The dudes abide
Plan B Cafe555 La Sierra Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95864
The Dudes Who Dine saddle up again to bring their infectious joie de vivre to Plan B, now at Location B in a shopping center near Watt Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard. The restaurant, with the same French bistro-esque menu from its cramped initial iteration in a Pocket strip mall, occupies the former site of Zimmerman’s Toys.
Previously, the DWDs—Rusty Areias, David Berkley, Judge Frank Damrell, Sotiris Kolokotronis—teed the ball up and hit it long at Cafe Zorro in Loomis. This go-round, Special Guest Dude Fabian Núñez joins the lineup.
The Big Payoff hanging with the DWDs is the company. There is much laughing and glass clinking. Conversation tags numerous eclectic bases: Dinner at 21 with Lauren Bacall, the next Supreme Court nominee, wine, politics, government, society’s ills, cheap thrills.
A contributing factor could be the phalanx of wine glasses at the table for six, which is next to the white brick wall at the back of the otherwise basic black eatery. Think goth Jetsons.
Among the many cool things about David Berkley is he often brings his own wines. And, as the first to arrive, he takes the liberty of ordering some tartlets, which are tongue-and-groove accompaniments to a nifty French rosé he’s pulled out of his bag of oenological tricks. Of the corn-tortilla-size pastries, the one mounded with fennel, caramelized onions, leeks and white anchovies elicits a bevy of oohs and aahs. Owner Lionel Lucas—who agrees quickly that all cool people are named Lucas—says the second variety of tartlet features reblochon cheese rather than the chèvre listed on the menu. Either way, leeks and caramelized onions take the checkered flag.
If I’m a dim-sum slut, His Honor is a shellfish slattern. It sat poorly with him that oysters weren’t available for his pleasure at Cafe Zorro. He makes up for it by muscling down a mess o’ mussels here.
Three of Plan B’s five $12-a-throw varieties appear in bountiful bowls. The first to touch down is the Nantaise—butter, shallots, crème fraîche—which, at least for the Lucas who doesn’t own the restaurant, is very reminiscent of Brussels, the one city in the world where one absolutely must eat mussels.
The coconut milk and garlic isn’t near as spicy as a Thai-influenced broth should be, although the crown of cilantro adds a crunchy counterpoint.
Finally comes the Provençale: an herb-infused tomato sauce. As any self-respecting jurist or shellfish slattern would, His Honor plays no favorites, devouring all with equal relish.
No one is shy about stuffing pommes frites into their faces, either. The paper cones of garlicky, herb-dusted shoestrings are emptied with ruthless efficiency and swiftly replenished by Lucas and staff. As are the wine glasses. A 2006 Saintsbury pinot noir makes magic with the mussels.
The only sour note is the caper-capped sole. It is peppery and accompanied by a seven-piece bland of steamed zucchini, asparagus and green beans. If the restaurant is French-inspired, shouldn’t the veggies be adrift in a sea of butter or tossed in a bowl of herbes de Provence, or both?
David wants to be one with the spare ribs. Juicy and thick, they definitely are of Germanic descent, swimming in a thick red wine sauce and accompanied by bowls of spaetzle. Two recurring specials—the duck and the lamb, which bask on a mattress of mashed potatoes—trump the spare ribs.
David has offered owner Lucas a pâté recipe, which might be a nice addition, and lobbies for a Salade Lyonnaise, although it would be hard to top Plan B’s straight-ahead $6.50 mixed greens or $8.75 butter salad with sun-dried cherries.
The Dudes Who Dine dig it. His Honor has removed the mussels monkey from his back, but winces when Rusty punctuates a point by poking him in the shoulder that just received a cortisone shot. Lots of upturned thumbs for service as well. Authoritative.