Sing a song

Zigatos Bar & Grill

1910 Canterbury Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 641-6111

I’ve never really been a singing-waiter kind of girl. When my grandparents would make the servers gather round for a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday,” I cringed out of embarrassment both for myself and for the singers. When I heard that Zigato’s featured singing servers, I was tense with anticipation and not in a good way.

The singing, however, was actually a pleasant surprise—just one of the many things during the meal that I thought I wouldn’t like but did. (There were also some things I thought I would like but, alas, didn’t.) An example of a negative surprise was the restaurant’s location. It recently moved from the Howe ’bout Arden space now occupied by L’Orchid Restaurant, so I assumed the new spot would be either more convenient or more attractive, but it was neither. Instead, the strange dark space fronting Highway 160 was cavernous, dated and oddly decorated.

We were seated at a table in the bar (the main dining room was occupied by a private party), so that may have been part of the problem, but the speckly Formica-topped, wood-edged tables were ugly; the view out of our window was to the lobby of the Canterbury Inn; and the decorations on the windowsill featured rubbery fake grapes, some antiqued metal urns and—set jauntily atop the tallest urn—a cellophane bag of dried egg noodles. The pasta was imported, but still.

We were also right next to the sound system, which was playing oldies but goodies, until one server cranked up some instrumentals and burst into song. She was very good—and, thankfully, she sang in the middle of the room, rather than coming around to each table for acknowledgement as many restaurant performers do. We heard more than one table of apparent regulars asking when she would sing again, but apparently the private party in the back had left the front room a little understaffed, so she lacked time to do more than a couple of numbers.

All of this, however, is secondary to the food. I was worried by the bread: a loaf of supermarket sourdough with butter that tasted decidedly of the refrigerator. The long menu was odd in its range of choices. There’s a section of twice-baked potatoes, for instance, and a section of filled and baked bread bowls, which seemed very Fisherman’s Wharf to me. (There’s a special filling for each day of the week: chili con carne on Tuesdays, for instance, or spaghetti and meatballs on Saturday.)

These slightly kitschy choices are counterbalanced by newfangled, upscale picks like seared ahi tuna with nori on the appetizer menu or prawns with a red-pepper cream sauce, as well as straightforwardly American cooking like prime rib, burgers and meatloaf—albeit a meatloaf with sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto. In short, the menu seems to be aiming to please all of the people all of the time, which is perhaps not surprising for a restaurant that draws captive-audience hotel guests and also is affiliated with a large caterer.

We were in more of an upscale mood, so we steered clear of bread bowls and giant nachos and instead went for the grilled artichoke as a starter. It was a monster, cut in half, nicely striped by the grill and drizzled with herbed butter. The fibrous stem should have been better trimmed, and I didn’t much care for the gloppy “Mediterranean aioli” alongside, but the tangy herb butter was nice for dipping.

Our salads were distinctly uneven. I liked my house salad, with its fresh greens, shower of crumbled feta and slightly astringent walnuts balancing a sweetish dressing. But my husband’s Caesar was slightly tasteless and topped with hard, pre-shredded shards of Parmesan and what seemed to be supermarket croutons.

My entree of lamb chops was very tasty, the more so as the chops had a good forthright lamb flavor—not gamey, but definitely lamb-y, which I like very much. (Some lamb you get these days is so mild as to be uninteresting.) They were perfectly cooked to medium-rare, nicely striped with grill marks, and such thick little things that three was a very large portion. They and their accompanying risotto were napped in lemon-rosemary butter—I think it was the same stuff that came with the grilled artichoke. It added a nice flavor, but there was far too much of it, so the whole plate seemed greasy. The risotto had a pleasant saffron taste and color, but it was very dense, arriving in a stiff mound. The grilled vegetables—particularly the couple of spears of asparagus—to the side of the plate were a nice touch, though.

My husband had a plate of over-the-top lasagna with slightly mushy sheets of pasta and a little too much cheese and sauce, not to mention the whole sausage and fist-sized meatball sitting alongside. Its flavor was unobjectionable but not particularly distinctive.

The dessert menu is short and not terribly imaginative: chocolate truffle cake, bananas Foster, New York cheesecake. We tried a seasonal dessert of white chocolate-lemon cheesecake that was uneven both literally and figuratively. The cheesecake itself was very nice, creamy-soft and tangy with bright flecks of zest, but the “white chocolate mousse” topping was too dense and chalky-sweet, and the vanilla-cookie crust was mushy. I found that a lot about Zigato’s was like that: The main event was pleasant, perhaps surprisingly so, but the embellishments could use some work.