A co-worker and I are working in Visalia this week and had dinner at Acequia on Main St. in Downtown Vislia last night. Wow. What a nice experience. Very good food, comfortable, modern, artsy atmosphere, and live sax music. What more could you ask for?
We walked past all of the restaurants on this particular block, Cafe 225, some old school Italian, and Fugazzi's (sp?). There are quite a few to choose from. We decided on Acequia on Main because of their wine display and we wanted a good glass of wine. When we walked in I was a little weary because we were the only people in the place, but it was early, maybe 5:30.
When we entered, the open kitchen was directly to our left. We briefly spoke to the chef and his assistant. They were affable and ready to go to work.
We were seated along the wall and the waitress suggested a red wine for us. She had an open bottle and she poured us a taste before buying a bootle. It seemed past its prime and a little warm (stored to close to the kitchen?). We declined that and settled on the only tempranillio on the wine list. A great choice. All the wines are from local vineyards. I highly recommend the tempranillio, this was a lovely and accessible wine with a slightly unique character.
The whole concept of the restaurant is central valley cuisine, as a matter of fact I think that is their subtitle; Acequia on Main, Central Valley Cuisine or something like that.
The artwork is all from local artists and is "of the valley". The food is locally grown (when possible) and seasonal which provided a real sense of "place" to the restaurant and differentiates it from any other restaurant we've eaten at this week.
We started with the cheese plate appetizer, an Andre triple cream, a "drunken goat", and a blue. I can't remember who made the blue but it was creamy and mild and really a standout. The plate was drizzled with local honey.
We ordered a caesar salad and butternut squash soup. My friend pronounced the caesar one of the best shes had and I could taste just a hint of anchovy and lemon in the dressing. Not overpowering anchovy at all and it was accented beautifully with the lemon.
The butternut squash soup was fair, probably the least interesting of the dishes we tried. Almost like thin pumpkin pie.
I ordered the rack of lamb which came with perfectly prepared vegetables; No too crunchy, not too limp, and quite tasty. Not like bland supermarket vegetables at all. This also came with grilled polenta. Now, normally polenta doesn't taste like anything to me. It's a bland foil for a sauce or general "filler food". This on the other hand was actually delicious! I told the waitress that it was the best polenta I've ever had and I meant it. It was slightly corny, had a good toothy texture, and was properly seasoned. If I had any complaint with this meal it's that the rack of lamb (which was separated into 4 chops when served)were/was pretty small, but then the last time I ordered lamb chops they were the same size. I'm no lamb chop expert so I don't know if they are always this small, or if it depends on which of the ribs they choose, or whatever. It was perfectly prepared though, medium rare.
My co-worker had the smoked chicken ravioi special. To be quite honest I didn't have any of it and I don't recall her saying anything about them so I have no comment on them.
All this lovely cental valley goodness set against a backdrop of Miles Davis and John Coltrane sax music provided by a young man probably just out of high school or looking as such.
By the time we were leaving a couple of hours later the place was about 2/3rds full and there was a really good energy in the room. As we were walking past the kitchen on the way out the chef stopped and leaned over the counter to shake our hand and thank us for coming. He seemed really sincere and I wished him success. All in all it was a sophisticated experience and one I would gladly entertain again. I highly recommend Acequia on Main.