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Where: Kozen, 2310 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 641-8880 Benefiting Organizations: Camellia Symphony Orchestra; Wellspring Women's Center
Special order: Diva Bernice Hagen, who knows her way around a Japanese restaurant, chatted with manager Jeffrey Baker about having dinner items served at our lunch. Baker orchestrated the serving of 10 elegant, artistic and delicious choices.
Best dishes: Tempura-fried Monterey baby calamari (ten kara on the menu) with shichimi tartar sauce. A second appetizer, edamame ready to pop out of their shells and enjoy, was right up there for presentation. It came three ways: sprinkled with sea salt, sauted with garlic-shallot soy sauce and tossed with shichimi-lime. Other bests: Maple Leaf Farms duck breast and aged Niman Ranch prime rib. San-sanÃÃ'grilled vegetables-came with squares of tofu, lightly crusted and delicious even to those of us who pooh-pooh tofu.
Ambiance: Classy, gentle, not frenetic like some Japanese restaurants. But what about those box-shaped chairs? Soothing colors and accouterments-you feel a million miles from Fair Oaks Boulevard.
Surprise: Server Sean Berry, complete with trendy haircut, proved to be on his way to becoming a professional-in whatever field he should choose. Not yet 21, he served with aplomb, carefully explaining each dish.
How much: On the menu, prices are printed discreetly, numbers only, no dollar signs. Expensive? Not really, when you consider the fresh ingredients, care and design that go into each dish. All are meant to be shared: The Niman Ranch Prime rib-eye is $36 for 14 ounces of fine beef, nicely sliced and enough for four.
Quote of the day: Guess who said this after commenting on the blandness of her regular diet: "Living without garlic and being celibate, too, is too much." Was it Sister Mercedes? Right.
Chatter: When having a party, Carmen Lomeli suggested making sure your guests know the difference between guacamole and wasabi: At one of her parties, a guest scooped up a great big mouthful of wasabi and soon had tears pouring from his eyes. Ask Peg Tomlinson-Poswall about her consumption of foie gras (a pound at one sitting), check with Joan Leineke about winter travel in Montreal, find out from Gayla Mace a great way to turn off a teen party on the brink of getting out of hand, and see if Paulette Bruce-Miller can work her new whiz-bang phone, computer, etc.
1-SECOND REVIEW: Very creative . . . nothing is standard . . . attention to detail . . . beautiful simplicity . . . upscale . . . makes you want to dine instead of eat.
*The Dining Divas-Gloria Glyer, Paulette Bruce-Miller, Bernice Hagen, Joan Leineke, Gayla Mace and Peg Tomlinson-Poswall-have been wining and dining together since 1993. Each month, they lunch at an area restaurant, taking as their guests people who placed winning bids at charity events. To date, they have raised more than $200,000 for local charities and nonprofits.