Restaurants & Bars

Dinner at Syrah in Santa Rosa - A Review (long)

woo! | Jan 18, 200501:40 PM     11

Had a meeting up in Marin County, just north of San Francisco last week, and since I was up there for a couple of days, decided to spend the night in Sonoma county before heading into the city for more meetings and then back home. Ate some great food. First night of the trip was in Santa Rosa, so I ate at a restaurant called Syrah.

Just a note, before going to Syrah for dinner made a quick trip to visit the folks at Ramey Wines in Headsburg. I’m a HUGE fan of David Ramey’s wine… I’ve been drinking his stuff for quite a while (Dominus, Rudd, Ramey…) and ever since he started using the totally amazing Jericho Canyon fruit… wow. His stuff is fantastic, and the folks at Ramey could not have been nicer.

Back to dinner.

Went to Syrah solo. They have a small (four seat) counter area that fronts the kitchen. Right up my alley. Sat down and the chef/owner (Josh Silvers) immediately starts up a conversation and he seems like a great guy. I ask him if they are cool with a tasting menu and they say yes. Happiness. I push my luck and ask him if he wants to have a little fun… can I just order a bottle or two of wine and can he just give me 5, 6, 7 courses that might work with the wine… whatever he wants. He smiles and says no problem. Really happy now. Kitchen staff seems happy with the potential too. Now I’m really looking forward to dinner…

Just a note, I really didn’t take great notes, so the descriptions are a bit sparse. Apologies.

Here is what I ate and drank…

Amuse – Lobster Bisque topped with crème fraiche, served in a small demitasse cup. Wow. Great start. This bisque was so rich and good. Clearly made excellent stock and spends effort in making the bisque. You can taste the love.

Course 1 – Ahi Carpaccio with some micro greens and herbs. Really fresh ahi. Served simply and well. Great ingredient served simply is always good.

Course 2 – Scallop (I think it was a day boat scallop, very fresh) seared on a bed of brussel sprout leaves on top of a vanilla ginger sauce, all topped with a single fried quail egg. GREAT dish. Seriously. I love it when a chef does contrasting flavors with textures and blends them like this. The slight bitterness of the brussell sprout leaves with the sweetness of the sauce and scallop, topped with the richness of a quail egg. Very well done.

Course 3 – Crab Risotto. VERY good risotto. Perfectly done. How come more places can’t cook risotto right? It really isn’t that hard. They had it perfect. Crab on top. Again, simple dish, good ingredients, didn’t let anything get in the way. So far, so great.

Course 4 - Duck “Two Ways” – Seared Liberty Farm Duck Breast and Seared Foie Gras. Served with lentils. OK. I LOVE DUCK, and I LOVE FOIE GRAS. I know it’s politically incorrect and the PETA people will probably one day fire-bomb my house. That’s OK. I just recently joined PETA myself (People Eating Tasty Animals) – I’m sorry, I know, I just had to say it. OK, I’ll shut up about that subject now. This was a great dish. The earthiness of the lentils and duck along with silky smooth richness of the foie gras. Come on. How can you beat it? Really awesome.

Course 5 – Venison with red cabbage and cipollini onions. Chef Josh described the cabbage as “my grandmother’s”. Really great comfort type food. I love venison. It was done just right and the tartness of the cabbage and sweetness of the seared, slightly carmelized onions with the smooth gamey meatiness of the venison was really great.

Course 6 – Kobe/Wagyu (Idaho) Short Rib with mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Wow, this was some really righteously rich tasting beef. Again top notch ingredients shine through with classic accompaniments and nothing to get in the way. A GREAT meat course. Loved it. Really rich, and delicious.

Cheese – They served a trio of cheeses. I didn’t write any down, but one was a triple cream, and their cheese service is definitely done right. Honey, nuts, good bread. Highly appreciated. How can you have a world class meal without a good cheese course? Answer – You can’t.

Dessert – A trio of desserts – Arborio Rice Pudding, Triple Scoops of Ice Cream (mint, chocolate, vanilla), Small Empanada stuffed with Granny Smith Apples and Marscapone served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Lot’s of dessert. Lot’s of really good dessert. Gotta say I was pretty full by this time, but didn’t stop me from eating almost everything. By the way, the Rice Pudding was awesome!


2003 Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc (half bottle)
2001 Turley Petite Syrah – Hayne Vineyard
Inniskillin Ice Wine (glass, forget the vintage/provenance – for the foie gras)

An excellent meal. Sitting at the counter as a lone diner was great. Really interacted with the kitchen well, and Chef Josh ended up serving me most of my courses and explaining the dishes. Pretty cool. At the end of the meal, I found out that he normally doesn’t stay that late on a weeknight when the place isn’t jumping… it was a Thursday in cold weather so the restaurant was probably half full? He stuck around just to finish cooking for me. WOW. I was so impressed that he would do that. I’m not in the restaurant business, never been there before, and never met Chef Josh before so I thought that was amazingly cool. The service was top notch, and I really enjoyed the meal.

Great meal, great restaurant, great service. It’s too bad I live way down in SoCal and can’t go there every week. Everyone should check this place out.

Link: http://lizardhips.blogspot.com/

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