Ah, Selland’s Family of Restaurants, you never fail me, nor cease to tantalize my tastebuds with tasty treats! “Don’t practice your alliteration on me!” (random Monty Python reference!) Ella, the “middle child” of the Selland’s family of restaurants (The Kitchen being the marriage proposal-anniversary celebrating kind of place and Selland’s Market Cafe being the “every day” haunt), it is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Sacramento. When I decided to take off the Friday before New Year’s and give myself a four day weekend, Ella was on my mind as a spot I wanted to visit for a leisurely lunch, particularly after following Selland’s on Twitter and Facebook and hearing about all their delicious lunch specials!
The first time I went to Ella was probably about six or seven years ago, fairly soon after they’d opened. My virgin visit came on the heels of my first trip to The Kitchen. After that amazing experience, I was dying to try out Ella. Since then, it has been on my list of top five places to take out of town guests.
It’s located off of 12th and K, along the light rail route, though I’m not sure where the closest stop is. Valet parking is available for $5 right outside the front door on K. If you’re like me, and never have cash, Ella will conveniently add on the valet cost to your bill. If you’re more “independent,” there’s a parking garage on 12th between K and L, which they will validate.
I don’t know what the building was before Ella took up residence, but it is beautifully decorated with comfortable chairs and an open floor plan. The kitchen is also within plain site, so you can watch them all you want. Unfortunately, I did not remember to take a photo of the wine cellar, but it’s glass enclosed and visible from the dining room so you can dream of what lies within… actually, you are welcome to explore it! The last time I was there, I wandered through the rows of cabernet sauvignon and meritages that made me drool and wish I had a sugar daddy (or mama!) to help me work my way through them!
Upon walking into the restaurant, you are immediately greeted by a member of the staff. They are welcoming, warm, and there to take your jacket, or give you a stool upon which to place your purse, laptop, or briefcase. (I love this!) You know that you will be well taken care of and treated as if you are the only person there.
Ella has amazing oysters and typically there are three varieties which are listed on a blackboard near the bar. Honestly, this is all I see when I first walk through the doors and everything else kind of fades away :-)
But if you were wondering what you might see to the right of the oyster bar, this is it.
The dining room is open, and decorated with a modern, yet comfortable feel. The tables are a lovely, warm wood, the chairs cushy. Colorful, recycled shutters outline the bar area, and accent the spaces around the entire restaurant.
Half dozen oysters is never enough, but room for lunch must be left! On today’s oyster menu: Kumomotos from Washington, Kusshis from British Columbia, and Shigokus, also from Washington. I learned that the “terroir” of oysters is much like wine… sandy versus rocky will produce different flavors. These are all delicate, light, flavorful, and simply fabulous. I could probably eat my weight in oysters! Of course, I’d have to declare bankruptcy shortly thereafter! They don’t restrict you to multiples of six, and you can mix and match all you want.
On the lunch menu was their papardelle. It’s something I’ve had before and absolutely love. It is quite popular, and rightly so! This is house made papardelle with a poached egg, crunchy, crispy bits of prosciutto (I totally forgot to tell them to leave if off, but somehow dealt with it ;-p ), and a preserved lemon sauce. Mixing the two together creates a hollandaise sauce, of sorts. The serving size is perfect and just exactly what my tummy wanted!
Briana had the grilled three cheese sandwich, made with cheddar, gruyere and parmesan on thickly cut brioche and included a mixed green salad and an amazing winter root vegetable soup garnished with chives. It tasted mostly of butternut squash, but was wonderfully complex, buttery, savory and nothing short of delicious!
The centerpoint of the dining room is this amazing three tiered construction that houses the glasses, plates, cutlery, and various other items.
There was no dessert this afternoon; my belly was much too full!
If you’re thinking of heading to Ella for lunch someday, they do a weekly special that typically consists of a salad, an entree, and a soda or iced tea… all for just $15! Don’t feel like you’re getting short shrifted or that the only reason they’re running the special is to get rid of stuff! They’ve done dishes that include a cioppino style sauce with clams, mussels, salmon, walu and shrimp with papardelle. I was lucky enough to get some of that and it was delicious even after heating it up seven hours later!
The bar is also a great place to hang out. They make their own tonic, so do yourself a favor and order a gin and tonic! Happy hour is from 3-6. http://www.cowtowneats.com/2008/12/ella-dining-room-and-bar.html
The service, the ambience, the food… everything comes together perfectly! What can I say? Ella is a great place to go on a date, to celebrate a special event, or to go just “because.” Think of it as champagne… great on a date, to celebrate a special event, or just for the heck of it! Make a generic Friday night into a special one!
Bottom line: I give it 4.5/5 stars. I have been there a bunch and have never been disappointed! Price is mid-range, meaning you can order things on the lower side, or you can go crazy!