#217: Cibo7 Ristorante & Wine Bar

Last night I went to dinner at Cibo7 Ristorante & Wine Bar, located next to Blue Nami in the Stone Point shopping center on Eureka.  I didn’t know much about this place and assumed it would be like House of Oliver.  That was an incorrect assumption.  They have a lot of wine for sure but that’s about where the comparison ends.

I was meeting my mom and grandma at 5:30 but arrived a little early this evening.  I stepped inside to see if they were busy and check it out in general.  It was pretty quiet.  The bar itself was mostly full but the rest of the bar area and all the dining room tables were vacant.  I was greeted by the hostess who gave me a quick rundown of what they are all about when I said I was just taking a look while I waited for the rest of my party.  They serve Italian, Spanish & French cuisine, focus on local produce, make their pasta fresh in-house every day and get their seafood delivered fresh daily.  Their website is pretty sparse and does not have a menu, I take it that’s because it probably changes very frequently.

They are open Tuesday-Saturday 4-10pm with wine tastings Saturdays from 2-4 and happy hour (or Social Hour as they call it on their website) from 4-7 Tuesday-Friday.  I stepped back outside to wait and watch the steady stream of cars and people filtering into the shopping center for the evening.  They have a very nicely done patio area with some heaters.  It was empty at the moment aside from a new server who was taking time to study the menu for the night.

Soon we were all here and headed back in where we were asked if we had a reservation (we did not) but were seated immediately anyway.  We were the first ones in the dining room.  From this point on there was a very consistent flow through the front doors of people heading into the bar for happy hour.  Before long it was jam-packed and basically at standing room only.  I’d be interested to go back and see what kind of happy hour specials they do, because it’s obviously a very popular spot.  A side effect of this big crowd was that the noise level became quite high.

We started looking over the wine list while we were served waters and bread and our server removed the 4th place setting.  The wine list is large, as in a full-sized menu binder with many pages.  When my mom ordered their bottle of Pinot Grigio I asked our server, Mariah, if they had any beer.  She named off about 4 or 5 on draught and then mentioned that they have a list of bottles as well, which I opted to take a look at before making a decision.  She brought this over quickly.  The bottle selection was much better, with about 20 or so to choose from.  No stouts unfortunately but there were a couple of porters.  I chose the one I’ve never had (or seen before for that matter) which was Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter from England [$8].  I found it interesting that they had five options for bottled water on this list as well.  If beer or wine doesn’t fancy you, they also have a fully stocked bar.

She soon returned with my beer and also to break the bad news that they did not have the wine my mom had ordered.  They only had that single Pinot Grigio so she recommended the 2013 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc [$30].  She then proceeded to present my 12oz bottle of Samuel Smith’s as if it were a wine, so I figured I better nod my approval/acceptance, and she opened and poured it.  It was mostly pretty smooth and drinkable with just a bit of bitterness to it.  Not too bad.

Now focused on the menu, I discovered that this was definitely one of the pricier places in town.  I might even say top 5.  Entrees varied from the $30s to mid-$40s with appetizers starting in the teens.  We decided on an appetizer to start, the Waygu Beef and Dixon Lamb Meatballs (Fennel-Yogurt Cream, Redwood Hills Feta and Parsley Oil)[$15].  Our server asked how we would like these cooked, and after we all looked at each other, shrugging, my mom said medium.  None of us had even considered this question in advance for meatballs.  We ordered our entrees along with it.

It took a long time for the appetizer to come out, nearly 30 minutes.  During this time we munched on the bread.  This was a smallish plate with thin slices of some kind of delicious bread with a crunchy crust and soft middle.  Served with it was a garlic aioli type spread.  The garlic was strong, I smelled it as soon as it had been set down in the middle of the table, and it was delicious.  As soon as we had finished the last piece of bread (not joking, it was probably still being chewed) the plate was taken and replaced with a new one with more bread and new garlic spread.  That was nice.  During our wait our server came by and refilled the wine glasses and waters before anyone even realized they were getting low.  She was pretty on top of things throughout the night.

Finally, the appetizer was delivered.  5 good sized meatballs sat in a circle in the center of a large round dish, topped with crumbles of Feta and surrounded by the fennel-yogurt cream and parsley oil.  These were amazing.  They were incredibly complex in flavor with both meats and the rich sauce, oil and cheese all hitting you at once.  I highly recommend these if they’re still on the menu if/when you go.

After we had finished it was another wait for the entrees, a bit over 30 minutes this time.  Around now the dining room had nearly filled up and the bar was still packed.  The crowd looked to be mostly in their 40s and up and all pretty well dressed.  I guessed mostly due to the prices and that many were getting off work from the nearby law and financial offices.  Not long after we polished off the last meatball the plate was removed along with our appetizer plates.  Like a ninja, our server quickly and silently replaced used silverware and also set a steak knife in front of me (which I was not expecting based on my entree selection).

At last, our main dishes arrived.  First my mom’s Stromboli (Pomodoro Sauce, House Fennel Sausage, Hand Pulled Mozzarella, Prosciutto Di Parma, Crimini Mushroom and Grana Padano)[$21].  The sauce came in a separate small dish on the side (and there looked to be a lot of it).  Next up was my grandma’s Roasted Baby Beet Salad (Wild Arugala, Pomegranate Seeds, Redwood Hills Chèvre, Baby Herbs, Truffle Vinaigrette, Balsamic Reduction)[$14].  This was a very nice looking salad with all the beets and pomegranate piled up in the center in a bright red cone, topped with bits of goat cheese.  The truffle vinaigrette was sending it’s deliciously rich aroma to me from the moment the plate was set down and throughout the meal.  Both said they enjoyed their dinners for the most part, though the beet salad was labeled “OK”, mostly because it was just a beet salad, which I guess is hard to argue with.

My entree arrived last, but not far behind the others.  It was riding on the largest plate they could conceivably find.  It was borderline silly.  I had ordered the Pan Rendered Muscovy Duck Breast (Grass Valley White Polenta, Chorizo Braised, Tin Roof Farms Collard Greens and a Blood Orange-Chipotle Glace)[$31].

When I ordered this I was a bit taken aback because the server asked how I wanted it cooked.  I’d never encountered that question in regards to poultry and didn’t know what to go with so I told her however the chef prefers.  What I received was basically duck meets steak.  This is why I was given a steak knife.  It was much more like a steak in consistency than any duck I’ve ever had before.  The top was pan-fried crisp and the bottom was closer to what I had in mind – slick, greasy, dark duck meat.  In-between it was almost exactly like a beef steak in terms of texture.  The flavor was undoubtably duck however.  It took me a couple bites to get into this, mostly because I was so taken off guard I guess, but I really enjoyed it from then on out.  The blood orange-chipotle glace was sweet and had a deep, rich orange flavor that wasn’t tart in the slightest.  It was fantastic.  I enjoyed the greens as well as the polenta, which was effectively prepared and presented like mashed potatoes.  The chorizo didn’t seem to have much flavor to it.

After dinner we were presented with an adorable mini-version of the menu that had their desserts, including Deconstructed Tiramisu and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding, along with a selection of dessert wines including ports and sherries.  We were all pretty full however so we called it a night.

Overall I was mostly impressed by Cibo7.  Of course, I went in expecting something much more casual and low-key like Oliver.  The prices are certainly up there.  My mom agreed with some reviews that she had read saying that it is overpriced.  I feel like the service and food was up to par, but the speed of the kitchen definitely needed some improvement.  This isn’t the place where I expect to be in and out in less than an hour, but 30 minutes in-between apps and entrees was excessive.  Throughout our visit the manager (perhaps owner?) checked on us a couple times and then said good night from the patio as we headed out. As I said earlier I’d like to see what the happy hour specials look like because while I might not make this a regular stop, perhaps a quick drink and appetizer in the evening would be nice here.  I feel like it fits in pretty well in Stone Creek, and with the crowd it had on this Thursday night it should be around for the foreseeable future.  This is probably the most solid collection of restaurants in a single spot in Roseville.

#211: House of Oliver

For dinner on Thursday night I joined my mom and grandma for dinner at House of Oliver, a new wine lounge that opened about a month ago at Douglas and Sierra College.  I rarely drink wine so this is going to focus primarily on the food.  I arrived at about 5:30, a couple minutes after the others.  Parking in this little lot is tough sometimes.  They do have a valet if you don’t feel like parking the extra 200ft away by T-Mobile.

The lounge was busy when I headed inside.  There were maybe a few small tables available.  I didn’t take much time to look around and continued through towards the back and out the side door to the patio.  This area was also fairly busy.  The angle of the sun allowed most of this to be in the shade at this time as it moved behind the next building.  A few umbrellas offer shade earlier in the day.  A trio of water fountains sit in the middle and somewhat separate the front from the back patio.  In the front it’s pretty much all little tables while the back has some comfy-looking patio chairs and couches, all under one giant umbrella.  A wall with some nice planters blocks the view of Sierra College and other parts of this shopping center.

We sat next to the fountains, as well as the door to Sumo Sushi.  My mom had been told by one of the servers that the patio area is shared by both, although Sumo customers rarely seem to use it.  He also mentioned that we were welcome to order from both.  As I was getting settled a server stopped by to see if we were ready to order drinks yet, then realized I would need a menu and went off to get a third one.  We all took a while to look over the whole thing, picking out drinks, an appetizer and eventually dinner as well.  A new server stopped by to see if we wanted to order drinks so we did so with her.  I thought she seemed familiar.  By the end of the night I was 95% sure this was the same server I had at La Provence on both of the visits I made in that post.

My mom and grandmother each ordered a flight of three white wines (California Dreaming)[$10] and I went with something from their fairly limited beer selection, a Lost Coast Alley Cat Amber (12oz)[$5].  These all came out relatively quickly.  Our server mentioned something about bringing waters but she must have forgot.  10 minutes later our appetizer showed up.  We ordered the Mixed Cheese Board (Triple Cream Brie, Humboldt Fog, Petit Basque & Aged Gouda with stuffed apricots, crackers, nuts & artisan breads)[$14].  This was lacking the breads so we had a lot of cheese to go with a pretty small amount of crackers.  We made it work though.  The triple cream Brie was definitely the favorite of the bunch.  It was incredibly rich, smooth and creamy.  Humboldt Fog is kind of a bleu cheese made from goats milk.  It was really soft and while parts of it were on the stronger side, it was overall surprisingly mild.  The Gouda and Basque were both excellent and were the only firm cheeses here.  Overall pretty tasty cheese board.  Definitely needed some more crackers/bread though.

Just before we had finished the cheese board I received the first part of my order.  I had originally intended on ordering one of their main items, but ended up deciding that neither really grabbed my attention enough to settle on.  Instead I ordered the Tomato Bisque Soup (served with a classic cut grilled cheese sandwich)[$7] and also the Delicious Warm Goat Cheese Salad (romaine lettuce & spring mix, red onion, tomato, walnuts, dates, goat cheese, crostini & balsamic vinaigrette)[$9].  The tomato bisque was what had arrived.

It was a good sized bowl of soup accompanied by a basic grilled cheese sandwich.  The sandwich wasn’t really anything too special, it seemed to simply be sharp cheddar on wheat and was a bit small.  For the price it was fine though.  It was pretty good dipped into the bisque.  The bisque itself was somewhat thin and more tomato-y than the creamy bisque you see most places and was not at all sweet.  It was decent.  I definitely prefer the creamier style though.

Before the rest of dinner came out my mom and grandma ordered a bottle of one from the flight that they enjoyed.  It was 20% off, though I’m not sure of the reason.  Might have been a happy hour thing.  This was the 2013 Mama Mia from Naggiar Vineyards [$24].

The pacing was slower than a typical restaurant, but given the lounge atmosphere and general vibe it was fine.  The last items came about 20 minutes following my bisque.  My grandma had ordered The Classic Wrap (Man-sized wraps stuffed to your delight with turkey or roast beef, cream cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion & pepperocini)[$8.50].  This thing was massive.  Bigger than a burrito at Chipotle.  Clearly half of this was going home for lunch the next day.  It looked great and she enjoyed it.  The wraps seem to be one of the best values on the menu.  My mom got the Cheese Tortellini ‘A La Milanese (Garlic, sundried tomatoes, cream, fresh basil & Parmesan)[$13].  This was served in the same sized bowl as my soup and was a solid amount of tortellini.

My warm goat cheese salad arrived last by a couple minutes.  It was a pretty good size, though the shape of the plate was a little awkward.  I definitely lost a few pieces here and there over the edge.  Overall I thought this was very good.  All the greens were nice and fresh.  Much of the goat cheese was melted over several pieces of crostini while the rest was spread throughout the salad.  It was all intensely rich.  The balsamic vinaigrette was the perfect amount to add to the salad without overwhelming it.

To finish dinner off I ordered the Creme Brûlée [$8].  This came in a little ramekin and had a nice toasted, glassy crust.  Underneath that was hiding one of the thickest custards I’ve had in a long time.  It was delicious.  A bit small for $8 though.  It came with a raspberry, on top of the same raspberry sauce that was on the cheese board, and a couple little pieces of dark chocolate.

By about 7:30 when we were heading out, a jazz duo of a pianist and saxophone player were warming up for an evening set on the patio.  With the sun set and the string of lights adding a little mood to the patio, this was probably going to be really nice.  A lot of people had cleared out by this time, but even as we we left there were newcomers trickling in.  We were all surprised to see how busy House of Oliver was.  We all thought it was pretty good and my mom and grandma said they looked forward to returning soon.  It’s definitely a chill place to have a drink and a little bite, if not full on lunch or dinner (note that the kitchen hours are limited to 11-2 & 5-9, though the lounge is open 11AM-midnight every day).

Website: http://www.houseofoliver.com

#42: Johnny Garlic’s

Earlier this week I went with a friend to Johnny Garlic’s over on Fairway for dinner.  This restaurant opened in 2008 and is co-owned by Food Network’s popular host, Guy Fieri.  I’ve been here a couple times previously and remembered generally enjoying it.  In particular, I recall always having pretty great service and the servers seem to have a good sense of humor.  The last time I was here I had some leftovers boxed up to go and they decided to also give my friend his last remaining shrimp in a tiny little to-go cup.  We still laugh about that every now and then.

We arrived at about 6:45 on Thursday and the place was jammin’ (it had cleared out a lot by the time we left, which is when some of these photos were taken).  There was some room in the bar but we decided to go for the dining room.  No booths were available and the only tables left were 6-seaters so we got to spread out, which was really nice.  The place has a very open design, you can see from one end to the other no matter where you are, from the bar to the dining room to the kitchen.  The crowd conversation noise level was fairly high, enough that we had to raise our voices just a little to talk across the table.

I thought the style was kind of neat, but it’s not a very intimate setting, so maybe not a great place to bring a date.  My friend accurately described it as a classy TGI Fridays.  We both thought the bar should have been more isolated from the rest of the dining room.  One thing that was quite tacky was the “souvenir” counter, in a corner towards the back, where they have shirts and various Johnny Garlic’s and Guy Fieri branded merchandise.

Our waiter showed up quickly to take our drink orders.  I wasn’t quite ready yet and wanted to take a closer look at the beer selection, so I grabbed that menu while he went to get my friend’s beer.  Turns out I didn’t need much time though because the beer selection was kind of pathetic.  There were only 4 on draught – Stella Artois, Coors Light, Sierra Nevada & Blue Moon (they may have had a wider selection in bottles, but I didn’t look).  I ordered a Blue Moon and got to checking out the menu for appetizers.  Someone gave me a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert which came from a calendar that apparently gets sent out in the mail in Roseville, so take a look through it if you got one.  I must have thrown it out with the junk mail because I don’t remember seeing it.

A couple things that caught my eye were the key lime calamari (with cilantro-Lime aioli) and garlic fries (with parmesan).  They both sounded good, but both are pretty common appetizer orders for me anywhere, so instead I chose the Lava-Rock Shrimp (Honey Chipotle Lime Glaze + Mango Salsa [random tangent: anytime I see or hear “mango salsa” I think about this commercial]).

A bit before the lava-rock shrimp showed up, our server brought some warm focaccia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The bread was so fresh and delicious we had another basket brought out after we had our entrees!

The lava-rock shrimp was served in a big martini glass and looked fantastic.  It tasted great too.  The glaze was amazing, sweet, hot and with a hint of lime at the end.  I hate to compare it to Panda Express, but it reminded me the Beijing Beef, which also has a sweet and spicy glaze.  This was a lot better though!

Our entrees were delivered by a different server (dedicated food runner?), who had them backwards.  I ordered the Bourbon Buffalo Meatloaf (ground bison steak, Yukon garlic mash, seasonal vegetable,”Maui onion straws” and bourbon BBQ sauce).  My friend ordered the American Kobe Flank (14 ounce Wagyu ribeye, Yukon garlic mash, seasonal vegetable and creamed leek gratin).

Everything about my meatloaf was excellent.  The onion straws were great and added a little crisp to each bite of meatloaf.  I loved the bourbon BBQ sauce, it was very rich and a little sweet.  The garlic mash was piping hot, and was some of the best I’ve had in general.  The seasonal veggies were string beans and pretty good, but I’m not really a fan of string beans so I couldn’t say if they were great or not.  I believe my friend really enjoyed his steak as well.

Overall I really enjoyed this dinner.  The food was amazing all around and our server was quick and personable.  I’d love to give Johnny Garlic’s a 5 of 5, but the ambiance felt a little mis-matched.  I think more isolated tables and a quieter overall noise level would help out greatly.  We both also felt that some of the prices were a touch on the high side.  I would imagine that’s just due to the name that’s behind it.  These things definitely won’t keep me from coming back, but I suppose they are something to consider.