With the top regarded local restaurants on winter breek (The Girl & the Fig, Zazu etc.,)... I settled on my first visit to Syrah in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square for lunch today.
First... is it okay to admit you like a place where you aren't particularly impressed by the food? This is the case of Syrah... it has a very good vibe, I like that its casual & playful with its shopping center courtyard locaction, nice modern decor with rustic touches, and playful ones (like the Pillsbury doughboy lunch box)... its just a very comfortable place to hang out for lunch. The food is fine... but its not going to attract a Chowhound cult following anytime soon.
> Olive Oil... for 2.75 they provide a big serving of Da Vera Dry Creek olio in a deep serving dish.... if you allow the bread to really soak in there untils it dripping and you have lick your fingers... then you get a good taste of it... very decent.. peppery, slightly grassy, next texture. Personally, I would rather sip it from a liquer glass... but I am not sure their typical clientele is quite "cool" enough for that yet.
> Clam Chowder... nice tomato, fennel & smoked bacon, mirepoix broth with clams on the shell... good but not particularly memorable... maybe if they dial down the bacon... and introduce another two herbs & maybe some chipotle it would be haunting... for now its just solid.
> Duck Confit... their version is served over a bed of Spaetzle & Greens. I had high hopes for the dish but it was a let down. First... Spaetzle is very interesting... and I really like them but I am always puzzled they are served at Fine Dining establishments... they don't seem any more fine dining than mashed potatoes or refried beans... just a comfort item. Anyway... the texture was good but the sauce / broth was just sweet and had zero flavor depth. O yeah the Duck was mediocre... I've had mediocre Carnitas from local trucks that are much better than their Confit. It was a bit greasy... with no good flavor of fat, salty yet bland... and no flavor depth at all (a few bites had a pleasant garlicky flavor... but very inconsistent) it was so mediocre that I left half of it on the plate... you rarely see me do that with any type of Confit / Carnitas.
> Cheese Plate... I went with Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam & Red Hawk; as well as a Santa Rosa St. George (Matos Family). Okay... what could they have done to screw up the Cowgirl cheese's or what are local hounds smoking when they recommend them? The Red Hawk was unpleasantly bitter (and I have a biiiiiiiig tolerance for bitter)... the Mt. Tam wasn't as bad... neither are cheese I would choose in a blind taste test at say... Whole Foods. The St. George was very good like a mild, nicely textured, nutty Reggiano.
Syrah is not responsible for any of this... but imho I think they did screw up the plate by serving these cheeses with dry, cardboard like, excessively savory flat bread instead of a nice crusty bread. The membrillo & local honey were okay but undistinguished (maybe just obliterated by the crappy Cowgirl cheeses)... almonds nothing special.
The most positive aspect was a new (to me) very decent, local small estate wine... the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc (Russian River Valley).. great structure & restraint.