Restaurant Review: Paesano’s

Bocci Balls are delicious. If I had eaten a couple of orders of that and had a second Island Girl Martini, I would have walked away thinking the place was divine.

Regretfully, we had the above while we waited for our to-go order: the kids’ meals: mac and cheese (boring, flavorless, odd yellow color) and the pepperoni pizza (small, doughy, meh). My risotto looked and smelled wonderful…tasted like they had salted it once, and then salted it again. I was so disappointed…choked down a couple spoonfuls and then had to run for water. The garlic bread that accompanied the mac and cheese and my risotto was completely lacking the garlic. Which I know they have plenty of, since the Bocci Balls were soaking in the stuff.

I was expecting a lot better for the price…the service was great, the ambiance was fine, the kids felt welcomed, but in the end, the food is what makes you want to return. May try the happy hour at the midtown location (for the Bocci Balls) and give the chain another try.

8519 Bond Rd
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 690-8646

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Review: Seasons 52

Arden Fair Mall.  

Alex Lane, Yelp Community Manager (Sacramento), performed a small miracle there yesterday.  

He was able to get a large group of fun people to attend a Yelp Elite event there.  And managed to do it with his usual understated, classy, effortless panache.

Honestly, that was the only reason I ventured into the area; the promise of another fun event hosted by Alex.  And I stayed because I was pleasantly surprised by the casual elegance of the restaurant, Seasons 52, and its welcoming and attentive staff.  From the servers pouring the drinks, to the ones walking around the appetizers, all of them were uniformly polite, sweet, attentive, and genuinely interested in making our experience memorable and enjoyable.  The patio was beautifully decorated and the glass panels strategically placed along the half wall separating the patio from the sidewalk worked perfectly to keep the traffic noise out and the sounds of the party in.  The heat lamps worked almost too well…I had to move away from under a couple because they were getting uncomfortably warm.  Strategic positioning on my part was all that was needed!

The appetizers were so delicious: I tried the stuffed mushrooms, the chipotle shrimp quesadillas (never-ending supply!), and the artichoke pesto flatbread.  

After the event, we moved into the main dining room and had dinner and dessert.  Tierra and Bryan, our servers, were extremely helpful, explaining the vision behind the restaurant, talking about the meals being under 475 calories each, and pouring tastes of their favorite wines for us.  The desserts were the highlight of my dinner: little works of art displayed in shot glasses…I wanted all of them.  

One small but exquisite touch: after we were seated, Tierra asked us if we wanted black or white napkins.  I have NEVER heard of a restaurant doing this, and I’ve been to some phenomenal ones all over the world.  So impressed.  Why?  Because if you are wearing a dark skirt or dress, as I was, the white linen napkins leave a lint residue on your clothes, and to avoid that, they offer black linen napkins.  

Effortless, and classy.

Count on seeing me again, Seasons 52, and with my posse!

Seasons 52

1689 Arden Way, Ste 1065
Sacramento, CA 95815

Review: The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar

Formerly the Red Lotus, this space is thriving in its current avatar as the Red Rabbit.  I’ve been here for happy hour, a special event (the Sac Social Media event in December 2012), and spent a few hours there tonight with a friend.  Great service on all nights, from the servers to the bartenders.

The restaurant is on a little square, next to Harlow’s and Momo’s, down the street from the Blue Cue, around the corner from the UCD Extension (yes, I have come here after a night class…)  The large windows and the enclosed patio on the sidewalk frame a large open loft/warehouse style space.  The interior has lots of exposed brick, hardwood floors, warm lighting, gorgeous large paintings.   As you walk in, there is booth seating along the wall and high tables off to the right in the bar area along the windows, each seating around 8 people: conducive to happy hour mingling with your neighbors.  The bar itself is enormous, taking up a large footprint of the restaurant, but it is not overwhelming.

There are a few tables in the back and then you can go through the french doors to a private patio where there is an outdoor bar, heated lamps, and additional seating.  Fun in the summer and fall, I’m sure.

On my first visit, upon hearing that I had recently tried whiskey and was a fan, the bartender referred me to the Buck Hunter, a delicious concoction of whiskey, ginger beer, blackberry jam, vanilla bitters and lemon juice.  Two of those about knocked me on my ass.  In a good way.  I’ve tried and love the risotto croquettes, the polenta cakes and the shrimp tacos.  The Ramen (with shrimp) is slurp-worthily delicious!

One of my indicators of a good restaurant is the coffee.  It’s been my general experience that unless a place has an espresso machine, their coffee is subpar to mediocre.  Not the Red Rabbit!  They serve Temple coffee in a french press.  Another delicious win.

Definitely one of my favorite restaurants on the grid.

The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar
2718 J St
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 706-2275

Review: Bidwell Street Bistro

While I’ve been to the Bidwell Street Bistro several times over the past few years, I realized recently that every visit was organized by my dining partners.  The location (strip mall spot in the Target parking lot) has probably contributed to my overlooking it as a desired dining destination when I’m planning… However, yesterday, I used the Yelp app on my iPhone to search for restaurants in the Folsom area and the BSB popped up.  I used the “Make a Reservation” button on the business yelp page, which uses the Open Table reservation feature, and quickly had a 7pm slot for two.

The restaurant is owned by Richard Righton, who also owns Relish Burger Bar (http://www.yelp.com/biz/…) and 36 Handles (http://www.yelp.com/biz/…) in El Dorado Hills, both of which are favorites of mine.

As mentioned earlier, the location is off-putting…but once you are inside, it feels like a Parisian bistro.  The large storefront windows, framed by curtains, and the pretty decor work well to keep your mind off the fact that you are indeed, steps away from mundane shopping and oil changes.  You walk in to an intimate entryway with the hostess booth, plush silk panels separating you from the rest of the restaurant (and protecting the diners from the cold drafts that waft in every time the door is opened…very thoughtful).  The main dining area has 2 and 4 person tables set with white tablecoths, a bar area, and a private dining area off to the right.  We were there on a Tuesday night, and the place was busy…a good sign.

Drinks: We started with Raspberry lemon drops followed by the Renwood Cabernet.

Dinner: We had the cheese plate to start, followed by the Dungeness Crab Cakes with baby green beans, mango salsa, basmati rice and a buerre blanc.  The cheese plate was not memorable, but the crab cakes were another story…roasted, not pan fried, they were light and flakey, and perfectly complemented by the beans and rice.  My friend and I ate every last bite on our plates.

Dessert: Can’t go to a Parisian-themed restaurant and not have dessert…it just won’t do!  I had the Profiteroles (three choux pastries filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with sugared sliced almonds, drizzled with chocolate sauce) and my friend had the Mille Feuille (A napolean: layers of puff pastry, sandwiching Meyer lemon curd and strawberries, topped with whipped cream).  Again, these disappeared quickly, accompanied by groans of sublime bliss.

My mark of a good restaurant: can they make a cappuchino that makes me happy?  My cappuchino was perfect, hot espresso with a good head of froth.

My friend and I spent 2.5 hours there and did not feel rushed through our dinner.  The service was impeccable…the BSB is now in my mental rolodex of restaurants to frequent!

Bidwell Street Bistro
1004 E Bidwell St
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 984-7500

Review: The Rind

What do you do when you find a place that marries excellent service, delightful ambiance, high quality food and drink, and then wraps it all up in the warm glow of welcome?

You go back.  Again and again.

Which is what I did.  I met my friend, Marina, at The Rind last week for a long overdue catchup session, and had a hard time keeping my mind on the conversation (don’t think she noticed…well, the cat’s out of the bag now…sorry Marina!) because I kept looking around, absorbing the decor, the vibes given off by the other happy (they had to be…) customers, and the friendly faces of the owners and servers.  I loved my time there so much, I dragged my SO back there the next night, who loved it as much as I did, if not more so.

The space is small but beautifully decorated by the owners themselves.  Sara designed the graphics on the wall to the right by the (sole) restroom, she designed the cabinetry behind the bar, the sign was lovingly corked by them (you have to see it…it’s a work of art), and a friend took the photos which they framed and put up on the wall to the left of the bar.  The bar itself?  Another work of art…the idea designed again by Sara.  The tabletops are repurposed as well, and the rustic nature lends itself to the homey, eclectic, and welcoming feel of the place.  Steve pointed out the display shelves against the far wall, self-deprecating as he wished he’d done them differently.  As we told him, they looked perfect.

Lots of serendipitous stories came pouring out of the happy couple as they shared their journey from a year ago to today…proud owners of a delightful nook in midtown.  The people they met that helped them, the struggles that were quickly overcome, the pleasure and joy that they feel in creating a space for people to gather, the plans they have for future events.  Our server, Jason, was very knowledgeable about the menu, and made sure to check in on us frequently.  He shared with us how happy he was to work with Sara and Steve, that he’d been so eager for the place to open, he had haunted the location, going so far as to knock on the window when he saw Sara painting the place one day, and telling her he wanted to be a part of the Rind experience.  You know you are in the presence of a special couple…so authentic and sincere, they are magnets to the rest of us.

The menu is appropriately cheese-fillled.  While I expected to see a wide array of cheeses to taste, and wine to accompany them, I didn’t expect to see the variety available for retail sales, as well as the salads, sandwiches, soups and dessert.  While not a big menu, it is surprisingly satisfying in its variety and depth of choice.

We tried the Diving Board and got a bottle of the cabernet/cabernet franc/merlot blend they carried, Ralbridge Lattice. The cheeses we got were delicious…a four year aged Gouda, the Mobiere (with vegetable ash), a delicious cheese that was coated in coffee and infused with lavender, and a couple others whose names escape me.  Steve and my SO spent a good amount of time getting giddy about beer, and talking about the various beers he wants to bring in over time.  While he has 3 taps, he make them count.

Keeping the menu minimal yet satisfying, adds to the boutique-like nature of The Rind.  They have done well in avoiding the obvious mistake of trying to please everybody.  While they are closed on Mondays, their hours are perfect: 11am through midnight, Thursday through Saturday, 11am through 10pm, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The kitchen closes at 9 for prepared foods, but the cheese and wine menu is available until closing (and we experienced that the second night I was there).

As Sara puts it, she wanted to create a space that she could escape to, something that celebrated her passions, and that would give her the ability to share her passions with others.

I think she’s succeeded.

The Rind
1801 L St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 441-7463

Review: Chaatney

Considering I’ve been there three times in the last five days…yes, I believe I’m a fan.

While it has the same owners as Mylapore (in the same plaza)http://www.yelp.com/biz/… , the strategy of owning two vegetarian Indian restaurants in the same plaza works.  How?  Because the cuisine is very different.  Mylapore is traditional South-Indian food while Chaatney is primarily Bombay street food, snack style, quickly prepared, blasts of flavors.

And given that I’m a South Indian from Bombay, this is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me.

The restaurant is small, galley style, bright and airy, with cheerful colors and large abstract paintings on the walls.  The servers are helpful and quick to respond, for the most part.  They need to work on eye contact, they seem so shy, it was hard for me to get their attention when I wanted to order more food or get my check.  The food is beautifully presented (see my pics: http://www.yelp.com/biz_… ) and delicious.  They have hired an award-winning chef and it shows.  I tried the bhel puri, dahi sev puri, pani puri, puri combo, malai kulfi, gulab jamun, and the masala chai.  All hit the spot.  The food is generally served chili-hot, so if you can’t handle the heat, ask for it to be spiced mild.

The little two-seater table immediately to the left by the windows as you walk in is my regular seat…if you are sitting there and you see me come in, I’d appreciate it if you found somewhere else to sit.

Chaatney
1750 Prairie City Rd
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 985-9600

Review: Pre-Opening Event- Capital Dime

Noah Zonca.

Need I say anything more?

The Kitchen will never be the same, now that Noah has followed his dream of starting his own restaurant, the Capital Dime.  One of the power chefs in Sacramento, Noah has created a sparkling new gem in the local dining scene…one that I can’t wait to visit again.

Lucky enough to get invited to the pre-opening last night, my friend Rhonda and I walked up 18th, excited to experience the first taste of one of the more eagerly-anticipated restaurant openings in recent history.  For the past few months, the name and even the owner of the space was under wraps, creating a delicious buzz of mystery.  And last week, when the news splashed across foodie blogs and papers that it was a Noah Zonca endeavor, I hugged myself with giddy anticipation when I realized that the Yelp Elite Event (YEE) that I had just RSVP’ed to was the very same restaurant.

It was one the most well attended YEEs I’ve ever been to.  We got there right at 7pm, and as we were waiting for the pearly gates (appropriately named as such by Michelangelo) to open, I watched as the well-dressed yelpers walked up the steps, happy to see so many familiar faces.  We walked in to see beautifully arranged white-tablecloth-covered tables set for four each dotting the patio, red yelp balloons and the yelp banner providing the decorations, and the wait staff smiling, with trays balancing champagne flutes holding pretty red prosecco cocktails.  We were seated around the patio and the loft area indoors.  The rest of the space was still under construction, but we were able to sneak a look: gorgeously appointed with accessories from Restoration Hardware, dark wood, raised banquette benches by the bar area, I can’t wait to see it when it is done.

The evening progressed beautifully, with the servers bringing various appetizers around to us, and four (yes, four!) cocktails.  My favorite had to be the last one, a sublime concoction of vanilla vodka, milk, and lavender cream.  I would like one of those every night at bedtime, please.  The food was delicious: lemon mousse shrimp and caviar crostini, calamari, watermelon shrimp and mozzarella cheese salad, and sliders with fries.

I had a wonderful time, catching up with my yelp friends and meeting new Elites.  There was a sparkling feel to the moment as I sat there, taking in the sounds of the tinkling glasses, the laughter, the happy conversations, looking around at the fairy lights on the trees around the patio, watching Noah and his crew mingling amongst the guests, excitedly sharing their vision for this place…it was exhilarating to be a part of it all.

Once again, Alex, the Yelp Community Manager, and Yelp hit it out of the park, planning a wonderful event to introduce a new restaurant to the community.  And the Capital Dime showed us how masterful they were at putting on an event even while the bulk of the space was still under construction.  A wonderful experience, overall.

Capital Dime
1801 L St
Sacramento, CA 95811