Any number of delights

Kudos to Kupros Bistro for kreativity. Fried pickles? House-cured, no less. Kompared to the koncept of fried pickles, a tartar sauce accompaniment seems almost mundane. Apparently, this is one of those gastropubs folks are yakking about that aim to ratchet up bar food a notch or nine. Whatever Kupros is—it’s Greek for “copper”—a tip of the hat to executive chef, Sacramento native John Gurnee, formerly of Mason’s Restaurant.

There’s any number of delights in the wood-frame green and greenish former home on 21st near Kapitol that for something like four decades was the costume store, Cheap Thrills. One is an arresting bar that dominates the first floor. Kross the wood-plank porch, open the door and—wham—there’s a massive art nouveau checkerboard of green, yellow and kopper-highlighted stained glass hovering above a stentorian mahogany rectangular bar that’s at least 25 feet long and appears able to accommodate Toulouse-Lautrec and every hooker and cancan dancer he ever painted during his—ahem—short kareer. Stairs lead up to a dining room with partitions and sliding doors to kreate privacy or enlarge space for bigger parties.

But H.D. Palmer, food savant from the state Department of Finance, opts for the lido deck—the upstairs porch dotted with royal-blue Peroni umbrellas. Here’s H.D.’s account of the cheese plate and the subsequent redefining-refreshing watermelon salad.

“Since Duck McNuggets aren’t on today’s lunch menu—order for the name alone—it’s the artisan cheese plate. Have the house pick three—they chose a gouda, a cheddar (Silver Mountain) and a chèvre (Cypress Grove, Humboldt County). It comes alongside nuts, baguette slices, a blackberry jam and honey in the smallest handmade red clay pot you can imagine—about the size of two thimbles. The watermelon salad is equal-sized pieces of watermelon and fresh bits of mozzarella about the size of half of a marshmallow on top of mâche. Some places absolutely mangle balsamic. These guys have found the sweet spot—not too much vinegar, not too oily, not too salty and just a hint of sweetness.”

Not to dwell on the kreativity thing, but fried calamari, avocado chunks, pepperoncini slivers on frisée, spattered with monstrous Italian parsley leaves isn’t a combo that immediately leaps to mind. The tartness of the lime mango dressing is sharpened by the pepperoncini and frisée. H.D.’s sweeter balsamic might be more contrapuntal.

The hamachi carpaccio, with micro-diced melon, vanilla and basil, is beautifully presented but difficult to eat. There’s an abundance of robust oven-dried tomatoes in the vongole that aren’t as sweet as their sun-dried brethren, but add a bright almost smoky flavor that dovetails neatly with the clams, chilies and bread crumbs.

There’s also beer-steamed clams with garbanzos and ham chunks the size of dice. Savory broth, but H.D. concurs: “More clams, fewer garbanzoids, same ham dice.”

Our three sandwich forays can only be eaten with knife and fork. H.D.’s description of his pork belly BLT notes the “slice of a locally grown, perfectly light orange Watanabe tomato about the diameter of a fist.” His first time for pork belly: “The richest bacon you can possibly imagine.”

Similarly unhandle-able is the Reuben, with its lofty mound of tender duck atop cabbage and Russian dressing. The barkeep is artful in pairing wines with H.D.’s entrees, including factoring in the golf ball of green peppercorn butter on his flank steak and its accompanying potatoes cooked in duck fat.

Lots of options on tap. Hard not to order Raging Bitch. The ramekin of panna cotta H.D. orders, served with homemade Oreos, is a delectable artery closer.

Thanks to owners Stephen and Sharon Tokuhama for laying out the coin to bring Sacramento Kupros.