A little taste of everything

Canon East Sacramento

The smoked trout hash combines textures for a different take on brunch.

The smoked trout hash combines textures for a different take on brunch.

photo by rebecca huval

Good for: Brunch, sharing small plates to try lots of flavors
New American, East Sacramento

Northern California specializes in a kind of luxury that’s designed to look casual. Or, as my uncle from Louisiana says, “These are the most uptight laid-back people I’ve ever met.”

The new Canon in East Sacramento sits comfortably among this group. A mural by artist Tyson Anthony Roberts adorns the outside with a riotous floral pattern and a boast in bold lettering: “East Sac.” Inside, a discerningly curated selection of geometric paintings and cheeky block prints complement the minimal wooden rafters and dangling lightbulbs.

The menu also balances restraint with adventure. It’s the vision of chef Brad Cecchi, who got his culinary start during high school with cooking classes at American River College. He worked his way through the ranks, including at Mulvaney’s B&L and Grange, eventually earning a Michelin star at Calistoga’s Solbar. Now, he’s brought that upscale savvy back home.

Cecchi’s seasonal and vegetarian-friendly menu states its values upfront: “Everything is designed to be shared.” Most of the dishes are larger than tapas, but smaller than an entree. The heartier plates are the size of a normal main course at a fine dining restaurant, which is to say, smaller than at casual eateries. Sharing enables you to try seasonings from around the world in one meal.

Though ingredients available locally are sourced accordingly, Canon uses far-flung seasonings: calabrian and urfa chile, garam masala and fermented black garlic. The dishes sound pungent, but I found a few of them surprisingly mild—even timid at times.

Let’s start with the highlights: The red khuri squash ($11) immersed the sweet gourd in a cozy vadouvan curry tasting of cinnamon and cardamom. Small onions unraveled in layers charred to peak allium flavor. Setting off the sweetness, bitter greens topped it with elegance; they looked like leafy seadragons.

The St. Louis ribs ($11) were bathed in a more inventive sauce that blended aromatic espresso with jammy tamarind. The pork was crispy on the edges with a buttery softness that melted off the bone. Sprinkled corn nuts added a fun crunch.

But I found the best dish at brunch. The smoked trout hash ($14) interplayed airy dill creme fraiche with chunks of fried hash and gushing pops of roe. Bitingly bitter spinach contrasted with the subtle smoked trout.

I was only let down by one plate and a cocktail. The yellowtail crudo ($14) sounded like a gastronomical thrill: calabrian chile, walnut, lemon puree, parsley, radish, olive and, of course, that sweet, sweet hamachi. But the puree was disappointingly weak. The Golden Age ($12) seemed like my kind of zingy-and-zany drink—whisky, scotch, egg whites, banana liqueur, demerara syrup, lemon juice, bitters—but it was a snooze.

All in all, Canon shares refinement that’s comfortable and accessible. The restaurant only occasionally plays it too safe. If your dish description leads with chiles, I expect to be transported by flavor—assertively so. But maybe it’s just those Louisiana roots talking.