#107: La Provence Restaurant & Terrace

This restaurant took me by surprise.  A while back a friend asked me if I had been to La Provence.  Thinking I knew of every major restaurant, I told him that there is no such place in Roseville, but it turned out I was wrong!  This French/Mediterranean restaurant is tucked deep in northwest Roseville, well back from the closest major road, Blue Oaks, and surrounded by houses and parks.  I’ve been very much looking forward to coming here for many months.  Finally on December 8th I ended up there with my friend, Justin.

For some time Justin had been talking up a burger that he had there and so we went for lunch so I could check it out.  Now, before you scream at your computer – don’t worry.  Keep reading.  I’m with you on this.

We showed up at about 12:45PM to a very quiet restaurant.  There were maybe a dozen or so tables already seated.  It’s a pretty good sized place.  When you walk in you can head straight back to a small bar or off to the left to a kind of gift shop/take out area.  The host took us back and to the right into the main dining area, a large room with high ceilings and a big pass-through fireplace that served another dining room beyond.  On either side of the main area were two narrow wings with more seating and there was a final room to the back with doors for private functions.  In addition to all this they have a rather large outdoor area with lots more seating, obviously more suited to summer dining.  The large park that La Provence sits next to wraps around the patio giving it a nice view.

We were seated in the main dining room and had it to ourselves for most of our time there.  They did a good job of spreading people out so that parties aren’t awkwardly sitting closely in a huge empty room, listening to each others conversation.  We were immediately served water and the carafe was left at the table.  Our server came by, introduced herself and took our drink orders.  I skimmed over the menu and the French names on it but I already knew I was getting the burger, it’s pretty much what we came for.  I did want to try something else though, an appetizer at least.  Two things popped out at me on the menu – Calamar Frites (Tender calamari, lemon wheels and peppers lightly dusted with cornmeal, fried crisp, served with a chipotle aïoli) and Escargots (Tender escargots baked in a basil garlic butter with tender spinach).  It really wasn’t a fair choice, I went with the escargots for the gross factor.  It’s not really that I think they are gross, I’ve never had them before so I wouldn’t make that assumption, but I know a lot of other people probably would, so it was a fun pick for that reason.

Once we placed our orders we were served bread and butter.  Half were slices of a French roll and the other half wheat.  The wheat was soft and…wheaty…..  The French roll was awesome.  I could eat that all day.  We ate most of it and when the server came by to drop off our little escargot forks she asked if we’d like some more for them, which were soon to arrive.  That came out with a circular dish containing 6 escargots.  Though not in the description, it looked like there was some sort of bread crumb-like topping on it, which was baked crisp.  I scooped the first one out and placed it on a slice of bread.  Honestly unless you knew what it was, you might not have guessed it.  It just looked like a conveniently bite-sized ball of spinach.  The basil garlic butter was quite a strong flavor, followed by the spinach.  It didn’t seem like there was a lot of unique flavor of the escargot itself.  The texture was interesting, I think best described as similar to a scallop or some other seafood.  All in all I was really into these and I know I will be ordering more in the future.  We finished them off pretty quickly.

The escargot dish was cleared to make way for our burgers.  We both ordered the exact same thing, the Hamburger Provençal (Charbroiled 1⁄2 lb. Angus beef, caramelized onions and Dijon aïoli on a crisp ciabatta bun served with hand-cut fries or mixed greens), cooked medium-rare and added lots of Gruyère cheese.  Justin got a cup of French onion soup and I got fries as the side.  The fries were fantastic, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and very lightly salted.  Towards the end I was still picking at them despite feeling very full.  The burger was juicy, a little pink in the middle as ordered and two slices of Gruyère was partially melted overtop.  The ciabatta bun was the weakest part of this burger.  Although it wasn’t all that bad, it was just a little plain, maybe a touch on the sweet side.  I couldn’t taste the Dijon aïoli at all, probably due to all the cheese.  I think there could have been a slight bit more of that.  I only added a bit of lettuce to the burger so I could focus on the flavor of the beef.  It didn’t seem to be heavily seasoned but stood on it’s own.  It was good quality beef that reminded me of Burgers & Brew (where my all time favorite, the spicy guacamole cheeseburger, can be found).  The Gruyère was tasty, somewhat mild.  The best part about the Hamburger Provençal was the carmelized onions.  I’ve never quite had some as good as these before.  They were incredibly sweet, but not to the detriment of the rest, they were their own distinct sweet flavor that played well alongside the savory beef.

All in all I’d say this is probably a top 10 burger for me, maybe top 5 with a different bun.  Our server was excellent, coming at just the right times to grab refills, bring things out and see how things were.  This was a good introduction, but I knew La Provence had a lot more to offer.  I couldn’t just come to this place and get a freakin’ burger and call it a post, which is why I came back last weekend for Saturday night dinner ;).

Justin joined me once again and we arrived just after 6PM.  We did not have a reservation but were seated immediately.  I have a feeling there were lots of reservations for later on because the hostess went off in advance to check that a table would be available for us.  This time we were seated off in the back wing along the main dining room.  The far back room was closed up and filled with a group celebrating a birthday.  The restaurant was at about half capacity when we were seated but filled up by the time we left around an hour later.  We had the exact same server, who greeted us and said “long time no see.”

As I started to look at the menu I reminded myself that I wasn’t leaving without having my favorite dessert, crème brûlée.  I double checked to make sure it was available, which it was.  That taken care of I went over the dinner menu, as well as the special weekend menu for the 13-15th.  That consisted of a $35 prix fixe 3-course meal consisting of Asparagus Salad (with white truffle vinaigrette) or Seafood Salmis (poached rock shrimp and scallops and simmered in a tarragon herb cream sauce and served in a warm puff pastry shell), Rack of Lamb Provençal (three-bone rack roasted then rubbed with whole grain mustard and topped with garlic bread crumbs) or Supreme du Volaille (chicken stuffed with a truffle mousseline and wrapped in crispy shoestring potatoes served with a toasted coriander sauce) and for dessert, White Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake with candied pecans.  All of these were also available à la carte.  Justin went with the Supreme du Volaille.  I ended up choosing a prix fixe meal from the main dinner menu.  Crème brûlée was one of the dessert options, as well as the entrée I thought sounded really good – Filet de Porc Rôti (roasted pork tenderloin wrapped in cherrywood smoked bacon, rainbow Swiss chard with white cheddar and potato fritters, port wine demi-glace).  That just left the starter.  I picked out the Fromage de Chèvre (warm almond crusted goat cheese, baby spinach, plumped currants, toasted pine nuts, wine vinaigrette).

Bread came, was devoured as expected and was just as good as before.  My Fromage de Chèvre came out next, a nice pile of baby spinach with a little disc of the almond crusted goat cheese.  At first I was a bit disappointed with the amount of goat cheese, but I quickly changed my mind on that.  A little went a long way.  I sliced it open with my butter knife easily.  It was warm and very soft, almost gooey, but firm enough as to not ooze into the spinach.  This was un-freakin-believeable.  I don’t remember setting my fork down once as I inhaled this entire salad.  The cheese was very rich and the pine nuts added a nice texture.  Most of the currants (similar to a raisin, I guess) filtered through the spinach to the bottom of the plate and I ended up eating most of them with the remaining pine nuts last.  I wish I was eating another one of these right now, just…wow.

About 20 minutes after my salad had first arrived we received our entrées.  Justin’s chicken looked great.  Although I forgot to ask him what he thought of it, I’m sure he liked it because he was finished as I was just getting into my own plate (as usual).  Two small tenderloins were wrapped with thick, fatty strips of bacon.  A half-dozen string beans (pretty sure they were string beans) were served in addition to the rainbow Swiss chard.  These were warm but still crisp and required a little work with my steak knife to cut down to size.  They were good along with the chard, which I’m not sure if I’ve had before, but it was a lot like spinach which I love.  The potato fritters were interesting, almost like fried dumplings.  They were a kind of a mix between potato and bread inside.  I liked these a lot.  The two yellow-orange things at the front of the plate….I have absolutely no idea what that was.  They had the most bizarre consistency, probably best described as light foam.  I went to pick up a bit with my fork to check it out and most of it slid right through.  The tiny bit that made the trip up to my mouth tasted kind of like butternut squash.  The tenderloins themselves were quite tasty, thanks to the delicious, thick bacon, which was nice an crisp around the edges.  The pork was tender and juicy, which I rarely find to be the case at most places.

Once I was finished up our server returned to see if we would be having any dessert and I reminded her of my crème brûlée.  With that she was off.  There was a somewhat long wait between then and when it came out, maybe as much as 20 minutes.  When it did arrive, I was in heaven.  A good serving size, a well caramelized top and vanilla bean  custard with some of the strongest vanilla bean flavor I’ve had.  Justin is never impressed with crème brûlée and often says it’s flavorless but I had him taste it and even he had to admit it was pretty good.

Dinner was fantastic from start to finish.  I can’t wait to come back.  If this was any indication of what to expect, I could very well say that La Provence might be my absolute favorite restaurant in Roseville as of right now.  Yeah, it was that good.

I’ll probably take the next week off what with all the craziness of the holidays looming ahead, so look for my next post sometime after Christmas!

Website: http://www.laprovenceroseville.com


#106: Teriyaki Domo

A couple of weeks ago I attempted to go to Teriyaki Domo only to discover that they are closed on Sundays.  I returned today to cross them off my list.  Teriyaki Domo is located next door to the Office Depot on Douglas Blvd.  When I walked in, at about 12:30PM, there was a small handful of customers seated and either eating or waiting for their food. There are about a dozen and a half small tables, most of which are up front and the rest against the wall all the way to the back.

I had never been here before, so I took a little while going over the menu.  It was pretty simple, listing four basic options (teriyaki rice bowl, teriyaki plate, teriyaki combo plate, teriyaki noodle bowl and teriyaki salad), each with a choice of chicken, veggie, tofu, beef, turkey, pork, chicken breast, salmon and seafood (sesame chicken was also listed for all but the noodle bowl).  In addition, they also serve a selection of relatively basic sushi rolls.  Most have 2-3 main ingredients from what I could tell.  They have a nice color takeout menu with photos of all their rolls, and another menu for everything else (No website so I’ve scanned both, see down below).

I picked out Sami’s Special, which seems to be their typical Teriyaki Chicken Combo Plate, but extra chicken instead of your choice of mixed tempura or gyoza (pot stickers).  At the time I ordered, I didn’t read the part about the normal combos coming with that last part, otherwise I might have just gone with the normal chicken combo.  I ended up getting the Gyoza appetizer (mostly because I saw someone pick theirs up at the counter right before I ordered and it looked good) as well, so basically I just got a super-sized Teriyaki Chicken Combo.  Some bottled drinks are available in a cooler off to the left.  Over on the right thy also have tea and a soda fountain, which is what I got.  Total was about $15 (note that there is a 50¢ ATM fee which I did not see posted anywhere) I filled up a plastic tumbler with Pibb, grabbed some napkins and a fork from the counter and took a seat near the back.

They were very quick, it was just a few minutes before the guy running the front motioned to me that my order was ready.  The box and plate of gyoza didn’t quite fit on the tray, so I was very careful bringing it back to my table.  In the box was some steamed rice, salad, a good sized orange slice, a big pile of chicken over broccoli and a little side of dressing (which I think was Italian or something similar).  On the smaller side plate were my 6 pot stickers on a bed of lettuce with a small bowl of sauce.

I dug into the pot stickers first, and wow, these were great!  The outside had the perfect crisp while the inside was soft and delicious, and the sauce was as tasty as anywhere else I’ve had it.  I don’t know what’s typically in pot stickers, but man they’re good.  At first I wasn’t sure what the dressing was, and I dipped a corner of a small piece of chicken in it to find out.  It looked and tasted like Italian dressing, so I went ahead and poured it over the salad.  The salad was crisp and seemed pretty fresh overall.  There was maybe a few little slices of carrot in it and the large slice of tomato, but otherwise it was just lettuce.  The rice was, well rice.  A splash of soy sauce made it tasty and I nearly finished it all despite the large amount of food in front of me.  The chicken itself was OK.  It was somewhere in-between tender/moist and dry.  Some pieces were better than others, but overall I was not blown away.  At first I was dipping each piece in the side of teriyaki sauce, but quickly decided I should just pour it over the chicken to try and let them soak it up a bit.  There was quite a bit of chicken in Sami’s Special.  I probably would have been just fine with a normal order.  The broccoli under the chicken was either steamed or thrown in a wok for a little bit.  It was still fairly firm but not raw.  It was cooler than the chicken, which was not super hot on it’s own.

The pot stickers were definitely the highlight here (the Pibb was pretty good too), but overall I was not blown away.  While the flavor of the teriyaki sauce was good, the chicken just wasn’t up to par.

(Scanned) Main Menu: Click Here

(Scanned) Sushi Roll Menu: Click Here




#105: Kenro’s A Taste of Japan

On my way home from work I stopped at Kenro’s A Taste of Japan for an early dinner.  I pulled up at about 4:15PM to find that they were closed.  Upon closer inspection of the sign however, I realized that they close for a couple hours inbetween lunch and dinner.  They would reopen in 15 minutes at 4:30PM so I waited in the car because I was set on sushi (also I had a $30 Sacperks gift cert that is expiring soon, so I was looking forward to using it).

I was, of course, the only customer when I walked in and was greeted by the waitress and Kenro himself who was behind the sushi bar finishing his dinner prep.  The waitress asked if I would like to sit at the bar so I could talk to Ken or a table.  I took a table so I could watch the whole place and get a nice wide angle.  The bar comfortably seats about 10 and there are lots of large tables, many of them pushed together for groups bigger than four.  I had lots of room to spread out at my single table.  The waitress gave me a menu and took my drink order.  They didn’t have Dr Pepper or Pibb so I settled with a Coke.  This came out quickly and was in can form.  I’m always suspicious of restaurants that serve cans and their refill policy, though I did not get to find out what theirs was since this one easily lasted my entire meal.

I took quite a while going over the menu as I wanted to maximize the gift cert as best as possible.  She noticed I was taking a while and asked if I had any questions and if it was my first time (not sure if she meant there or with sushi in general, but either way I appreciated it).  I told her no, and that I knew I wanted a bowl of miso soup to start but that I was still looking otherwise.  When she brought the soup out she seemed to want to help me out and asked what I liked.  At that point I said I was going to do the sushi and sashimi combo (6 pcs nigiri & 6 pcs sashimi) but was looking for something else to go with it.  She said she would get that started while I found that and off she went.  Kenro got to work right away.  About this time a small amount of people started to trickle in.  Each of the 4 parties seemed to be regulars, exchanging greetings with both the waitress and Ken.

I sipped my miso, which was just about the perfect temperature.  It was pretty mild and soothing with little to no saltiness (something I’ve become hyper-aware of since my most recent visit to Habit Burger Grill where the theme was salt).  While I was still perusing the menu a small salad was delivered and the waitress informed me that my sushi & sashimi combo included it and the miso, which was a nice surprise because the menu didn’t say anything about it.  The salad was cold and crisp with a light amount of  sweet and creamy dressing.  I tore through it pretty quickly.  The next time I saw my waitress I told her I had decided on the agedashi tofu, and with that she took my menu and passed my order onto the kitchen.  I sat back and enjoyed the rest of my miso and watched Ken chatting with his customers at the bar and sharing a toast/cheers of some kind with a beer.

He had been working on my sushi for at least 10 minutes now and when he finished, both it and my agedashi tofu were brought out.  The bowl of lightly battered and fried tofu was quite large, as was each piece.  I ended up cutting many of them in half carefully with my chopsticks in the beginning.  Partially because they were large, but also because they were very, very hot.  I remembered the mouth-burning incident at California Roll & Grill and was determined not to make the same mistake.  A smaller bowl and spoon was brought with it and I used that as a staging area where pieces could cool after being removed from the main bowl.  Overall this was good.  I once had this appetizer, maybe at Mikuni, where they served the tofu and the broth in separate dishes.  I think that’s the best way to do it because then they don’t get soggy and fall apart as easily as you eat.

My sushi and sashimi combo was served on a big, wooden platform and was very well presented (as usual with sushi).  This time, however, was the first that I’ve had a sushi sculpture.  The sashimi portion of the combo had been carefully arranged into a flower, which I felt a little bad for dismantling.  The only downside to this neat display was that the sashimi was sliced thinner than I’m used to seeing in plates like this in order to sculpt it.  Each piece was a bit chilled, fresh and delicious though, the small slices practically melting in my mouth.  The nigiri was excellent as well, particularly the rice which held together perfectly and didn’t stick to my fingers.  These were good sized pieces of fish, particularly the sake(salmon).  I saved that one for last, being my favorite, and it was a perfect end to a very good meal.

I was very happy with this dinner.  The food was pretty excellent all around, the waitress was friendly and attentive and Kenro seems like a fun guy.  I’ll probably sit at the bar next time I come in.

Website: http://www.kenros.com/

Scanned Takeout Menu: Click Here