First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mama Kim Eats 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento
First came the catering company, Mama Kim Cooks, followed by Mama Kim on the Go, the very fine food truck. Now we've got Mama Kim Eats.
What's next? Mama Kim Flosses? Mama Kim does Hot Yoga?
Turns out, Mama Kim doesn't know how to slow down the mini-empire even has a casual cafe in the works called Salt and Pepper, slated to open in a month or two.
Based on our initial experience at the newest venture, a full-service restaurant, so far Mama Kim knows best. It's smart, it's polished, and it's sitting pretty on the new and improved Del Paso Boulevard.
If the space looks familiar, it's because Mama Kim took over the spot from the Supper Club, which moved to the Crocker Art Museum and reinvented itself as the Crocker Cafe by Supper Club.
We dropped by Mama Kim Eats recently on a weeknight to find a room with a large, rustic industrial feel painted brick walls, exposed ceilings, oversized pendant lamps and concrete floors. Fresh flowers on the tables and two small bowls and a spoon for the salt and pepper.
The concept is serious farm-to-table cooking with a focus on modern Southern cuisine, which explains the fried chicken dish with ultra-creamy mashed potatoes and some beautifully done dinosaur kale.
The woman behind it all is Kim Scott, a classically trained and well-traveled chef who was born and raised in Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side).
The restaurant has been open for a few months and hours are still a bit limited. For now, it's dinners only Thursday to Saturday, with brunch on Sunday. As the restaurant gets its footing and finds its audience, the hours are expected to expand.
Since we ambled in on "Thirsty Thursday," we took advantage of the deals that night, including $5 glasses of wine and a selection of $5 small plates. We chose the heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella and bacon lardons from Feeding Crane Farms. It was simply excellent thick slices of tomatoes drizzled with balsamic, cubes of toothsome, tender pork and slabs of the cheese all working so well with the fresh salad greens. And for $5? Amazing. Not quite at that level but pretty darn tasty were the potato/ cheese/chilies chimichangas with salsa and chipotle aioli. This was five bucks, too.
Onward to dinner. The fried chicken mentioned above was tender and juicy, with a nice crisp coating that reminded me of my years in the Deep South, where it's not really food unless it's battered and fried and served with grits. Those side dishes with the chicken were perfect on this plate, at least.
Not so on the second entree, the New York steak with a simple wine reduction. The steak was very good and cooked with precision. But the creative approach to the pommes Anna layering the potatoes in a small casserole dish (instead of cooking them fanned out in a large pan with loads of butter). Great idea and I can see where they were going with the Southern charm notion but the potatoes were significantly undercooked and inedible. Bonus points for taking a chance but points off for not executing the idea. The selection of summer squash on the plate, however, was some of the best I've had in memory no watery, mushy hodgepodge here.
Pecan pie for dessert: really good and very Southern.
With its professional service, inspiring atmosphere and serious cooking, Mama Kim Eats has the potential to be a top restaurant. Folks have to find it and be willing to venture beyond midtown to Del Paso Boulevard, just 10 minutes away. The area is making a comeback. While the Supper Club was a significant loss, Mama Kim Eats could be a great beginning. We'll be returning soon to try the baby back ribs with jalapeño corn bread.
1910 Q St., Sacramento
I love the location a stone's throw from The Bee. The room is cozy and cool, with exposed beams, lovely light fixtures, even retro light bulbs to fit in with the whole Prohibition/speakeasy concept.
When we dropped by, Pour House was just a few days old and still finding its way, but there was clearly plenty of thinking about the beer and whiskey. It's going to be a fun place for people who are serious and sophisticated about how they imbibe.
The food, so far, doesn't quite match up to the drinks in terms of sophistication, but we saw some promise, including something called the "Pacific Northwest BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) featuring a salmon filet. The only shortcoming was the ho-hum bread, which was neither toasted nor interesting enough.
The BBQ tri tip featured excellent meat and lots of it but the bread was just OK. The sweet potato fries are superb; the regular fries are boring.
Pricing is another issue with the food it's just plain pricey. Some of my colleagues at The Bee, a notoriously penurious lot, balked at $11.95 for the BLAT, tri tip and pulled pork sandwiches. Those are high-end restaurant prices and these offerings don't quite amount to that. The burger, too, is expensive $11.95 for a half-pounder is one thing, but $1 more for cheese? This makes the burger one of the most expensive in the city.
As with Mama Kim, the food has strong ties to the flourishing food truck scene locally. Coast to Coast Sandwiches, one of the better trucks, has expanded to brick and mortar, leasing the kitchen from Pour House and providing a relatively seamless dining experience. A few tweaks, a couple of improvements, a tad more refinement and a second look at those prices and we just may have a winner here.
The beer and whiskey is already finding a following, and it's easy to see why. The selection is fantastic and neatly organized into 16 categories.
The crowds so far are eclectic a mix of ages and backgrounds on the weekends, a largely professional crowd for weekdays at lunch. The most eye- catching accoutrements tableside are the taps right on the tables.
Jason Poole, the bar manager, tells me these taps are triggered by the server, then a touch-screen tablet built into the table keeps tabs on the ounces poured by the patrons. This isn't some chug-a-lug thing. The taps serve the good stuff, feature a rotating selection of premium beers and whiskeys. It's a cool feature, though it's too soon to see how it will play out.
The beer menu features over 100 selections, and there are 150 whiskeys, including some obscure and very pricey ones. Serious whiskey folks can get to know them better on "Whiskey Wednesday" from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be an educational component and a tasting, with 25 percent discounts on all whiskeys. A new beer club will convene on Mondays.
I'm told Pour House will start Sunday brunch today featuring eggs Benedict with various regional flavors, and banana bread French toast with bourbon syrup, among other things.