Those busy chefs of Sonoma County have been busier than ever, lately, tempting out taste buds with new restaurants. Dig in!
While at Charles Nob Hill, chef Ron Siegel became the first-ever American to win Iron Chef. Now he’s in an unlikely place: this rural, historic roadhouse’s recently remodeled, 46-seat Western Room next door to the saloon. So alongside live music and summer lawn barbecues, there is now brilliant contemporary American cuisine like Mount Lassen trout decorated with shiitake mushrooms, radish and dashi, or Bolinas black cod dressed up with slow cooked pork, morel mushrooms and caramelized corn. You simply must order the Nicasio’s own Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit, braised as sumptuous tortelloni with Nantes carrots, misome (Japanese leafy greens) and Parmesan.
1 Old Rancheria Road, Nicasio, 415-622-2219, ranchonicasio.com.
Handline is a sustainable, earth-friendly fishing technique where a single line is held in the hands, rather than using a rod, or nets. So restaurant owners Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble salute the Sonoma County coast’s bounty with sustainably sourced ingredients like halibut, rock cod and trout, plus seasonal specialties like oysters and salmon. The huge, mouthwatering fish tacos are standouts, stuffed with fluffy batter-fried rockfish, lime slaw, avocado, radish and chipotle aioli in a warm, just made corn tortilla.
935 Gravenstein Highway, Sebastopol, 707-827-3744, handline.com.
This spring, owners Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman expanded their little pop-up into a full izakaya, supplementing the stellar ramen soups with yakitori, donburi bowls, impossibly brilliant pickle plates, crudos and sparkling salads. One best-seller is the spicy tan tan ramen bobbing with thick slabs of slow roasted pork belly chashu, crumbled spicy ground pork, egg charred cabbage, woodear mushrooms, mustard greens, sesame and scallion. The mood is upbeat, the crowd hip, and the Asian theme cocktails potent.
6948 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol, 707-827-3609, ramengaijin.com.
It’s been open about a year now, and chef-owner Danny Mai is winning fans for his takes fusion approach to east and southeast Asian classics. Whole quail is grilled and plated with cauliflower puree and Duncan mushrooms, while Peking duck ramen comes with shiitakes, spicy red peppers, scallions, bok choy and soft-cooked duck egg. Sip a My Spicy Jalapeño cocktail spiked with sake, jalapeño, lime juice and basil, and admire the stylish space done in weathered wood with an open kitchen, full bar, and a wall of paper parasols and woven hats.
335 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, 707-395-0318, persimmonhealdsburg.com.
Guiso Latin Fusion
The chef calls the dish pastelitos de cangrejo, but you’ll recognize it as crispy sautéed crab cakes slathered in ginger-cilantro aioli. Exploring unfamiliar sounding cuisine is part of the fun at this Healdsburg Plaza spot, where pescado con coco delivers sautéed fish of the day in sweet coconut, persimmon and white wine reduction paired with jasmine rice, crispy yucca and spinach, and golden pupusas brim with crab, pork or vegetables alongside homemade curdito (pickles) and salsa. Paella is a favorite, stocked with chicken, prawns, mussels, chorizo, veggies, saffron rice and beans in white wine-smoked garlic sauce – just the thing to enjoy alongside South American wines.
117 N. Street, Healdsburg, 707-431-1302, facebook.com.