With a newly revamped patio, Enotria is easy, encyclopedic, enticing
Sacramento, CA 95815
What does $1.5 million buy?
In the case of Enotria on Del Paso Boulevard and Arden Way, it’s a pink-and-white trimmed art-deco space outfitted with an inviting semicircular wine bar and a cozy dining room that actually seats 75.
Now the longtime eatery’s reworked patio cries out for lazing on an amber autumn afternoon. With the muted music—Hoagy Carmichael’s “Old Rocking Chair” on one visit—the expectation is that a lanky gent in a snap-brim fedora and wide-lapel double-breasted will saunter in any moment, in search of a stiff belt. That can be found, for sure, but what should be sought out instead is what’s made Enotria a destination for 14 years—all the way back to when piled cases of wine were still central to the decorating scheme.
Then and now, Enotria is an enophile’s dream. Enophobes enter at their own peril: The waiters here speak fluent wine and their knowledge is both capacious and definitive.
Matthew Lewis, Enotria’s wine director, sommelier, whatever—formerly of The Firehouse Restaurant—augments the servers’ expertise with encyclopedic riffs on vintage, varietals and viticulture. He transforms a couple, here on their first Enotria visit, into groupies within minutes. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
And like all vino-centric establishments—Revolution Wines comes to mind as a more casual cousin—Enotria expends extensive energy ensuring that the flavors of its fare pair provocatively with the pourings.
Hats off to chef Christian Sieck. Echoing Steve Goodman’s famous tune, “Men Who Love Women Who Love Men,” Enotria promises “Food made for wine made for food” and it delivers on the pledge. Consider a recent $32 prix fixe—$12 more for smallish tastes of vino paired with each of the three courses. The meal begins with a rectangular plate upon which is served an alternating line of caramelized plantains and campaign-button size pork tenderloins. The accompanying wine is a 2008 white burgundy, Olivier LeFlaive “Les Setilles.”
Never heard of it but, gosh dang, if its dry muted fruits and spattering of citrus don’t entwine seamlessly with the unexpected empathy of plantain and pork. Similarly, the filet mignon with its pomegranate demi-glace snuggles sonorously with the proffered Roth Alexander Valley cab. An on-the-house half glass of chocolaty Olin cabernet, for which Enotria is Sacramento’s sole server, more than ably sands down the edges of the wait between courses.
As it has for lo these many years, the paella remains Enotria’s signature dish. There are myriad reasons. Let Jason and the other waiters provide the best fruit of the vine to tango with the fruta del mar. Elsewhere, the steamed mussels get a celebratory kick from the fragrant chorizo in a fragrant tomato broth. Beets are brightly balanced on the edge of salty and sweet in its salad of baby mache, walnuts and a maple-esque vinaigrette.
Summer Salad No. 2 is a crossed triangle of figs, oodles of bleu cheese, a light dressing, crunchy pancetta and greens. Less cheese or more fig, please.
On a quick read, the word “caramel” stands out on the short ribs small plate, but don’t overlook the “tamari” that comes before it. Readings are high on the sodium scale. Succotash always sounds like a Looney Tunes punch line, but the fresh corn version thereof is the best thing going for the Duroc pork chop, which despite instructions to the contrary is unpleasantly pink. Nonetheless, a chunk of pork, bit of fruit compote and equal parts succotash lead to a memorable mouthful.
The one-two punch here is, obviously, the food and wine. But the knock-out punch—at least when all cylinders are firing—is the delivery. There’s more personality and élan in Hanna, who undersells herself as the “bread girl,” than veteran waitresses in other establishments. Jason’s understated; seemingly effortless efficiency is near poetry.
Dining here is a date—even if eating alone.
Authoritative in every way. Now more than ever.