(In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I am not completely impartial to this restaurant. Chef Adam Pechal is a friend of mine. And I’m sure he thanks his lucky stars every day for it. Now onto my evening.)
Restaurant Thir13en, heretofore to be known as simply 13, occupies the area formerly used by Chanterelle in the Sterling Hotel. Being a fan of Tuli and wishing Adam nothing but success, I was very excited to check out his new venture. Going there on a mild summer evening is, in fact, one of the best ways to spend a few hours with close friends, sipping on a glass of wine or a signature cocktail, and leisurely chewing some cheesy comestibles (random Monty Python reference. If you get it, score 5 for no embarrassment, 3 for slight embarrassment… crap, I keep leading you down the garden path, Mrs. Bueller. Wow. I’ll stop.) So when I noticed that they were participating in Sacramento Dine Downtown Week, I was eager to introduce our friends Jeb and Lea, who are new to Sacramento. If you are unfamiliar with Dine Downtown, it is a week (actually ten days, I think) where participating restaurants offer a prix fixe menu of three courses for $30. Many also do wine pairing for an additional $15.
13 has a very cozy feel, with dark woods, a relatively low ceiling, and soft lighting. It is intimate, comfortable, private, yet not isolated. There is also an upstairs dining room that is a new acquisition for the restaurant. Situated off the main foyer of the hotel, it was a hair salon in its previous life. I’d guess they can probably seat about 40, 50 at the most. In order to reach it, you have to go back out the front door, up the stairs and into the hotel through a side stair way. This dining room is enclosed by glass and accessed by two heavy glass doors. On this night there were no available seats; I’m sure Dine Downtown brought out a lot of patrons. This is where we were seated. Immediately, I noticed the noise level. It was nearly impossible for me to hear the other people at our table and it took time to adjust my ears and brain enough to carry on a conversation. Also, the restroom is back out the glass doors, up the stairs, to the left down the hallway, and on the right. There is only one. However, you can also take the elevator back downstairs to use the restrooms in that dining room.
If you’ve ever been to Tuli, you know they don’t have the ability to serve oysters. Well, 13 does! So here’s our dozen of yummy kumamoto oysters. Instead of the traditional mignonette sauce, 13 serves their oysters with spicy dijonaise and pear prosecco granita. These were not included on the Dine Downtown menu 🙂
The first course: 12 Hour Beeler Ranch pork belly with apple “3” ways, parsnips, and bulls blood. This was paired with a chardonnay. Obviously I didn’t order this, so I can’t speak for its flavor or texture. Needless to say, it was a hit with the person who ordered it.
My first course was a beet salad with pistachio-crusted goat cheese, arugula, blood oranges, fennel, tossed with a golden balsamic vinaigrette and paired with a sauvignon blanc. The goat cheese was fabulous. I loved the crunchy texture of the pistachios as a counterpoint to the smooth goat cheese. Calling this a “beet” salad was a bit of a misnomer, however, as it was mostly arugula. I really enjoyed this. It was perfectly dressed and the crouton was also a great addition to add a little bit more crunch to the overall dish.
The second course was a sous vide and seared Passmore Ranch sturgeon perched atop a Tasso-braised rainbow chard, surrounded by a pillow of buttermilk parsnip puree and sunk in a lake of sauce almondine. If you’re wondering what the heck “sous vide” means, check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sous-vide. It was paired with an Orvieto, which is both a growing region in pretty much the middle of Italy, and what they call the wine from that area. It’s a dryer, less sweet wine, and not as heavy or buttery as a lot of chardonnays these days. I enjoyed this dish, but thought it was a tad heavy on the almonds. The puree was smooth, buttery, and was the “glue” that tied in all the flavors. The sturgeon was perfectly prepared.
The meat dish was a sirloin steak from Lucky Dog Ranch, also sous vide and then skillet seared with Oregon blue cheese, butter, a wild mushroom ragout, and whiskey demi and sous vide potatoes. I did have a small bite of this and was good, although Jeb found it to be a tad on the tough side. The flavors, however, were wonderful and it was cooked to exact specifications. This was paired with a Twisted Rivers syrah.
The full vegetarian of our group was given an orecchiette pasta with various veggies. This was perhaps the funniest order ever. When we asked what the vegetarian option was, the server had no idea, since apparently, they hadn’t had anyone request one. After he had found out for us, we were told it was “pasta with vegetables.” What kind of vegetables? “Whatever you see on the menu will probably be in there.” It turned out to be quite tasty, however, and a very large portion that was good enough for another meal. The reason for the caption? The menu said exactly that.
Dessert was a deliciously smooth, creamy, and utterly yummy panna cotta with a wedge of strawberry, orange glaze winter citrus, and almond biscotti, paired with a moscato d’asti that was light and refreshing.
The other dessert was a chocolate bread pudding with whiskey sauce and salty caramel ice cream. It was quite a large serving that managed to not be too heavy. The ice cream was a lovely complement.
While this was for the Dine Downtown week, however there are plenty of other delicious things to try if any of these dishes aren’t on the menu. The Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite (and I’ve had a lot of mac and cheese!), the scallops are just the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and the Passmore fish is always a good bet. And someone told me the burger was the best he’d ever had.
On this occasion, the service at first, was incredibly slow and the server a little short and brusque. But I know he was incredibly busy, and it got much better as the evening progressed.
So, to recap, request a downstairs seat when you make your reservation (they are on Open Table), order pretty much ANYTHING, and settle in for a fantastic night of food, cocktails, and friends.
Out of five stars:
4.5 stars overall
3.75 for value
3.75 for service
4.5 for food