By-the-book fancy

ASR Restaurant & Lounge

ASR Restaurant & Lounge

390 N. Sunrise Ave.
Roseville, CA 95661

(916) 797-0220

In the high hills of Roseville where few Sacramentans dare to tread, there are new restaurants opening. Places for the tract-home dwelling nouveau riche and burgeoning Roseville professionals to sip swollen glasses of pinot grigio and order generic chevre.

But perhaps this is just Sacramento’s impression of Roseville?

Regardless, ASR Restaurant & Lounge seems to fulfill these wishes with a by-the-book upscale menu, vaulted dining room with razor-fine chic design, and a glorious patio. It is a very impressive space, albeit excessively dark and more than a bit noisy. Still, I bet you could throw one hell of a party there.

ASR Restaurant is the brainchild of Harwinder Bisla, brother of Steve Bisla who opened Standard Restaurant & Lounge in Fresno and is co-owner here. The name, ASR, comes from the first initials of Harwinder’s three children.

The menu is very Southern California suburban upscale—crème brûlée, flourless chocolate cake, risotto, beet salad, etc. You won’t find anything terribly creative, but there are a few gems here and there. We’ve seen more glorious offerings from Chef Vincent Paul Alexander—formerly of Slocum House and The Firehouse—so it’s a bit odd to not see a more bombastic menu.

Corn-and-crab fritters sound like little fried balls of joy, but instead, they ooze, tasting of saturated oil, with only a rumor of crab and the corn flavor wholly truant. The duck egg rolls make up for it with an umami blast of meaty duck confit, brie, and shiitake served with a sweet port sauce. This is one of the best duck dishes I’ve had in the area.

A buffalo chicken pizza did not meet expectations, sadly—expectations being, at the least, California Pizza Kitchen. The crust was better than CPK, but a lack of chicken and globs of mozzarella that make eating difficult offer only a one-dimensional flavor.

Then there’s the beef Wellington. This classic, when done right, is a rather ingenious recipe: beef filet coated in pâté and duxelles (a mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots, butter and cream cooked into a paste), then wrapped in puffy pastry and baked. Here, the pâté and duxelles were altogether missing. In addition, the meat was served rather blue, which isn’t a problem to me, but when it’s ordered medium-rare, then this is an issue of improper cooking, plain and simple.

The pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon, however, arrived expertly cooked and was served with the port sauce.

Both proteins also came with a side of whipped sweet potatoes suffocating in cream as well as a few other absent-minded vegetables placed there for no reason other than it seems the kitchen felt obligated to provide something that wasn’t meat.

The eggplant Parmesan was a sad little thing. Flavorless, tough, and served with half a blob of rubbery mozzarella, it remained largely untouched.

While the cheesecake tasted bland, the profiteroles—crispy pastry puffs served with coffee gelato—were so good I’m surprised a fight didn’t break out over them.

Service is attentive and spot on. The staff is knowledgeable about the wine menu, and offers both thoughtful recommendations and witty repartee. The menus need work, however, as spelling errors abound and certain listed items don’t actually exist.

Can I recommend ASR? Not particularly. If you’re in Roseville it certainly beats going to any of the chains, no question. Perhaps time, attention, and a bit more creativity will make ASR the sort of culinary destination I assume it strives to become.