Pretty on the outside
Sacramento, CA 95816
Randy Paragary spent $1 million and 15 months remodeling his namesake, 32-year-old restaurant. In June, Paragary’s Bar & Oven reopened as Paragary’s with a new look and a new menu, both inspired by France.
From the modern light fixtures to the tiled floors, Paragary’s pulls off the elegant look. It’s spacious, bright—and yes, the patio with its waterfall remains one of the most charming places to dine in Sacramento, if you can deal with the flies.
With Scott Ostrander (formerly of another Paragary restaurant, Esquire Grill) leading the kitchen, the dishes also match the interior’s beauty. Though not quite tweezer food, Ostrander’s plates boast dots of sauces, little leaves for color and other flourishes. Yes, the $29 scallops look like they should cost $29. The $25 chicken ballotine looks like $25. With the atmosphere and excellent, attentive service, a night out at Paragary’s should feel like the ideal special occasion destination.
Too bad the food is generally underwhelming. At times, crushingly so.
Nothing is awful. You won’t walk away from Paragary’s repulsed, but you’ll likely walk away wondering why you didn’t spend the evening somewhere else.
Let’s examine three dinner entrees: the scallops, the chicken ballotine and the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin ($26). All were perfectly nice and pleasant, if a little boring. The scallops wore an excellent sear; the rounds of chicken and pork were tender.
But they lacked an extra punch—and they all carried eerily similar accompaniments. And for dinner entrees, they were also all quite sweet. The delicate scallops—the most exceptional of the lot—paired well with sweet corn and a sweet vanilla-corn sauce. The chicken—the most forgettable—came with a medley of sweet corn, sweet onions and farro. The pork briefly surprised with a zingy addition of pickled nectarines and—oh, more corn.
We get it. Corn is in season.
My favorite dish was the mesquite grilled quail appetizer ($14), probably because it tasted like it came from a different restaurant. Yes, there was another sweet corn sauce. But there was also an intense and brilliant smokiness, ramped up by a sweet-salty bourbon and bacon marmalade. I reached a high, and then I tasted the crab beignets ($10).
The little crab—and corn, of course—fritters soaked my mouth with grease. It was sloppy. Depressing. Especially because on a different night, the beignets were lightly fried and rich with flavor. Another hint at consistency issues: Half of the trout ($22) was excellent during a lunch visit. One filet was perfectly cooked, with crispy skin and the classic French combo of browned butter and almonds. I’d order that filet again. The other filet? Dry, overdone and boney.
Unfortunately, Paragary’s was consistent with its bread. On three visits, the pain d’epi style of baguette was tough and dry—though, per usual, aesthetically pleasing.
Desserts were more successful. A chocolate cremeux cake ($8) was dense, soft and intense—just as it should be—with tart strawberries to offset the richness. An abstract, deconstructed version of berries and cream ($8) looked exquisite, and tasted quite lovely, but the portion was so, so small. The dessert menu has since changed, but expect a similar style and attention to detail from pastry chef Taylor Lovelace.
All the while, the lively dining room swirled with plates of hand-cut pappardelle with chicken ($18), sliced mushroom salad ($10) and wood-fired pizza ($15)—the three staples from Paragary’s Bar & Oven that made it onto the new Paragary’s menu. Perhaps the best way to enjoy Paragary’s is to relish in its original treasures. Or, maybe, everything will change when corn goes out of season.