myself longing for them well after I ventured back to the states. The only issue was that, for as many other Asian food factions that are readily accessible, Indonesian seems to be mostly unaccounted for.
So one can imagine the excitement I felt when local beer ambassador Topa Topa Brewing decided to couple with Santa Barbara staple Sama Sama for a downtown Ojai location.
Situated on the corner of Ojai Avenue and Montgomery Street, the new headquarters for hops is as buzzing as the patrons who pack in to the brilliantly designed open floor plan. Settling on an indoor/outdoor layout, the roll-up garage door front walls invite sun or shade options, depending on what customers are in the mood for. As well, those familiar with Topa Topa’s flagship brewery/taproom in Ventura (or the other location in Santa Barbara) will be relieved to know that the new digs offer the same bountiful variety of beer. The inclusion of Sama Sama, however — which has a cleverly similar name structure — is where the Ojai location stands apart from its predecessors, incorporating flavor pairings of food and drink.
I began my experience by ordering the well-known Chief’s Peak IPA, which was serendipitously accompanied by a view of the actual Chief’s Peak mountain overlooking the idyllic valley town. The bright overtones of the IPA called for a dish of similar personality, so I chose to start with the crispy Brussels sprouts and the “Crack” Wings. The former had an initial burst of sweet due to the pieces of dates and caramel fish sauce, though that sentiment was balanced out quickly via the pleasantly sour pickled onions and ribbons of fresh mint. Toasted almonds added a hearty texture to complete the dish. The tandoori-glazed free-range wings had a similar flavor introduction of sweet, but rapidly shifted to reflect the spicy pepper presence. The inclusion of fresh cilantro, micro greens and a lime wedge amplified the authenticity of Indonesian flair.
Finishing both plates and my beer simultaneously, I decided to branch out and ordered a Saison, which was both smooth and velvety. Aiming to match the richness of the beer, I ordered the crispy rice salad and the ever popular chicken and waffles. I find crispy rice to be delicious when executed correctly, which is not as common as one may think. Thankfully this was the case here, as the rice retained enough crunch without a cracking-of-crowns effect. Additionally, the salad boasted pork sausage, pickled cucumbers, and a medley of fresh herbs and was topped off with a fried egg, which is a staple supplement to many Indonesian meals.
The chicken and waffles, while being a trendy menu offering, was intriguing due to the Asian-fusion spin. This was most present on the seasoned coating of the crispy chicken thigh, which was rich and juicy. The waffle was adequately standard, with the exception of the ginger butter, which I couldn’t slather on enough of. It was the highlight of the dish for my palate.
In addition, several other menu items looked first rate, such as the pork spare ribs, catfish po’ boy and pork sausage bahn mi. Seasonal specials are also available for those looking to adventurously stray from the ordinary.
Topa Topa also offers an eclectic variety of live music throughout the week, in addition to some righteous swag. It is a family-friendly environment as well, which only enhances the vibe of casual comfort.