After nearly two years of grabbing takeout, perching on picnic benches on the street, huddling outdoors under heat lamps and all manner of dining indignities, it’s a marvelous change of pace to finally get to dine at a restaurant like The 7th Street Standard. It almost feels like old times again.
Located on the ground floor of the new Hyatt Centric hotel at Seventh and L streets, it’s an unabashedly big-city restaurant: chic, stylish, urban, sophisticated, serious. We haven’t seen anything like it since COVID-19 devastated downtown, chasing away tourists and dashing the dreams of business owners and civic leaders who thought they were finally on the cusp of turning Sacramento into a world-class city.
Heading up the kitchen is Ravin Patel, a Sacramento native and first-generation American with a fine-dining pedigree. He grew up in Natomas, the child of Indian immigrants who ran a small deli and grocery store in Oak Park. As a kid, Patel worked in the store on weekends, making sandwiches and stocking shelves. After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in managerial economics, he looked forward to a career in finance, but the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 1999 had different ideas. So he made a major pivot and went to New York City to study at the French Culinary Institute. An internship at Drew Nieporent’s Montrachet and, later, a job at Danny Meyer’s Michelin-starred restaurant The Modern opened his eyes to fine dining.
In 2009, Patel (now married and expecting a baby) moved back to Sacramento to be close to family. With his culinary background, the obvious place to work was The Kitchen, Sacramento’s temple of fine dining. There was no job for him there, but owners Randall Selland and Josh Nelson didn’t want to lose an opportunity, so they snatched him up and put him to work at their downtown restaurant, Ella. He eventually ascended to the top job at Ella and later became corporate chef for the Selland group.
Meanwhile, Golden 1 Center was transforming Sacramento’s downtown, with shiny hotels and restaurants opening in the shadow of the new arena. A development group that planned to turn the old Marshall Hotel and Jade Apartments into a 171-room boutique hotel brought Patel on board to oversee the food side of things, including the restaurant and a sixth floor rooftop bar called Clayton Club. The Standard’s menu has Patel’s fingerprints all over it: The food has a modern California sensibility, using fresh ingredients and classic French techniques, with a healthy dash of the South Indian flavors he grew up eating at home. You’ll find dishes such as curried pigeon pea soup, a vegan and gluten-free nod to the Indian lentil stew known as sambar that his mother used to make, and braised lamb shoulder, served with za’atar-spiced gremolata and biryani rice. Another dish, chicken and dumplings, was inspired by a visit he’d once made with his Midwestern-born wife to a Cracker Barrel. In Patel’s elevated version, the chicken is first cooked sous vide, then basted with butter to crisp the skin, and served with briny peppercorn gravy and a cloudlike cheddar-chive drop biscuit. Ramon Perez, a well-known local chocolate maker and pastry chef, devised the sweets, which include the signature cream puffs that he sold via pop-ups during the pandemic. Simple, snacky fare, including fried sweetbread nuggets, chicken tandoori lollipops and a first-rate burger, are available at the bar.
The restaurant is a lovely backdrop to the food, with a masculine, “Great Gatsby” meets “Mad Men” design scheme that includes tufted leather walls, ribbed glass room dividers and menswear-inspired upholstery fabrics such as tweeds and pinstripes. It’s an ode to downtown as it used to be and as many hope it will be once again, when COVID releases its grip.
Patel says he feels lucky he was able to open a restaurant in the midst of the pandemic, given that so many of his restaurant colleagues have lost so much. “It’s been a rough time for downtown,” he notes. “We have to figure out how we can grow this town in a good way.”
The 7th Street Standard
(inside Hyatt Centric)
1122 Seventh St.; (916) 371-7100