I first came across Sama Sama when ogling the delightful laid back decadence of their counterparts - lodging mavens, Shelter Social Club. At first I thought, Sama Sama? Hey - that's Indonesian! (I'm Indo) And when I clicked through I was totally transported to my version of heaven. Traditional Indonesian dishes, served in completely new and tantalising ways whilst using as much sustainable & local produce available to them to re-create some of the favourite classics I grew up with. I just HAD to get Maclay (our photographer) out there to check it out...Thanks Ryan & co for having us ! See you soon. 

Tell us the journey of Sama Sama, how the idea was born and into what it is today?

So it started out in Bali, with my friend, Tyler Peek. We were running a small restaurant there for about 2 years, and we finally got a little homesick, so we decided that it was time to move back to the States. In the months coming up to our departure, we had planned to open a small bistro, to serve salads & sandwiches, and we were working on a business plan to get some investors on board. After talking to several members of my family, they seemed like they were interested in going into the restaurant business. My cousins, Kenny Osehan & Chris Sewell, who established Shelter Social Club as the branding of our family businesses, told Tyler & I that there were way to many bistros in Santa Barbara, and that they needed something ethnic to open up in town. What better restaurant to open than an Indonesian restaurant! Tyler and I spent 2 years around the cuisine, and I actually grew up eating it!

Tell us about the association with the Shelter Social Club and what are they about?

Shelter Social Club consists of 4 independently run & owned businesses. It started out as a lodging company, and Sama Sama is the first restaurant in the company. The Ojai Rancho Inn (in Ojai, CA) & The Alamo Inn  (in Los Alamos, CA) are owned by Kenny & Chris, The Hamlet Motel (in Solvang, CA) is owned by Kenny’s Sister, and The Agave Inn (in Santa Barbara, CA) is owned by my mother.

Tell us specifically about the Indonesian heritage and influence and some of the favourite indo dishes on the menu? 

Most of the cuisine on the menu is inspired by Javanese cuisine (I grew up there, for about 17 years), Sumatran Cuisine (where my grandfather is from), Manadonese Cuisine (where my grandmother is from, which is on the island of Celebes), and Balinese cuisine (where Tyler & I lived for a couple years, and where my family vacationed quite often). Favorite dishes are the Chicken Wings (inspired by Ayam Kecap), Lamb Satay with peanut sauce (Sate Kambing), and the Braised Mussels Kuah Asam (“Sour Broth” inspired by my aunt’s recipe).

Tell us about the sustainable & local produce in your cooking – how and why did you come to this practice in your kitchen? 

I can’t say that we use 100% sustainable & local, although we try to where we can. There are some limitations to doing all local when our cuisine isn’t exactly from here. For example we have to get our soy sauce & coconut milk imported from indonesia, and most of our spices are also imported. We try to focus on local & sustainable produce & seafood. Santa Barbara is extremely blessed for its amazing sought-after seafood, and its countless farms in the surrounding area, it’s really not that hard to use local food and support the farmers. Meat on the other hand, we try to focus more on quality than local & sustainable. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. Our area is just not known for producing quality meats (and affordable), so we get most of our meats from the midwest. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this town, but Santa Barbara is a total hipster/hipppie town, everyone wants to know where their food comes from, whether it’s organic or not, etc. Also this town is big on supporting all things local, you can tell that Santa Barbarians go to the local coffee shop French Press, and everyone else will go to Starbucks. It’s the kind of town where other businesses will help other business owners out, and work together in collaborations, etc. I’ve even got some bartering going on with several other restaurants, coffee shops, and even my chiropractor!

Tell us about some of the local providers you obtain you produce from ?

The main farms that we constantly use & work together with is Milliken Family Farm (they just have the most beautiful looking veggies, we usually get our Kale & brocollini for our Gado Gado Salad), Norma’s Sprouts (all things sprouts), Roots Farm (for Rainbow carrots, and other unique veggies), Hers Farm (for the asian veg, like ong choy, lemon basil, bok choy, etc), and several other farms that we constantly cycle through. The greatest thing about building a relationship with these farmers is that not only are they the nicest and coolest people to talk to, but they’re willing to grow the most bizarre veggies for you, whatever you want planted, they’ll do it for you (if the weather permits obviously).

For our meats, like I said, we focus on quality. Our chickens are called Jidori Chickens, which are a japanese variety. They are free range & organic, extremely fresh (delivered day of slaughter), and these are the chickens that the Japanese use for Sashimi (yes, sashimi!), so you can imagine how clean and fresh these chickens are. Another example is our pork products. We use Kurobuta pork, which is the finest heritage berkshire pork you can find, and its delicious.

How do you seasonally & geographically adapt the local ingredients from Santa Barbara into indonesian recipes? Is it difficult? 

Adapting to seasonal ingredients is the easiest and funnest part, you get to be creative and play around with your food. I don’t think it’s too difficult to adapt, as long as the flavor is authentic, the veggies can easily be substituted with other items.

What are some of your favourite adaptions you’ve had to create? 

I don’t really have a favorite adaptation. I guess my favorite part is presenting the food in a different & more appealing way. Most indonesian food is served as a platter of food with rice. This is where we get to be creative and have some fun with changing how the dishes are presented.

Visit Sama Sama & Shelter Social Club:

Photos + interview produced by thebharanieffect - our talented photographer is Maclay Heriot.