Green machine

The Greenhouse

1595 Eureka Rd.
Roseville, CA 95661

(916) 789-1900

Roseville has had a fashionable dining boom in recent years, of which the cocktail-oriented, flashy Town Lounge, now closed, was a part. The Greenhouse—a newish restaurant that occupies the Town Lounge’s former site—takes a more subdued approach by joining the green-everything trend; its colors are muted, and plants, some faux—including one big tree in the pleasant central atrium—are the main decorations.

I am not a certified organics inspector, so I can’t really assess the claims of The Greenhouse to be “truly organic.” But the menu says that they’re certified green by the Green Restaurant Association, and that 95 percent of their produce is organic, seasonal and local.

Sounds great, but how’s the food?

The menu at The Greenhouse straddles the line between stylish fare and green living. There are vegan and gluten-free dishes, denoted on the menu, which changes seasonally but includes flatbreads, appetizers like oysters, tuna tartare and baked goat cheese; various salads; vegetarian entrees as varied as five-bean cassoulet and caramelized shallot pierogi; fish dishes like habanero-orange Kona Kampachi or seared sea scallops; and classics like roast chicken, a Five Dot Ranch hamburger and rib-eye steak. The wine list includes a lot of big, powerful local choices, and there’s a seasonal cocktail list that’s quite enticing. I hesitated between the rosemary lemon drop and the blackberry-basil cooler, opting for the latter—a not-too-sweet quaffer topped with house-brewed beer, which sounded weird but added a clean, slightly bitter hit to the herbal notes and brambly berry flavor.

For our starters, the hot, freshly grill-marked naan had a clean, wheaty flavor, but it was a little undercooked and doughy, and it lacked the lightness and tang of the classic Indian article. Honestly, if the restaurant just called it flatbread to manage expectations (well, and cooked all the pieces all the way through), it would have seemed better, because the parts that were thoroughly cooked were pleasant, but I was hoping for the bubbly leavening of naan, and that wasn’t evident. Still, the meaty-tasting, chunky pistachio-olive tapenade was just strong and salty enough, and the subtler, smooth white-bean “hummus” was lemony and delicious.

Our roasted beet and arugula salad was similarly mixed. The pieces of duck confit were cold and a little dry, tough and tasteless, without silky texture or salty-savory flavor—a wasted enhancement and a distraction from the wedge of perfectly ripe, gooey Humboldt Fog goat cheese, which should have been left as the sole star. Diced roasted beets formed the base for a stack of big, peppery arugula leaves, coated in a slightly too-sweet strawberry-balsamic dressing that made the plate look messy.

Also slightly overwhelmed with accoutrements—though a surprisingly pretty plate, actually—was my eggplant Parmesan. This was a tall stack of rounds of panko-crusted and golden-fried polenta (on the bottom, corny and nubbly), eggplant (unfortunately al dente in spots) and slices of mozzarella cheese (gooey and yummy). On top was a lacquer-red relish of oven-dried cherry tomatoes, with a bright and powerful flavor but a little too much texture from the cherry tomato skins, and a scattering of microgreens; then, surrounding the stack was a lake of sweet “charred tomato sauce,” a generous ring of olive oil, drizzles of balsamic and some roasted garlic cloves. It was a fresh take on a vegetarian staple that can be muddy and dull, but a more restrained hand with the sauces would have made the plate less goopy.

My husband’s jalapeño-glazed pork chop with stone fruit beurre blanc and nectarine salsa was seasonal if a bit sweet in its overall impression; the jalapeño glaze seemed lost in the shuffle, but the pork was toothsome and the buttery potatoes savory.

A few green beans rounded out the plate, but overall, don’t go to The Greenhouse expecting a lot of healthy green vegetables; even the vegetarian plates tend toward starches and fried food.

The restaurant cleverly puts the dessert menu right on the table, so you have your whole meal to figure out what you want and save a little room from your rich entree. I was drawn to the lemon blossom yogurt panna cotta, which came with lemon sabayon (piped stars of tangy, foamy cream) and a couple of granola twists: long, skinny cookies covered in granolalike crumbs—a nice idea, but they tasted stale. The delicate panna cotta made a much fresher impression, with a perfumey lemon-honey tang but a soft, puddinglike texture rather than the firmer gelatin set common for panna cottas. My husband got the cheesecake “lollipops”—surprisingly hefty chunks of creamy cheesecake dipped into dark chocolate. Not surprisingly, they tasted good but were too rich to make much of a dent in; the strawberry sauce they came with was so restrained that it got lost.

That’s a bit emblematic of The Greenhouse: a creative concept that’s basically a good idea, but the execution could use some refinement.