(Technically my birthday isn't until next Sunday, so this was extra surprise-y.)
Doug refused to tell me what we were doing and where we were going, until we got in the car and he handed me a menu to The Kitchen, potentially my most favorite restaurant in Sacramento. The Kitchen is ridiculously expensive and the meal is ridiculously long, but if you love ridiculousness it's definitely worth it to save some pennies and try it out at least once.
Doug and I have actually dined here before (to celebrate our one year anniversary back in 2011). The Kitchen is open five days a week, for one meal per day, for 52 (or so) diners. It's delicious food and fine dining, but the performance and atmosphere is what makes it really special. You can watch the chefs prepare all the meals - either at the counter where they prep and serve as you're eating, and/or with a view of the kitchen (which we had) in the back. You're allowed (and encouraged!) to wander around the kitchen, prep tables, wine room (temp held at 56 degrees we noticed), back patio. It's been nominated for a James Beard award and is one of, if not THE, premier restaurants in Sacramento.They have one prix fixe course per night, but are super accommodating of any dietary restrictions, preferences, or allergies. (Last time we were here I had mentioned I wasn't a fan of blueberries in the dessert, so the pastry chef created a flourless chocolate tart for me instead, on the spot).
The food we'll get in to and it was divine, of course, but the best part about dinner?
Greg and Kendra were there! Not only did Doug surprise me with the restaurant - but inviting some of our best friends, too. Bonus points for Doug.
|View of kitchen from our table. Kendra making a tea selection during the tea service.|
|Check out that giant paddle and whisk for the stand mixer.|
|Wine cellar next to our table.|
Last time we dined there Noah Zonca was the head chef - and had been for over a decade. He's now the executive chef of Capitol Dime (which we were excited to try... but unfortunately disappointed - food was mediocre and prices were pretty stupid). Noah rocked it at The Kitchen, though - his style is loud and boisterous, borderline obnoxious. Last time we were there Noah gave an entire speech about the night's dinner holding two live lobsters, so we were interested to see how the food and service would change with new chef John Griffiths.
|Former Kitchen Executive Chef Noah Zonca, explaining the nights menu while simultaneously waving around two giant lobsters.|
|Us with the executive chef John.|
OK. The food.
(The descriptions I'm copying and pasting from their website, FYI- because they are way too complicated to either remember or reiterate).
OK anyway, The fish was good, and the little sweet potato chip added some good texture. It was hard to take a "complete" bite of this dish - i.e., getting a little bit of everything in your mouth at once to taste it all together, but individually all the components were stellar.
Becky's Notes: Soup was bomb, obviously anything with lobster is going to be great - duh. But the standout was that seaweed bread. Sounds gross but it was INCREDIBLE, salty and carby and sweet all at once with that delectable spread. We ordered another round of those bad boys.
Roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic and toasted nuts.
That's right bitch. You thought eating pig face was gross? Think again. Duck. Tongue. With a little spicy nut compote thing and green chili sauce stuff.
It was actually pretty tasty.
|Save a cow. Eat a duck tongue.|
|Scallops, fish, fish, eggplant.|
We headed outside to the beautiful brick patio (complete with string lights and a fireplace - very romantic) for a small greens salad (pretty weak, actually), an oyster (I'm not a fan of oysters and this was no different, tasted like gross salty ocean), on the spot coal roasted chicken (delish), a lentil bean salad (standard), and a fire roasted pepper with a creamy sauce that was to die for (in the little square dish on the left).
|This little pepper and the sauce it came with was one of my favorites of the night. Avocado and onion included.|
After taking a break from eating to eat, it was time to eat again so the crowd sat down for the remaining courses.
Becky's Notes: Pasta was good. It was cooked al dente and just seemed... slightly under cooked to me? The flavors were delicious and it was sweet, slight hint of cinnamon taste - I think I just prefer softer pasta. Still delicious.
Becky's Notes: Um, amazing. No photoshop or anything on the beef pictures - it was THAT PINK. Those marshmallow blobs were actually pretty tasty with the entire dish, too.
Becky's Notes: I don't like apple pie or cooked fruit, but this. was. phenomenal. Best apple pie I've ever tasted.
Kendra actually requested something different, which they happily obliged - sans the apple pie.
At this point the restaurant looked like this:
Greg kept reminding us that, technically, "the pastry chefs don't get in until 4AM" so we were good to go. We're not the kind of group that takes an empty restaurant and busy dishwashers as a sign or anything.
So fuck it. Let's order more food!
Greg requested "something with onions... and potatoes. An onion-y potato-y thing". And so bearded sous chef made him this dish in about ten minutes:
It was sort of like a mini potato gratin with tossed roasted potatoes and caramelized onions. It was absolutely incredible and I was shocked he whipped it up in under ten minutes.
Let's refresh ourselves on what the restaurant looked like now:
Not to be deterred, Doug ordered something else:
|Doug in an exciting action shot with the creamer!|
|The suspense must be killing you!|
|Ah. Coffee creamed.|
At the end of the day (and there was zero doubt in the staff's minds that it was the end of the damn day by the time we left), I concluded that having a birthday was awesome. It was a great experience with my amazing husband who gives gifts of experience and two friends who are like family.
|Me and my amazing husband.|