Imperfectly delicious



2031 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

(916) 737-7699

When you cook, it’s like a conducting a symphony: One missing melody can mar the effect. Restaurants are similar. A virtuoso performance can be dampened by a flickering light or other annoying distraction.

It’s all the more apparent when the food is, indeed, outstanding. Our culture places high regard on local, beautifully presented food, and Localis chef Christopher Barnum delivers just that. However, off-key elements such as the restaurant’s cramped tables and lackluster patio make it slightly less spectacular.

Localis (Latin for “local”), opened two months ago in the revolving door corner once occupied by Tuli Bistro, then briefly Trick Pony. It’s a very small space dependent on the semi-open patio for most of the seating.

When we tried to find out the days and times of service, neither the eatery’s incomplete website nor its Facebook page provided the necessary details. Instead, we had to turn to a third-party site for such useful information.

(Word of note to owner Chris Jarosz, who is opening several other concepts simultaneously: Potential customers want to know when your places are open and what they serve, so they can go.)

However, the food is worth seeking out. Barnum, most recently at Cibo 7 in Roseville, presents food with the eye of an artist. The menu changes daily, dependent on local and regional ingredients, as well as “curated” planters of herbs alongside the patio.

Recent standout dishes included the Farm Plate ($11), a board of the freshest produce arranged carefully. Yellow wax beans, lightly pickled baby beets, and chunks of carrot reveled in a light dressing of piquant lemon vinaigrette.

The bacon and eggs ($11) included a golden-fried square of fine-grained polenta in which a raw duck egg was nestled. The heat of the polenta barely cooked the egg, which combined with the pesto to make a creamy sauce. Crisp jamon serrano and pea shoots rounded out the dish.

Less perfect but still intriguing was a fire-roasted tentacle of octopus ($17). While the pimento and spice-crusted meat was flavorful, it was a bit too chewy. Tangy pickled fennel balanced the spice, though, and arugula pesto added a bright green flavor.

For a produce-driven menu, it leans heavily on meat. My vegetarian companion had to special-order a risotto ($12), as the only listed item available was the Farm Plate. This seems somewhat short-sighted, given the chef’s dexterity with vegetables.

The resulting risotto came perfectly cooked and flavored with pureed acorn squash and a lively walnut-lime-pineapple-sage gremolata. With the juicy pop of pomegranate seeds and fried sage leaves, the textural contrasts were nicely balanced.

For those who want to sample many dishes, there is a $77 five-course chef’s tasting menu that stretches to eight small plates with additional tastings.

Ours included beets three ways: shaved raw, pickled and fried, with a goat cheese foam and micro-beet greens. Other courses were spice-crusted seared albacore, tiny slices of rare duck breast with demi-glace, and a meltingly tender pile of coffee-braised lamb shank with pear cubes.

The desserts continue the theme of creative multi-ingredient presentations. A croissant-based bread pudding with salted caramel sauce ($12) was accompanied by some of the creamiest, most indulgent brown sugar and buttermilk ice creams we’ve tried.

There is a rather pricy wine list, although you can choose from 3- or 6-ounce pours. Beer is available on tap, but not listed, so ask your server.

Localis’ service is already well-honed. The wait staff is attentive to details and well-educated on the menu.

It’s a shame that the miniscule tables and rather drab and chilly patio take away from what is otherwise an amazing—although somewhat expensive—dining experience.