Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ella Dining Room and Bar, Sacramento

The much anticipated, official Grand Opening of Ella Dining Room and Bar took place last night. If you live in the Sacramento area I am sure you are familiar with, and maybe have been to, The Kitchen Restaurant or Selland's Market-Cafe, both run by the Selland family. This is their newest venture and the restaurant is named after Randell Selland's grand daughter Ella.
Located at the corner of 12th St. and K St. in the Cathedral Building, a sleek, light wood entry meets you as you step in through the door. The large open restaurant with a big, square bar in the middle of the room, with plenty of seating, has hundreds of Hungarian window shutters decorating the ceiling and part of walls, giving the space a very rustic feel. The seating is a smart mix of smaller contemporary tables with upholstered chairs, and rustic large wood tables and wood chairs for eating community style. Behind the bar sits a large wine room enclosed only by dark glass walls. A lounge area with more bar stool seating and couches also adds to the scene. As you can see contemporary meets rustic in this very cleverly and tastefully decorated restaurant. Private dining rooms are available as well, and chef's tables with a specialized menu.

Moving on to the menu, it offers a wide selection of eclectic cuisine. Our waiter explained the different sections of the menu, and encouraged our party to share a variety of dishes to experience the many flavors.
First on the menu is the cold bar section featuring everything from oysters to ceviche. We tried the Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi with a Salad of Frisee, Radish, Almonds and Citrus Segments ($14). The fresh burst of citrus in the salad and the different textures made a great pairing with the very fresh, delicate yellowfin.
From the next section of the menu, the small plates, we ordered the Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine Reduction ($10). Served on top a parsnip puree and scattered glazed carrots. Succulent, tender, and flavorful, this rustic dish won the heart of all of us. Another fantastic small plate was the Gnocchi in Cream Sauce with Broccoli Rabe, Parmesan and Prosciutto ($12). The gnocchi impossibly fluffy/pillowy with almost a creamy texture as they melt in your mouth when you bite into them. The accenting ingredients were a perfect match as well as you can see.
Next section was Salads and then Vegetables. We ordered the Heirloom Tomato Stuffed with Burrata Cheese ($9.50) with a side of super sweet cherry tomatoes tossed in basil and olive oil. Burrata is an Italian fresh cheese made from Mozzarella and cream that is mixed until it obtains a soft texture. Mild and creamy it made the sun bursting flavors of the heirloom tomato shine. We also tried the White Corn Soup with Chives and Creme Fraiche ($8). Simple and delicious with bright sweet corn flavor.
On to the Entrees with three different sections, pasta, fish and meat. Us girls had the Halibut with Cherry Tomatoes, Tapenade and Olive Oil ($24), and the Slow Roasted Salmon with Baby Artichokes, Preserved Lemon and Lardons ($24). Both great dishes, my salmon moist and melting in the mouth. The guys had the Grilled New York Strip with Tomato, Mushrooms, and Gremolata ($28) and the Grilled Hereford Ribeye with Bordelaise, and Bearnaise Sauce ($48). Great dishes as well, the only mistake being the New York Strip coming out at the table as medium rare when being ordered medium.
Although stuffed at this point we had to try a few of the desserts as well, three to be exact... A Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Soft Ganache Center, Cocoa Nibs, and Toasted Coconut Almond Ice Cream, and the Profiteroles with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce, both really good, although the profiterole eating guest thought the profiteroles were slightly dry. Despite being a chocoholic, I have to admit that the third dessert was the most interesting. A French Toast with Cinnamon, Maple Syrup and Coffee Ice Cream. Excellent marriage and balance of the flavors.

This massive feast was enjoyed with three fantastic bottles of wine. Roar 2005 Rosella's Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, Jayson 2002 Napa Valley Red Wine and Plumpjack 1995 Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We had brought the 2002 Jayson with us, the other two bottles were from their well put together wine list. With a limited but very well choosen selection under each varietal, it concentrates mostly on new world wines but does not forget about the wines from Europe. It has something to offer for everyone, with prices for a bottle of wine starting at under $30 and climbing from there, and with a section dedicated to half bottles. The library section has a great selection of Napa Valley Meritage and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The setting, ambiance and food exceeded my expectations for an opening night. The service was very attentive, courteous and knowledgeable, but as with the stress of any grand opening, just a little off in the timing. Small mistakes like serving first course before our wine had arrived, and forgetting to offer us coffee at dessert time, should be easily overcome as they hit their stride. I have been to grand openings before and not a single one has been able to offer that impeccable service right of the bat. Having dined many times at their other restaurant, The Kitchen, that offers service second to none, I am confident that it is only a matter of days or weeks until this is also achieved at Ella Dining Room and Bar.
Over all I can highly recommend this restaurant and I am one for sure that will be back very soon.

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Garrett said...

I am dicey on going here. I keep hearing good things, but I also heard that the portion versus cost perspective is a bit off. Your review sounds quite different, so now I think I'm willing to check it out (once I can afford it, of course).

Victoria said...

The food is not cheap and the portions are not huge, but plenty for me at least. You basically pay for the quality which I am much happier to do then for quantity... I really liked it and will definitely go back. I think you should give it a try... It is not an everyday place to eat (at least not for most of us) but a great restaurant for a special dinner or when you want to splurge.

Cheers, Victoria

Andrea said...

Not currently in my budget, but I really enjoyed reading your review. You shared relevant and interesting details throughout. I'll be back for more reading in the future as I am also a wine and cheese lover.

Anonymous said...

I ate at Ella tonight and while it hit a few chords right, overall the experience was quite uneventful.

Decor - Old shutter doors complimented well with the old oak tables, fresh flowers, and white linens for a charming shabby chic feel.

Service - Our waiter was spot on in his timing and delivery.

Food - Small plates and main entrees were grossly disproportionate with the prices. We started with the halibut ceviche which paired well with the salty yuucca chips. However it was soon followed by the prosciutto wrapped quail which was severely undercooked and unedible.

For our entree's, we ordered the Shrimp Fettuccine and Chicken Petaluma. While the chicken and fettuccine were cooked appropriately, it was lackluster and devoid of taste. In addition, the portions were more ideally suited for a children's/senior menu. In truth, after spending close to $75 per head on two appetizers and two entree's, we left the restaurant feeling quite hungry. Instead of extolling the virtues of our fine meal, our car ride home was spent asking each other what we can raid from the refrigerator back home.

While I am willing to sacrifice quality over quantity, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by my "so-so" experience at Ella's.

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