Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: Scott Ostrander on revamped Paragary’s

Scott Ostrander is the new chef de cuisine at the refurbished Paragary’s restaurant.
Scott Ostrander is the new chef de cuisine at the refurbished Paragary’s restaurant. apierleoni@sacbee.com

Paragary’s Bar & Oven at 28th and N streets has been a Sacramento landmark since restaurateur Randy Paragary opened it in 1983. At first it specialized in the so-called California cuisine, maintaining a vegetable-herb garden across the street. As competition grew, it segued into a sentimental go-to – comfortably familiar but outdated.

Undergoing a $1 million renovation since February 2014, it’s expected to open in June with a shortened name – Paragary’s. The main bar will have a craft-cocktails program, but the patio bar will be gone. The rear dining room will become a space reserved for private parties and functions, while the front dining room will be expanded.

Leading the kitchen brigade will be chef de cuisine Scott Ostrander, 32, who came over from his job as head chef of Paragary’s Esquire Grill. Ostrander’s “first foray in a kitchen” was as busser, pizza-maker and saucier at Paragary’s first Cafe Bernardo. Since then, he has helped open Restaurant Thir13en and Red Rabbit, and worked a year at the Michelin three-starred Alinea in Chicago.

“I like to cook from the hip, but when I do a (restaurant) like this, I want to make sure I cross my T’s and dot my I’s,” he said.

Q: What’s the dynamic between you and Kurt Spataro, the executive chef of the Paragary Restaurant Group?

A: What’s cool about it is we have a zillion ideas and we see eye to eye on everything. I worked with him on menu design, creation and concept. I’ve been working with Randy and (wife) Stacy in that regard, too. It’s been more of a collaboration than any restaurant-setting experience I’ve had. We’ll be doing fun, killer food that diners can’t get at other places in town, and that’s our edge.

Q: Who will be your customer base?

A: We’re doing things that will target a younger demographic (than in the past), but we’ll be going back to a lot of the basics (in food and service) that the older demographic will really appreciate. We’re not doing “modern cuisine.” We’re doing old-school French technique with great California produce, meats and cheeses, and we want to push the boundary. The old will inspire the new in a perfect marriage.

Q: What can diners expect?

A: For one thing, we’ll have a lot more seafood on the menu – Alaskan halibut, wild coastal salmon, Passmore Ranch trout, Dungeness crab beignet appetizer with piquillo pepper aioli. Also, pork tenderloin wrapped in house-cured bacon, sous-vide and seared, on fresh cranberry bean ragu.

Q: What about the old signature dishes?

A: The mushroom salad and the hand-cut rosemary noodles with seared chicken and pancetta will be there from the get-go.We’ll also have the hangar steak, but in a new version (involving) pommes puree with an alternate texture of shoestring potato crisp (forming) a nest. We still have the original wood-burning pizza oven, buffed and looking nice.

Q: Is there a dish you created that you’re especially proud of?

A: I knocked it out of the park when we did the tasting of my sous-vide and seared half-chicken ballotine (boned and stuffed chicken breast), with a confit chicken leg that’s fried. (It comes with) prosciutto, Italian farro, chanterelle mushrooms and arugula.

Q: How about house-made desserts?

A: (Some are) vanilla bean-buttermilk panna cotta in a spun-sugar dome, classic apricot coulis, and a cherry tarte tatin with ruby port glaze and hibiscus sorbet.

Q: Is Sacramento ready for all this?

A: Sacramento has become a food hub and people are more open to new ideas. It used to be pork, chicken, salmon and steak, and that was it. But now we’re getting out there with (more exciting) alternatives that diners are open to.

Q: Home cooks are always eager to learn from professional chefs. What’s your best advice?

A: Don’t be afraid to try. I would not be where I am without trying and failing a million times.

Scott Ostrander

Paragary’s new chef de cuisine

Previous experience includes serving as head chef of Paragary’s Esquire Grill.

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