An imperfect 10
You’ve probably already heard of Capital Dime: the restaurant that has Sacramento foodies (or at least the ones who call themselves that) salivating at the doors and begging to finally eat chef Noah Zonca’s food without having to cough up rent money. Zonca hails from The Kitchen, one of Sacramento’s toitiest restaurants, so people are curious to see him put out food that’ll only cost a tenner.
Exceptional food for a reasonable price is the tantalus for most restaurants—always desired but usually out of reach. Capital Dime, however, seems to have kicked off these shackles.
The menu is split up into “Dime plates” (not to be confused with small plates, as they are anything but), “rabbit food” (which is not vegetarian, as indicated by the beef carpaccio), sandwiches (self-explanatory) and “plates” (which are only served at dinner).
The Dime plates and rabbit food both go for $10. This, and the idea that every single dish is supposed to be a “Perfect 10,” is the idea behind the restaurant’s name.
There’s one simple dish called clams chorizo on the menu, and it’s something you would stab your mother with a seafood fork over, should she attempt to pluck one of its delightful bivalves from your plate. Here, seared chorizo is drowned in white wine and garlic, creating a silky palomino-colored broth in which the teeniest clams ever are cooked.
The only problem with the dish was that many unopened clams made it to our table. In addition, we were provided thin, stale toast. One cannot sop up that epiphany-inducing broth with stale toast.
I know Yelpers have been orgasmically excited over the watermelon-and-shrimp salad. Not sure why. The watermelon’s gloppy texture and soft edges indicated it had likely been cut the day before. And the bonito flakes didn’t provide the saltiness needed for balance, and the mozzarella was lost. This lack of salt and a lack of acidity left us wanting feta and lime juice for a classic watermelon salad.
Elsewhere on the menu, the kalua-pork slider is a thing of beauty. The pulled pork is tender as a bruise and packed with flavor. I found the house-smoked pastrami to be by and far the best pastrami I’ve ever had in this city. It’s intensely smoky and delightful.
The best word I can come up for the steak sandwich, however, is “fine.” The sandwich is fine. Not great. Not bad. The steak was cooked perfectly, but there was, again, no salt, and thickly cut slabs that couldn’t be bitten through made for a bit of a chore. The sandwich would have been scores better flavorwise with a bit of sauce (even tossing the greens in a bit of vinegar would have done wonders).
The fries are fried in rice oil with their skins on—which always means more flavor. Delicate, crisp and fantastic to munch on.
Service had some missteps, such as menu haziness and nerves, but overall, it’s both jubilant and professional. The waitstaff seems to enjoy being there, and that’s always refreshing.
Yet for all the little flaws, you can see the forethought behind it. There’s obviously a meditation on how to perfect classic dishes and generate innovative recipes, and knowing when they’ve achieved nirvana. With a chef like Zonca, you know these hiccups will fade.