What constitutes a good restaurant meal? I’m not sure it’s possible to find solid consensus on the subject.
Everyone’s criteria are different. For some, it’s all about ambience. For others, it’s sheer value: How much did I get for my money? I, however, am in the food-first camp. All I care about is how things taste. Venue (as long as the place is clean) and plate presentation are less important to me. Some of the most stunning meals I’ve enjoyed in my two decades of reviewing restaurants have been in small, humble mom-and-pop establishments, where the food is honest, uncomplicated and nourishing.
I’ve often found an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on a restaurant’s design and the quality of its food. However, life is full of wonderful exceptions, and I recently stumbled across one in Roseville.
Cibo 7 is located in the same shopping complex as Paul Martin’s American Bistro, and it adds an elegant new option on Eureka Road for diners. In the dimly lit space, old-world paintings and gothic mirrors share the brick walls with whimsical artifacts such as bullhorns, and an attractive bar dominates the right side of the room, divided from the dining tables by a half wall.
There is some serious and inspired talent in the kitchen in the form of executive chef Christopher Barnum, who utilizes seasonal ingredients in a playful, creative and thoughtful way.
Barnum’s gorgeous winter citrus salad featured jewellike nuggets of ruby grapefruit, navel and blood oranges and mandarins, along with bits of prosciutto, Grana Padano crisps and arugula pesto. The interplay of juicy-crispy and salty-sweet was a captivating celebration of the region’s bounty of citrus.
Another standout dish was the seared diver scallops perched on mounds of cauliflower puree, with sweet parsnip chips and crunchy bites of prosciutto, all strewn with delicate micro greens. The scallops were dazzlingly tender, and the presentation was so lovely it seemed a crime to disrupt it.
Moist, flavorful mini Wagyu beef and lamb meatballs were served with an enticing fennel-yogurt cream and dappled with beautifully hued parsley oil, while the fabulous housemade sage gnocchi were festooned with savory chunks of coq au vin, earthy oyster mushrooms and tangy baby beet greens.
A handsome chunk of lasagna featured chicken sausage, pesto ricotta and hand-pulled mozzarella. Adorned with a translucent fried basil leaf, the dish was robust but not heavy. A splayed whole branzino lay resplendently on top of rustic sunchoke risotto and bacon-braised Brussels sprouts—cozy fare on a chilly evening.
A few dishes fell flat. Marinated Wagyu skirt steak, though nicely flavored, was too chewy, and the “bronzed” red snapper was unpleasantly dry.
But in general, Cibo 7’s dishes were prepared well, with innovation and a respect for the seasons. And the desserts were a surprise. Dessert is often neglected in restaurant kitchens, so it’s a pleasure to find ones that are creative and made with care. I loved the pure, intense flavor of grilled pineapple sorbet, served with a crumbly coconut shortbread cookie. And the dense dark-chocolate bread pudding, lacquered with peanut butter caramel, was a resounding hit.
On my visits, the young, fresh-faced waiters were eager and friendly but lacking an edge of restraint and formality that would seem more fitting in such an environment. But the dishes all came out quickly, and service was a smooth team effort that indicated customer service is a top priority for the restaurant’s management.
Cibo 7’s prices are some of the highest I’ve seen in the Roseville area, but this is one upscale restaurant that also plates up impressive, high-quality cuisine—a combination that’s not always so easy to find.
1465 Eureka Road, Roseville
Seared diver scallops, housemade sage gnocchi, branzino, lasagna
Full bar, well-thought-out wine list, wide range of pricey wines by the glass
Dim and elegant
Moderate to high
Monday–Friday 4–10 p.m., Saturday 2–10 p.m., Sunday 5–9 p.m.
(916) 789-8585; cibo7.com