We went to Slocum House on Tuesday to celebrate a special ocassion. After reading various reviews (citysearch, sacmag, sacbee, etc), I was a little hesitant to go, because editors highly recommended the place, while the "common folks" called it overrated with poor or declining service. I also read many comments calling Slocum House, "Slow"-cum House. I dismissed these comments because when one goes to a "nice,fancy" restaurant you expect 2+ hour long dinners and not the fast in/out service that reflects our busy, always-rush society.
Anyways... disregard that social commentary :-) ... Let's get back to the review. Based on my first experience, I would recommend going, particularly for special ocassions (dates, mother's day, birthday, etc). The service, atmosphere, and food were quite good.
The waitress seemed knowlegable about the food and the wine. She was very friendly and attended to our table quickly. But then again a 6pm dinner reseveration helps, because the restaurant was on the empty-side. I can see how this place might have poorer service if the restaurant gets more crowded, as that happen to be the case as the evening progressed.
The Slocum House is suppose to be known for its be history and beauty. Some background, the restaurant resides in an old house built around 1912 by the Slocum family. After their death, the house was converted to an art studio and finally the restaurant it is today. Other than that it's just an old house with lots of windows and mirrors. The decor isn't very fancy and actually feels to me more like going to grandma's house rather than some fancy restaurant. It has a very homestead feel, reminding me of places like deux cheminees (http://www.deuxcheminees.com/, which resides in a philly apartment) and some restaurants in France. Definitely a rustic feel. I wouldn't be walking in with my cowboy hats and jeans though (unless your from Texas :])! Although the atmosphere is not grandiose and extravagant, don't be fooled thinking your meal won't be extravagant.
For the price you pay, one does expect an extravagant meal. Unfortunately I was not blown away with any one entree, but overall I think the place meets my expectations. The quality of the food was excellent while the large quantity surprised me!
Before describing the food, first, for some odd reason I read many reviews classifying the food as French. Yes, there is heavy French influence in the entrees, but I would not classify Slocum House as a French restaurant. Their dishes are more like a neo-modern-fusion-American-Asian-French blend. I hoped that description captured the cusine that I sampled. It's basically traditional American or Asian or French ingredients prepared with the flair of French stylings (sauces, presentation) and cooking methodologies.
To get an idea of what I mean, we had the following
(descriptions taken from the menu):
(1) Crispy Thai Calamari ==> Baby Calamari Dipped in Coconut Milk and Fried Crispy Served on a Bed of Asian Slaw with a Sweet Chile and Ginger Dipping Sauce
(2) Blue Nose Sea Bass and Black Tiger Prawns ==> Sautéed and Served with a Red Thai Curry Sauce Asian Greens and Black Forbidden Rice
(3) Roulade of Pacific Wild Salmon, Oregon Bay Shrimp and Fresh Dungeness Crab ==> Roasted Filet of Salmon Stuffed and Rolled with Dungeness Crab, Bay Shrimp
and Fines Herbs Served with Lemon-Jasmine Rice Cake and Sauce Nantua
(4) Butter nut squash soup with a hint of chile
(5) Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée ==> Cool Creamy Custard Topped with a Crunchy Layer of Caramel and
Finished with Fresh Berries
Does reading the entrees make your mouth savor? It made mine after reading the menu! If you noticed, we were in a seafood mood :-). So I can't comment on the steaks for all you meat lovers out there. I hope reading the description give you Chowhounders more of an idea of what I meant by the cusine.
The calamari appetizer was very good. It's on the lighty breaded side with little oily taste. unfortunately, it's also missing that extra crispy texture which I like in my calamari. The sauce was excellent, creamy texture with a hint of chile and ginger.
The current menu is heavy on the chile/ginger accents, as was evident by our butternut squash soup (with chile). I love butternut squash soup and cook this often at home, and so I was a little disappointed with it, because it was lukewarm. The favor was great though.
Our entrees were the sea bass and the wild salmon/crab. The presentations were beautifully done.
My sea bass was excellent, and again the sauce was good as it had ginger and no chile this time. Unfortunately I had no clue what the "Black Forbidden Rice" was sitting on my plate. It's dark purple and tastes like a dense brown rice, but it's got a cous-cous like texture. If anyone knows what this sounds like, please reply. Oh, the gulf shrimp was very good, much much better than what Ruth Chris' serves.
The wild salmon/crab dish was strong on the salmon/fish taste. I don't know if that is suppose to taste that strong as I tend to favor lighter fish favors. The salmon favor was overpowering the crab meat and pretty much the dominating favor of the dish. If you are a wild salmon fan, then you'd probably like this dish. Whereas, I enjoyed the sea bass much more.
For desert we shared our favorite "Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée". The slocum house doesn't exactly make a classic version of this dessert. They actually have the creme brulee sitting in a cookie cup. The diameter is smaller than a typical dish, but thicker. It's also extremely creamy - more of a yogurt-like texture. It's definitely not like Le Bec-Fin's creme brulee (http://www.lebecfin.com), but it's still good.
Overall, I would recommend this place. Tuck this place away for those special ocassions though, unless you're just going to the brunch. It's by far not the best gastronomical, fine dining that I've experienced. This restaurant doesn't disappoint though. It lives up to its billing. As for sacramento-area fine-dining, it is one of the top places to visit.
Ah, now I am broke and will have to eat at McDonald's this week :]