Santa Rosa has a new destination restaurant, though it’s been one of Railroad Square’s most popular eateries for more than a decade. The menu is new, yet it reflects longtime favorite recipes. The staff in the kitchen is shaking things up with a brand new flair, but it’s the same staff that has been there for years — chef-owner Josh Silvers, chef de cuisine Jamil Peden and executive sous chef Seth Harvey.
Welcome to Petite Syrah, which was formerly Syrah Bistro. After a successful 12-year run with his upscale Railroad Square restaurant, Silvers closed the doors in April and reinvented a month later to a more relaxed, reasonably priced restaurant featuring a rainbow of small plates instead of the previous formal, multi-course meals.
The change was inspired because, said Silvers, too many people were telling him how much they loved Syrah, “and that they came here once a year, every time it was a special occasion.” Instead, Petite Syrah aims to be a regular habit, approachable for a quick bite or a full dinner any day of the week.
So Petite Syrah, just debuted for dinner last Friday and the following Monday for lunch, offers a broad menu of composed, seasonal Cal-Ital dishes in smaller portions and smaller prices, with cheerful, laidback service. Yet none of the flair that made Syrah such a favorite for more than a decade has been sacrificed, and the cool, hip neighborhood hangout vibe has been upped considerably.
That means inventive ideas like roasted, shaved asparagus with sunflower seed “soil” and radish, or roasted beets paired with horseradish panna cotta, mache and bacon. A seemingly simple artichoke soup is spiked with preserved lemon and an earthy swath of black truffle cream, in complex flavors and velvety texture.
Rather than traditional brick chicken, the Petite Syrah team has come up with crispy spiced quail, its moist meat enclosed in golden skin and prettily splayed alongside grapefruit salad. Delicate potato gnocchi floats in a cloud of carrot foam, yet it’s presented at a dining room table made from a salvaged, 100-year-old redwood water tower.
Some of the best seats in the house are at the bar, where we can nibble on fingerling potatoes, roasted whole to a crisped outside and mealy moist inside, dipped in sweet Cara Cara orange aioli. For entrées, we might crave flaky roasted sturgeon atop smoked potato and caraway crème fraiche, strips of Balinese long pepper-crusted New York steak over mushroom reduction with a side of potato-mushroom croquettes, or fennel-orange braised pork shoulder partnered with white beans and zipped up with Calabrian chile.
And in one of the friendliest – and completely new touches at Petite Syrah — we can sit outside in the courtyard, formerly a barren space next to some shops, that Silvers has transformed into a cozy piazza.
Details: Petite Syrah, 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4002, petitesyrah.com.
Tip: A destination restaurant means destination driving, and if you’re traveling from outside Santa Rosa, a Pure Luxury limo or Town Car can get you there in comfort and style.