Déjà vu all over again
Touché Restaurant & Bar2304 East Bidwell St.
Folsom, CA 95630
The restaurant business is notoriously unstable, but even so I always find it a little odd to review a new place in a space that formerly housed a different new place. There’s a strange sense of déjà vu, with the ghost of the old restaurant hovering about to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how extensive the makeover has been. This haunting feeling was especially strong at Touché Restaurant & Bar, which inhabits the out-of-the-way Folsom quarters recently vacated by the gorgeous Baccaras. Gone is the comfy yet elegant banquette where I sat when visiting there, and gone is the spare décor, in favor of an upscale-country look that could have been lifted from the pages of a NapaStyle catalog.
Tapestry-patterned draperies and wrought-iron fixtures aren’t really my thing, but the look is nice enough. It accords oddly, however, with some of the tableware. The high-style porcelain and Riedel stemware looked so much like that once used by Baccaras that my sense of a lurking ghost of restaurants past was accentuated.
The menu at Touché, however, is not especially reminiscent of the space’s previous occupant. It has a California vibe with some Mediterranean accents, with the wine-country feel underscored by a wine suggestion accompanying each entree. The food seems right in step with the Folsom audience, more so than Baccaras’ ambitious and rather urban flavors ever did. Most of the menu items break no new ground, from French onion soup to a pepper-crusted rib-eye steak. Appetizers, for instance, are multifaceted yet fairly uncomplicated, from an artisanal cheese plate and a baked brie fondue with dried fruit, plus apples and baguettes for dipping, to a jumbo shrimp cocktail.
We skipped the helpings of cheese, as well as the tempting charcuterie plate for two to four people, to move ahead to soup (for my husband) and salad (for me). I tried the house salad, which included butter lettuce, spiced walnuts, fried leeks and mustard vinaigrette. The leeks, unhappily, were limp where they should have been crisp, and I found the pungent, creamy dressing a little too plentiful for the mild lettuce.
The French onion soup had troubles of its own. On delivering it, the server announced that the kitchen was having “complications” with the sourdough bread bowl the menu promised. My husband loves a bread bowl, for whatever reason, so this was already a blow, but the extra croutons the eager server delivered made up for it.
More disappointing and quite puzzling were temperature and texture issues that made the soup a bowl of paradoxes. The bowl, as our server warned, was too hot to touch, but the soup within was lukewarm at best, and the Swiss-cheese topping—which should have been bubbling and molten—was rubbery and resistant to the spoon. Even more peculiar was the extreme resistance of the crouton in the soup to the softening effects of broth. It was evidently toasted to a hard, zwieback-like consistency, and it never softened enough to get a piece of it without serious pounding with the spoon. I don’t know how they did it; even stale bread normally yields to the effects of liquid and time.
We were glad to move on to entrees. My fat pork-loin chop, stuffed with dried apricots, cranberries and apples, was juicy and succulent, though I felt the fruity filling was a little too high on sweetness and low on interest. (It also tended to wash out the cherry notes of the suggested pinot-noir accompaniment.) Also, after cooking, the kitchen really should have removed the toothpick that was holding the pocket of stuffing closed; I almost bit right into it. I liked the roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and the crisp green beans alongside but would have liked to see more distinctive sides as well.
My husband’s flat-iron steak, which came with the same sides, was nicely seared and had a deliciously peppery marinade. Lacking, however, were the adornments of sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions promised by the menu—a shame, as they would have added interest to the dish.
My dessert, a pecan torta, continued the menu’s tradition of missing-in-action adornments; in this case, there was no crème fraîche with the sweet little tart. It had a nice buttery crust with a filling that—aside from a hint of what seemed to be cardamom—was a dead ringer for the streusel on top of a coffee cake. My husband had a tasty apple tart with house-made vanilla-bean ice cream. The tender slices of apple were baked to a sweet, tart perfection.
Touché’s offerings are comfortingly familiar and often well-executed, though the kitchen really needs to be more on the ball with remembering and delivering what the menu promises. Baccaras perhaps aimed too high in both its prices and its cooking for Folsom diners. If the new occupant of its space can work out its “complications” and overcome the very considerable disadvantage of its isolated office-park location, the local crowd may forget the ghost of the former inhabitant.