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Sacramento, CA


Joe H
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Masque is intriguing. I read the review in the Sacremento paper online as well as looked at their website. Specifying violane nano in their risotto was particularly interesting. I spend five or six days a year in Northern CA on business and will try it sometime in the next year. I do like Danko though-a lot. Here, Roberto does a truffle menu at Laboratorio which is an incredible experience. You should try the Lab or Maestro some time. I honestly believe both will compare to Italy's best.

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I feel that it is my duty and mission to move this poor, lingering, lonely, last thread to the very top of the Intrepid Traveler at this ungodly hour (although it is 3 in the afternoon in the Far East), because, gosh-darn-it, someONE has to post about the only really good dim sum place in Sacramento.

And it has its own website (now how many Chinese restaurants can boast that claim?).

New Canton Seafood Restaurant starts dim sum service right at 10:30am on weekdays (10:00am on the weekends) on the second floor. Thus, it was super cool for two toddler-aged boys to press the elevator buttons for my friends (and their daughter + stroller) and I to dine. Filled up with nearby business diners by 11:30am, this place had good variety, but pales in comparison to its Central or Southern California cousins (it is probably apples to oranges comparison, but I digress).

The carts and variety of dim sum are staggered, so arriving early (unlike Mark's Duck House) will *not* score points here; rather it is strategically better to arrive around 11:30am or 12noon for even more variety (by the time we left, the turnip cakes had not come out yet). I think this is where I feel my age, as I just can't really handle dim sum-saltiness/greasiness as I once could. Although the flavors were good and maybe even better than the places I have tried around here, a mega-salt-headache set in by 1pm. Still, this place is worth giving a whirl, especially for its really, super flaky egg tarts.

If you get to spend time in nearby Folsom, like I had, make sure you spend ample lounging time at Karen's Bakery and Cafe. This place was hands-down THE best bakery I have been to in a loooooooooong time and most everything I tried in the baked goods section was a hit (except for the cakes, because they are made more wedding cake-style: dense with very solid, unmovable frosting). The accompanying coffee was more along Peet's beans, where it was a smooth brew, but I do not know who provides their beans, alas.

The hits here are: palmier, chocolate english toffee, honey bran muffin, and royal oatmeal raisin cookie (this one has nuts, though). The only other miss was the lemon bar, and that might have been the hint of something added (maybe lavender?) that threw its flavor off.

The cafe also features freshly-made sides, sandwiches, and features a nice selection of cane sugar sodas, as well as beers.

Finally, a date-night-worthy place (girls' night out, in this case) is the Bidwell Street Bistro. Celebrating its ninth year as a charming place hidden in a strip mall area, Chef Wendi Mentink has done a lovely job maintaining the quality of dishes in presentation and freshness. I couldn't believe that it was asparagus season out here already, but knowing that seasonal items were used, as well as constant menu changes here, was somehow reassuring.

Even more reassuring was the first bite of the Cumin crusted Pork Belly which was tender and not overly meaty in flavor. The accompanying underlying sauteed green lentils stole the show here, with its rich flavors satisfying and marrying the two flavors well together, cutting the fat from the belly.

My friend's Pan roasted Escolar won her over from her weariness of some of the "meatier" white fishes, while I thoroughly enjoyed my Muscovy Duck Confit.

I feel that I somehow should make time to return to this area to explore its hidden food scenes.

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My husband brought back a business card from his recent Western trip that he picked up after a meal at Pita Kitchen Plus Mediterranean Cuisine Bakery and Deli in Sacramento.  It's in an industrial/commercial area near where he returned a rental vehicle.  He loved his lunch of lamb kabobs, tzatziki, rice, salad, and pita, and seemed surprised that the place was so empty.  Since this thread hasn't had a post in three years, I figured I'd give this restaurant a plug.

http://pitakitchenplus.com/

It's got 4* rating from yelpers and offers halal meats and some gluten-free and vegan dishes.

They advertise "healthy food...made from scratch...all natural... no additives or preservatives."

I have no idea how close this (2989 Arden Way) is to anyplace else where people might congregate in Sacramento, but it's open 7 days and offers carry-out as well.

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California Kabob Restaurant is generically named, small, and located in an unremarkable strip mall, but the staff are welcoming and food is very good. I tried the chicken and ground beef kabobs and both were juicy and flavorful. I can't remember whether the bread is house-made but it's pita bread and they grill it till warm. The hummus was a little flat but the rice was fluffy. They grill to order so it takes a few minutes but keeping that in mind (ugh, gripy online people!) it's a solid spot for lunch and takeout.

Oz Korean BBQ  is perfectly acceptable if you're in the area and in the mood for KBBQ. The KBBQ is AYCE for about $21 and includes a few appetizers (potstickers and chili wings were meh) and all the pan chan (decent assortment but nothing memorable). The meat is pretty limited - galbi and bulgogi and such, without any of the more challenging or interesting cuts, and my favorite was the garlic pork belly (the only pork belly option). You can also order a few things from the menu if you're looking for bibimbap or soon du boo, so that is nice. I know this sounds damning with faint praise, but really, service was attentive and it was a good place to eat dinner with my (Caucasian, male, somewhat food- and politically-conservative ) coworkers and still enjoy my meal.

Little Buddha Thai Bistro is technically in Rancho Cordova and was recommended by a local - when we arrived the lunch crowd was packing it in. I think it's good enough, but in general our food was on the sweet side  My spring rolls and rad na were fine but uninspiring.

Buckhorn Grill is a chain, but a decent one if you're craving some meat. We got a round of the tri-tip and were pretty satisfied (quite tender, cooked correctly). Again, it's a good place to take hungry, somewhat picky guys. They have a takeout line as well, which is nice for packing out a big dinner.

Heh, reading this over my trip to Sac was pretty decent but not at all exciting. With the exception of the kabob place, none of these are restaurants I'd seek out again (though I would eat at all if I happened to be in the area). I looked but couldn't find restaurants with much potential where I was going, and had to contend with coworkers (I don't try to bully them into my picks unless I think a place is going to be exceptional). I'll be in the Sacramento environs at least one more time this year, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know!!!

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I went to the most wonderful Brewery in Sacramento this week - based on the surprisingly bleak restaurant situation in this California capital city, it's a must-visit for anyone in Sacramento wanting good food and drink, even though the only thing they serve to eat is metal buckets full of peanuts: Ruhstaller Tap Room.

In the town of Dixon, California, about twenty miles west of Sacramento (you'll pass through it if you're coming from San Francisco or Napa), there's another Ruhstaller outlet - Ruhstaller Farm and Yard - that's supposedly even more interesting; however, it was closed this week by the Solano County government, and I didn't get a chance to go. Here's an interesting article about it:

"Ruhstaller Blames Bureaucracy for Solano County Shutting Down Farm" by Steve Large on sacramento.cbslocal.com

The Ruhstaller Tap Room in downtown Sacramento is Ruhstaller's R&D Brewery, but they also have a speakeasy-style drinking hall in the form of an underground WWI bunker. I know that sounds odd, so I took a couple of pictures to show people what I mean:

Ruhstaller1.JPG Ruhstaller2.JPG

They've been around for awhile, too, as evidenced by their Pacific Coast League team photo from around 1900:

RuhstallerBaseball.JPG <--- If you want some more information about the 1900 Sacramento Gilt Edge, click here.

A few days before, at the glorious Fremont Diner in Sonoma, our server urged us to hit up the Ruhstaller Farm and Yard in Dixon, but since it was closed, we tried the Ruhstaller Tap Room instead, and even though we just had a couple of beers, I'm *so* glad we went - the place is simultaneously grungy (the bartender handed me a bar towel, and I wiped down my own dirty table) and wonderful - it reminds me of Pupatella Pizza, set in an underground bunker.

Like I had at Fremont Diner, I got a draft of 1881 Sacramento Red Ale, which was absolutely wonderful, but then I got a couple pints of their beer-engine selection, the CAPT Black IPA, and it put everything about the 1881 Sacramento Red Ale into perspective, being superior in every way, in no small part due to being served from the engine. My goodness, this was about as good as beer can get, and it was the most enjoyable glass of beer I've had in memory.

Then, when you emerge from the bunker, you see things like this:

RuhstallerOutside.JPG

And then riding off into the sunset, exiting Sacramento:

SacramentoExit.jpg

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I should also mention that last summer, while visiting the astonishing State Capitol building (and yes, there's a painting of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger up there), I had lunch at what is supposedly "the best restaurant in Sacramento," and which simply isn't (or, if it is, that's pretty darned lame): Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar is rated #1 in Trip Advisor, and is a slick, two-story, jazzed-up factory right in the heart of downtown. Don't believe what you read on Trip Advisor: This place is, at best, mediocre, and quite frankly, that's being kind. 

For dinner the night we went to Ruhstaller, we simply got In-n-Out carryout on the way home and watched Jean de FloretteIt was either that, or The Waterboy - it was Memorial Day Weekend, and many things were closed - and we opted for the tried and true.

Incidentally, a restaurant called The Kitchen is the only James Beard nominee I can find that's in Sacramento, having been long-listed in 2012 - just looking at pictures, there can be *no doubt* that this is night-and-day superior to Mikuni, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if this was, truly, the best restaurant in Sacramento (the chef is apparently quite the showman).

PS - Look what I found driving into Sacramento from the west.

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Three dinners in Sacramento this week, plus a few other things.1st, a quick solo dinner at Osaka Sushi was fine. The pepperfin white tuna was an okay starter, albacore sashimi sliced a bit too thickly served with ponzu and jalapeños. The Katsu-don was good, albeit too large, with the cutlet being much bigger than necessary. 

A group dinner at Il Fornaio was just fine. the Italian caesar was a very large salad, but the dressing was very nice and the shaved parmesan ample and enjoyable. The penne con salsiccio was good, but nothing spectacular. The restaurant is very large, with a number of private rooms and semi-private booths.

Finally, a dinner at Ella dining room and bar was the clear highlight. The house special gin and tonic was one of the better G&Ts I've had in recent memory; I'm typically more than happy with a nice gin, a nice tonic and some ice, but this complicated version was really impressive. The wine card was equally impressive and deep, as should be expected, in California, with lots of wines with vintages going back into the 70s (and prices going up in to mid triple digits). The steak tartare I had was very good, served with a large split open garlic popover (of which I would have happily eaten another). The scallop entree was really great, three perfectly seared scallops on a very fresh corn/mascarpone "chutney". It might sound a bit strange, but it really worked. Service was good and dealt with our slightly tight schedule very well. I'd happily go back to explore the menu and the wine list further.

Coffee at Oblivion Comics and Coffee was really, really good. They use Chocolate Fish roasters, and do a great job. Small coffee shop with a comic book store (as implied by the name), and a fun place to hang out (or even work for a little bit). Grace Coffee Roasters made a top notch cappuccino as well--this small shop in a nondescript office building was a nice surprise; it doesn't look like much but they make a good coffee. Dumplings at Hao Bao were also good--these fast food-style dumplings are flavorful and satisfying.

 

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