A bit of Down Under has made its way to Ventura County.
Outback Steakhouse, the popular restaurant chain with a distinctively Australian theme--kangaroo and koala decor and a menu that welcomes guests with "G'day, mate!"--last week opened its newest establishment, on Lockwood Street in Oxnard.
By way of introduction, Bob Davis, the restaurant's managing partner, would like first to clear up a bit of confusion.
"There's a misconception that this is an Australian restaurant with Australian food," he said. "We have Australian beers and Australian wines, but it's steak-and-potato kind of food."
The restaurant's menu includes a list of Aussie-Tizers that features kookaburra (chicken) wings ($5.95), grilled shrimp on the barbie ($6.95) and Gold Coast coconut shrimp ($6.95).
Entrees include a serving of two 8-ounce pork chops served with cinnamon apples and potato ($12.45); a shrimp saute with mushrooms over fettuccine ($11.95); a 20-ounce Porterhouse steak ($17.95); a 14-ounce rib eye ($15.95); smoked and grilled baby back ribs ($13.95); and a grilled fish of the day ($13.95).
Salads include a barbecue salmon salad served over a hot corn and black bean salsa ($9.75) and an Oriental salad with grilled honey-glazed salmon ($9.45).
Davis, who worked for 12 years with the Sizzler chain, owns the restaurant with three other partners. One of those partners is T-Bird Restaurants Inc., which owns the rights for Outback Steakhouses from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.
Davis said there are plans to open Outbacks in Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara and Encino in 1997.
The 360-plus dinner-house chain was founded nine years ago by three Florida businessmen who took advantage of an upsurge in American fondness for Australia. At the time, Davis said, the America's Cup yachting competition, in which the Aussies are big rivals, was big news in this country.
"And 'Crocodile Dundee' was big here," Davis said. "Everybody was in love with Australia."
Davis said the theme still works and the steak-and-potatoes approach should go over well in west Ventura County.
"When we did the demographics here," he said, "they indicated a lot of steak-and-potato kind of people."
* Outback Steakhouse is at 2301 Lockwood St.
Just because you are hosting a little New Year's Eve dinner party doesn't mean you have to either drink bad champagne or spend a fortune for the good stuff.
Bruce Boring, vice president of the Ventura-based California Wine Club, said there are several affordable champagnes (or sparkling wines) that won't kick off the New Year with a bad aftertaste or dent your savings account.
At the top of Boring's list is the Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, a sparkling white wine that received a Wine Spectator magazine rating of 90.
"A champagne that gets in the 80s is great," Boring said. The Roederer "is an incredible champagne. It's a dry white champagne that will enhance the flavor of your food, not overpower it with a sweet taste."
Roederer's Brut retails for about $17 in stores. Not surprisingly, the California Wine Club featured it for members in October and still has some bottles available for $12.
If that's still a little pricey, Boring said there are cheaper sparkling wines he would be brave enough to drink.
"It gets kind of dicey when you get to the $7 or $8 range. You're not sure what you're going to get," he said. "But Mumm puts out a pretty nice product and Culbertson winery produces a nice champagne called a Brut."
He said Thornton Winery also produces different types of Brut that start at $8.
If that's still too much to spend, prepare to wash down the champagne with an after-dinner mint or two.
"A lot of the more inexpensive [sparkling wines] for $3.99 or $4.99 are sometimes very sweet," Boring said. "You are really looking for a dry champagne that at the same time is fruity to the taste, but nothing sweet or syrupy."