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Located on a scruffy stretch of Del Paso Boulevard, Enotria built a stellar reputation over the past 14 years for its excellent wine program and upscale fare. It recently completed an ambitious expansion and remodel, more than doubling its square footage, revamping the original kitchen and adding a second kitchen to service a new wine bar.
A more casual version of the restaurant, the wine bar offers a brisk cocktail hour. Some diners pop in for a martini before moving to the restaurant, while others are lured by the wine bar’s snacking menu and informal ambiance. Dishes include smoky sautéed shrimp, tossed with garlic, smoked paprika and fresh parsley, and pulled-pork sliders, bathed in a coffeebarbecue sauce and served with pickled pearl onions and a crunchy root vegetable slaw.
In the restaurant, Enotria characterizes its New American-style cuisine as “food made for wine made for food,” which is a Seussical way of pointing out that the restaurant’s wine folks and kitchen folks work closely together to create harmonious pairings. At the helm are chef John Komotos and sommelier/wine director Jeremiah Morehouse. Morehouse seems to make it a point to visit every table during the evening. Brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm, he offers wine guidance and chitchat about his impressive credentials that will be welcomed by some and considered a tad intrusive by others. However, he clearly knows hisstuff; he can set you up with a bottle (there are 400 on the list) or a wine flight that will make your supper sing.
The compact menu is creative and playful, with some zesty global touches that make it an interesting read. Produce gets lavish treatment. I relished an unusual artichoke salad brightened with shaved fennel and fresh parsley. The salad’s bitter snap from grilled radicchio was sweetly tamed by the addition of can-died hazelnuts. The first fava beans of the season made a starring appearance in a fabulous bowl of garlicky sautéed clams and mussels, dotted with salty bits of Spanish chorizo in a white wine and lemon broth. Roasted vegetable ragout, made with carrots, turnips, parsnips and celery root, was combined with tiny, earthy beluga lentils as an accompaniment to a tender rosemary-marinated rack of lamb drizzled with pomegranate gastrique.
I also enjoyed Enotria’s filet mignon. Prepared sous vide, it was served with a chocolate balsamic demi-glace whose lively sweetness was a nice foil for the meat’s intense ancho chile-coffee rub. The complexity of the filet was thoughtfully balanced by sautéed spinach that was lightly tossed with roasted garlic oil, and a demure clutch of small purple potatoes. But the most stunning—and simple—dish I tried was the spring pea and bacon soup with a drizzle of basil oil, a cleanly flavored blast of green scrumptiousness.
The desserts, however, weren’t on par with the savory dishes. A lackluster flourless chocolate cake tasted tiresomely generic, and an overly sweet tarte Tatin came with strident nutmeg ice cream that overpowered the tarte. A crème brûlée napoleon studded with chopped hazelnuts was very pretty, but the pastry was overly stiff, making the stacked dessert very difficult to eat. I ended up snapping off bits of the pastry with my fingers and spooning up the delicate crème brûlée layers separately.
Morehouse’s wine flights are a lot of fun. My favorite, The Studs, was an exciting and robust trio: an Amador County Nebbiolo, a Chilean Carmenère/Syrah/Cabernet Franc blend and a Syrah from El Dorado Hills. The restaurant provides tasting notes along with the flights: The food pairing suggestions are helpful, and wine neophytes can glean some helpful tidbits from Morehouse’s comments on wine regions and varietals.
Cocktail hour: Order the Del Paso Fashion, made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Los Danzantes mezcal, walnut and pear liqueurs, bitters and a flamed orange peel
Cheese appeal: The prettily composed charcuterie and cheese plate includes a chunk of honeycomb and tasty balsamic onion marmalade
Here’s the beef: The wine bar serves a hefty half-pound Wagyu burger on a basil aïoli-smeared bun with your choice of cheese (Point Reyes blue, dill havarti or sharp white cheddar)
1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 922-6792; enotria.com
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 5–9 p.m. (restaurant); Tuesday–Wednesday 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Thursday–Friday 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Saturday 5–11 p.m., Sunday 4:30–9 p.m. (wine bar)