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    Price (For typical entree)

    $ - Under $10

    $$ - Under $15

    $$$ - Under $20

    $$$$ - Over $20

    Critics rating

    *  – Poor

    * *  – Fair

    * * *  – Good

    * * * *  – Excellent

    Below are summaries of restaurant reviews that have previously appeared in Blair Anthony Robertson’s Dining column, which appears in Sunday’s A&E, and Allen Pierleoni’s Counter Culture column, which runs in Ticket. For more restaurant reviews, visit

Summaries of recent dining reviews from The Bee’s critics

Published: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am



* * 1/2

2232 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 922-3524;

This is one of the most respected chain restaurants in the area, owned by the Hillstone Restaurant Group. While it’s beloved by many for the consistent cooking, lively atmosphere and excellent service, those seeking a varied menu and elevated cooking may wonder what all the fuss is about.

$$$$ – B.A.R.

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions

* * 1/2

1415 L St., Sacramento; (916) 440-8888;

You’ll be impressed by the new decor, the urban feel of the place and the quality of the ingredients, but you may be left wondering what new dimension Hock Farm brings to our dining scene. The food is straightforward, the service is not as sharp as the competition, and the overall “concept” – farm to table – is a restaurant fundamental, not a concept. The vegetables are a strong suit here. On the plate, they’re rustic, wonderfully seasoned and delicious. The overall eating experience, however, is often basic, if not underwhelming.

$$$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

Hong Kong Islander – Chinese

* * * * 

5675 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 392-3388,

Authentic Chinese food served in a room big enough to hold 600 (for banquets). The baked sea bass is outstanding, along with sea scallops and eggplant in a clay pot, salt and pepper pork, and any of the chow fun dishes.

$-$$ – Allen Pierleoni

New Moon Cafe

* * * 1/2

203 York St., Nevada City; (530) 265-6399;

Dining at New Moon is an experience in which the food, the setting and the service are in perfect sync. The food, rustic and refined, is often tremendous, with dynamic flavor combinations, first-rate ingredients and skilled cooking. The most exciting dishes are offered as specials, and that’s where co-owner and chef Peter Selaya is at his creative best. This is a relatively expensive restaurant, but the quality of the food and service make it well worth the price.

$$$$ – B.A.R.

Quan Nem Ninh Hoa - Vietnamese

* * * 6450 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 428-3748:

This is one of the signature culinary and cultural experiences on the stretch of Stockton Boulevard known as Little Saigon. The food is a mix of exotic and accessible, the energy in the room is often lively and joyful, and the dining experience is always satisfying, if not richly rewarding. The spring rolls for two are part of the entertainment at the table.

$-$$ – B.A.R.

Restaurant Trokay

* * * * 

10046 Donner Pass Road, Truckee; (530) 582-1040;

Open for less than a year, Trokay’s food is ambitious, eclectic, refined and modernist, making for a deeply satisfying experience. Owner-chef John Weatherson and his staff are executing an ambitious and inventive menu with great precision. The $80 prix fixe or $140 chef’s tasting menu are available only if everyone at the table partakes. Wine pairings are also an option. Breads are baked in-house and served in two sequences during dinner. Trokay also does a more casual yet excellent lunch.

$$$$ – B.A.R.

Whole Foods Market Bier Garten – pub grub

* * 1/2/* * * * 

In the Palladio center, 270 Palladio Parkway, Folsom; (916) 984-8500,

Hand-crafted draft beers are the focus, but the menu has grown over the past year. Everything is sourced within the store. Ceviche, fish ’n’ chips, pizza, oysters on the half shell, cheese fries, burger and grilled cheese sandwiches are good choices. (First rating above is for the food; second for the beer.)

$-$$ A.P.


Bacon and Butter – breakfast and lunch

* * * 

1119 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 346-4445:

With an exciting and sometimes daring farm-to-table menu, a talented chef (Billy Zoellin) and a lively midtown vibe, Bacon and Butter is thriving as a destination for breakfast, brunch and lunch. The long waits on Sundays may be a turn-off for some, but there are other days – and other ways – to enjoy this place and appreciate its vast potential. Don’t miss the fantastic burger, the grilled-cheese sandwich featuring a “cheese blanket,” the omelets stuffed with cheese and seasonal produce, and the pancakes.

$$ – B.A.R.

A Bakery & Thai Food Restaurant

* * * 6490 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 451-5411;

Even with a name that (A) doesn’t have a ring to it, and (B) doesn’t make sense, the food and friendly service provide enough sizzle to help us appreciate the myriad flavors of Thai cooking done right. All of the main entrees we tried over three visits were first-rate.

$-$$ – Blair Anthony Robertson

Dad’s Kitchen – American

* * 1/2

2968 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 447-3237;

This is a feel-good neighborhood eatery that attracts a smart, eclectic crowd, is very family friendly and still manages to have a cool urban edge. The food is very good at its best and at times so-so. A tighter focus on execution in the kitchen and a few dynamic tweaks to the menu will elevate this already charming little spot.

$$ – B.A.R.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – Texas-style barbecue

* * 1/2

4630 Natomas Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 378-4122, (a sister store is at 5110 Laguna Blvd., Elk Grove; 916-546-4400):

Hickory-smoked chopped and sliced brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork and side dishes are the highlights. The sauces are fine, the decor carefully staged. Part of a 300-franchise national chain.

$-$$$ – A.P.

El Favorito Taqueria Cocina Mexicana

* * * 

10427 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova; (916) 362-3340:

This modest taqueria has plenty of appealing traits, especially the good cooking, great prices and friendly employees. To get a sense of the true spirit of a taqueria and how it appeals to working-class families, this is a solid choice. Recommended dishes include the chorizo torta, steak a la Mexicana, steak ranchera and shrimp fajitas.

$ – B.A.R.

Firebird Russian Restaurant

* * * 

4715 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael; (916) 485-7747;

With a richly varied menu that showcases Russian cuisine and the talent and precision in the kitchen to execute the dishes, the food is the star here. A more lively dining room – and many more people infusing it with energy – will make it the entertaining dining experience it deserves to be.

$$-$$$ – B.A.R.

Firestone Public House

* * 1/2

1132 16th St., Sacramento; (916) 446-0888;

Great location, a wonderful reuse of an old art deco building and a smart, energetic bar program are the major draws to this instantly successful enterprise. A more interesting menu and better execution in the kitchen will take it to the next level. The beer selection is very good. The servers can talk about the beer and drinks, and they know the menu well.

$$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

Frank Fat’s – Chinese and American

* * * 1/2

806 L St., Sacramento; (916) 442-7092;

For an old-school place with plenty of history, a touch of class and polished service that will make you feel like a VIP, it doesn’t get any better than this. It may have opened in 1939, with tweaks to the menu over the years, but the recipe for success hasn’t changed. We loved the scallops wrapped in bacon, the yu kwok appetizer, brandy fried chicken, the spicy General Tsaos Chicken and the very tender Immigrants Beef. The mixed drinks are made by pros.

$$-$$$ – B.A.R.

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

* * * 1/2

1630 S St., Sacramento; (916) 442-4885;

The talented folks behind Hook & Ladder have created something very special, a new breed of restaurant that pays homage to city’s past while showing so much promise for what lies ahead. The potential is there for this place to be one of the top food and drink experiences in town. Executive chef Brian Mizner’s eclectic New American cuisine showcases much that is special about Sacramento. Housemade pastas, artisan pizzas, small plates and a variety of thoughtfully created entrees are all first-rate.

$$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

Jamie’s Broadway Grille

* * * 1/2

427 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 442-4044;

This is food the way it’s supposed to be, unfussy and made the old-fashioned way, in an atmosphere where everything is so wrong it’s right. The pastrami sandwich alone – super-thick and tender slabs of house-made meat with a lingering smokiness – is enough to inspire bedlam for foodies. The rotating fish specials are top-notch. As for ambiance, sometimes it is simply about what it feels like to be in the room. Jamie’s is just right.

$$$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

Kru – modern Japanese

* * * * 

2516 J St., Sacramento; (916) 551-1559;

Since opening Kru in 2005, chef Billy Ngo has evolved from a precocious talent to a seasoned craftsman who continues to innovate. Best known for his contemporary take on sushi, Ngo and crew also serve up an incredible array of both classic and inventive Japanese dishes from the kitchen. While the service can be uneven and the décor lacking, the overall dining experience puts Kru among the very best restaurants in the city.

$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

The Lodge at Cordova Casino

* 1/2

2801 Prospect Park Drive, Rancho Cordova; (916) 293-7480;

The overall restaurant experience just doesn’t cut it for anything other than a casual breakfast or lunch. The biggest issue is the noticeable decline in cooking quality over the past six months – from decent to subpar to inedible.

$$-$$$ – B.A.R.

LowBrau Bierhall

* * 1/2

There’s so much to love about LowBrau. The beer list is intelligent, wide-ranging and ever-changing. Yet, many of the basics in service and cooking need to get better before this rating increases. Craft beer folks might appreciate a menu beyond sausages and fries. And while it’s a wonderful location, full of energy and a showcase of midtown at its finest and most eclectic, it’s extremely noisy.

$ – B.A.R.

Muntean’s Soups, Salads & Sandwiches

* * * 

1225 J St., Sacramento; (916) 498-9340;

At Muntean’s, it’s all about the soups and the brimming charisma of George Muntean, the maestro of mulligatawny. He is a creative tour de force, dreaming up all kinds of soup varieties. If a soup sounds weird, give it a try. This is a place geared toward lunch and doesn’t put on airs.

$ – B.A.R.

Nordstrom Cafe – American

* * * 

1651 Arden Way, Sacramento, in the Arden Fair mall; (916) 646-2400;

Fresh ingredients and a straightforward menu are what you’ll find at the upscale department store’s well-lit restaurant (with patio dining). The tasty soups are served hot, the sandwiches are big enough to share, and the salads are made with mostly organic ingredients.

$-$$ – A.P.

Pork Belly Grub Shack

4261 Truxel Road, Sacramento; (916) 285-6100;

If you sought this place out because you heard about the cool menu and the two dynamic chefs cooking the food, you will be stopped in your tracks, as we were, by how bad the food actually is. The new owners may have bought the concept, kept the menu and continue to use the hip slogans, but the food is simply terrible.

$ – B.A.R.

Ramen & Rice

* * * 1/2

807 Howe Ave., Sacramento; (916) 922-6227:

In a casual, no-nonsense setting, chef Chuck Kim cooks excellent Korean and Japanese dishes while wife Lee provides friendly and attentive service. The “champong” ramen with mussels, squid and shrimp is outstanding and promises to become the signature dish, even if the heat can overwhelm hearty palates. The bibimbap rice and vegetable dishes are also first-rate. All the other ramens are also recommended, including the gently spicy curry ramen.

$ – B.A.R.

Tak Food Market – Iranian

* * * * 

9045 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 944-3188,

Husband-wife co-owners Majid and Forouzan Foroutan prepare a spread of authentic Iranian dishes that meld unusual flavors and irresistible textures. The chicken, beef and salmon kebabs are tops, but the lamb chops are even better. All the meats are marinated and grilled over charcoal, and served with basmati rice. More dishes are on the catering menu. The grocery store section is a fascinating discovery of imported goods.

$-$$ – A.P.

Trio Restaurant Bakery Market

* * * 826 J St., Sacramento; (916) 444-7454;

Trio is still struggling to get the right message out that it serves delicious food prepared with creative flair and exotic twists. Gönül Blum, the owner-chef, has great command of flavors.Recommended dishes include eggplant Napoleon, onion and fennel fritters, roasted carrot and avocado salad, stuffed chicken, the rack of lamb with polenta, moussaka, and the excellent and unusual meatloaf.

$$-$$$ – B.A.R.


La Huaca – Peruvian

* * * 

9213 Sierra College Blvd. Suite 140, Roseville; (916) 771-2558;

The food here will be a revelation for those not familiar with Peruvian cuisine. There’s a reason La Huaca is catching on with savvy Roseville diners. The food is exotic, accessible, hearty and elegant, with plenty of options, and the experience of dining here is thoroughly enjoyable.

$$$-$$$$ – B.A.R.

Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill

* * 1/2

238 Vernon St., Roseville; (916) 773-7625;

Sure, expectations aren’t always the highest for celebrity-themed restaurants, but Sammy’s is pretty serious about the food. There are plenty of dishes with dashes of creativity, plenty of flavor and good portion sizes. The restaurant is run professionally. A good bet for a meal, often with live music.

$-$$ – B.A.R.

Venita Rhea’s – American

* * * * 

4415 Granite Drive, Rocklin; (916) 624-2697,

One of Rocklin’s most popular breakfast-lunch destinations offers fresh food and plenty of it, from a menu that seems to never end. Omelets, ham steak, cinnamon roll French toast, Kobe-style burger, salads and much more.

$-$$ – A.P.


CrepeTown Cafe & Grill – European

* * * 

3300 Coach Lane, Cameron Park; (530) 677-5993,

Well-conceived savory and sweet crepes dominate the menu of the European-style cafe, but don’t overlook the rich Hungarian goulash, roast lamb and pasta.

$-$$ – A.P.


Broderick Restaurant & Bar

* * * 

319 Sixth St., West Sacramento; (916) 372-2436;

For years associated with a tenacious street gang, the Broderick name has been reclaimed as a thriving restaurant and bar in a neighborhood on the rise. Sure, there’s a tough-guy patina to the place, but there are enough friendly faces and lots of creative cooking, even organic, locally sourced produce to make you think twice about preconceived notions. All this attracts a wonderfully eclectic clientele eager to partake in an often excellent food experience.

$$ – B.A.R.

Fish’s Wild – casual seafood

* * * 1/2

516 Second St., Davis; (530) 753-8883,

Grilled and fried seafood at bargain prices, along with grilled short ribs, chicken katsu and tasty fish tacos. Sides are unusual: brown and white rice, steamed vegetables, grilled zucchini. Its motto is, “Just be healthy!”

$-$$ – A.P.

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