After doing the Wine Barrel Tasting event all day, my wife and I had dinner last night at Mirepoix in Windsor. This restaurant replaced the critically-acclaimed Mariposa about a year ago, and I have been curious about it ever since. A Google search yielded a couple of positive reviews from the local newspapers, and a query here on Chowhounds got no replies except for one very enthusiastic report from an out-of-state visitor. Looks like not too many people know about the place, and unfortunately Mirepoix has no website. (They told me last night that it is under construction.)
Mirepoix is in a converted house and is quite small; about 8 tables. The decor is muted although there is a liberal use of tiny white-color light bulbs (sort of like they use at Christmas) that create a gently festive atmosphere. However, the lighting is not bright and the room feels quite cozy. If the room gets full, it can get noisy, like it did while we were there (there was a loud party of six who were really enjoying themselves). One corner of the room has a small bar with some stools around it. There are banquettes around the perimeter of the room and tables with chairs in the middle. I sat on the banquette and found it a bit too low and too soft.
Unlike Mariposa, which had some fusion elements, Mirepoix emphasizes fresh ingredients prepared in a California-French style. The menu changes everyday and the dishes are pretty complex layers of different vegetable and meats and are beautifully presented on oversized china.
The menu had only five choices for the main course and one of them (a dish based on diver scallops) was already sold out. This was disappointing since the restaurant had been opened for only an hour when we arrived at 6:30 pm and the place was only half-full at the time. I suspect that the restaurant is being conservative when purchasing expensive must-be-fresh ingredients. I probably can't blame them in these economically uncertain, especially for restaurants, times.
The amuse-bouche was a dollop of what appeared to be pureed mixture of various vegetables topped with some salmon caviar. A tiny dish, it was intensely flavored and just right to wake up the palate.
From the five appetizer choices we picked steak tartare topped with a couple of half-dollar-sized slices of foie gras ($10) and salad greens with goat cheese fritters ($7). The salad dressing on the greens was excellent and the fritters were crusty-firm on the outside and full of redolent, soft goat cheese on the inside. The steak tartare, which is not seen too much these days in restaurants, had a good flavor of high-quality raw beef nicely complemented by the meltingly rich flavor of the foie gras. Good combinations of contrasting flavors and texture.
Since the scallop dish ($20) was already sold out, we had a choice of only four main courses, two of which were steaks. We bypassed the steaks and went with with arctic char ($19) and a pork tenderloin ($18). The char, which is a pink-fleshed sea-trout, tasted of salmon but has a melt-in-your-mouth texture (sort of like a Chilean sea-bass). It came with a combination of mushrooms, lentils and spinach. The pork dish is cooked to order here (quite unusual, for me anyway) and the waitress suggested "medium." Just like she said, it arrived somewhat pink on the inside and was very tasty. It actually reminded me of duck meat cooked rare, although it was moister and softer than duck. It came with a sweet potato puree and some red cabbage. In both dishes, the sides matched well the main ingredient, and like in the apps, there is an attempt to present diverse flavors and textures.
After tasting wine and snacking all day, we skipped the desserts (all $6), although what I saw on adjacent tables looked good.
Mirepoix has two wine lists. The regular one has an assortment of about 30 locally-produced wine between $20 and $40 with a $30 median. About half of these wines are available by the glass. The "library" wine list (it's small, so they jokingly call it "bookmobile") also has about 30 choices of more rare local wines, some in half-bottle size, with a $50 median price.
They also have an unusual corkage policy: no corkage for Sonoma wines, $10 otherwise. They have nice stemware (looked like Spiegelau wine glasses) and decanters that they very willing offer the customers to use. The no-corkage policy is a generous gesture, and I believe it actually stimulates the customers to order more from the food menu. Also, it probably encourages the wine trade people to come in, have some food and taste a bunch of wines without the bother of a fee.
All in all, a very nice experience. The food was very good, the service unobtrusive and competent. I will definitely go back.
275 Windsor Road
Windsor is between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. To get to Mirepoix is easy. Take the Central Windsor exit off 101 and go west about half-mile to the downtown Windsor area. Mirepoix is on the north side of the road.