I was a fan of Spataro. I loved their happy hour and spent many an hour there with various friends. In fact, it was a spot that saw me meet new friends, say good bye to some, and introduce others. It was a place where I spent birthday parties, had impromptu knitting parties, and enjoyed drinks, dishes, and time with friends. In retrospect, it was kind of an important place for me. So when I heard they were closing, I was, of course, disappointed. However, when I visited Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, I said, “Spa-what-ar-o?”
Thanks to Cowtown Eats, I discovered Hock Farm was opening and taking reservations only for Thursday through Saturday, ahead of their grand opening. Perfect, I thought. I’m taking a special someone to see Billy Elliot at the Sacramento Community Center Theater on Saturday and it would be a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-show dinner.
Though still owned by the Paragary Restaurant Group, the entire look and feel of the restaurant has changed. The interior has had a much better facelift than Joan Rivers, and reflects the brand of Hock Farm. It is open, airy, with lots of windows. Community tables dot the center of the space, with two “chef’s tables” sitting perpendicular to the kitchen window. Where the private room of Spataro was now resides Hock Farm’s bar. I really love the new interior. It’s homey, warm, welcoming, and just generally a pleasant space.
Okay, so how’s the food? Oh-Em-Gee. That’s all I have to say.
First up, from the Bites menu:
Dressed egg. This is basically a super delicious, gourmet version of your classic deviled egg. With capers and mayo, with a perfect spot of anchovy, this was divine. I am a huge fan of deviled eggs – one of the reasons I could never be vegan! These had a wonderful side of picked golden beets, which were a nice palate cleanser and a wonderful counterpoint to the egg “stuffing.” The anchovies really made this. The filling wasn’t too heavy, like some deviled eggs can be. It was relatively light – whipped, even – and expertly seasoned.
Second, was smoked salmon croquettes. Holy hell these were tasty. With a bit of dilled creme fraiche and some chives, this was insanely yummy. Instead of the usual reaction of “where the hell is the fish,” this had clear, obvious, and visible pieces of salmon. The croquettes were perfect spheres of crunchy goodness. They weren’t greasy, but had just enough crunch to give them the textural desire of a croquette.
Next came three items off the Small Plate menu.
Of course I have to get the Macaroni and Cheese. This is made with bleu, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses, with some pieces of crispy prosciutto and sage breadcrumbs. I have had mac and cheese at several local restaurants and this does rank in the top. However, I still rank Restaurant Thir13en’s just a bit higher. The reason is because this was prepared more in the style of a pasta dish and not a casserole; I prefer the casserole. The cheese sauce was a bit runny for me and I wanted more breadcrumbs. There were a few pieces of prosciutto, which felt as though they were suddenly remembered and tossed on top, and I also felt like the breadcrumbs were tossed on immediately prior to serving, instead of baking in. This may not be a big deal to some people, but to me, it was a detracting factor. I also wish there was more of a bite. But, keep in mind, I like my mac and cheese to be baked, casserole style, and with lots of sharp, bitey, stinky cheese, which most definitely isn’t everyone’s taste. However, that being said, it was still tasty. The decision to use orchiette instead of a different kind of pasta is always a good idea with a runnier sauce, since the shape of the pasta lends itself to scooping up yummy sauce.
Second up was kampachi. Kampachi is a kind of yellow jack or amber jack and reminiscent of Tai, or red snapper, but much softer. It is a white fish, with a mild flavor. Hock Farm prepares theirs raw (best choice), with avocado, thinly sliced red radish, a piece of celery heart, a Marcona almond, smoked sea salt, and lemon infused olive oil. All components came together for a wonderfully rich mouth feel and flavor party. The kampachi is pretty mild, but provides a gentle fishy taste, along with a firm texture. I loved the spicy feeling the radish lended, while the almond was a fabulous textural and flavor addition. The smoked sea salt was really fabulous, giving each bite a wonderfully unexpected dimension. The avocado gave unselfishly of itself. The fat content made the mouthfeel rich and sensuous, while the flavor tied all the others together. The only thing I would say about this was that you need just a little bit of avocado to accomplish this. The amount in each bite of kampachi was a bit much. Just cut it into a third and give that a try.
The final selection was Gulf Shrimp. This was served on a bed with creamy Arbuckle grits, and Tasso ham. Slightly spicy, which expertly cut through the cream of the grits, with aesthetically pleasing spirally cut shrimp, this had a delicious smoky flavor. It made me think of chipotle Tabasco sauce. By this time, I was quite full, but not to the point of hailing a wheelbarrow.
Indeed, I just enough room left for dessert. And the two-scoop gelato was it! They always have vanilla and chocolate, with a rotating third flavor. If you can get their strawberry, do it! They get their gelato from a place in Berkeley; I was sad to discover it wasn’t someplace local, so I could go there whenever I had a hankering for delicious gelato! The chocolate had little bits of chips and the strawberry was super fresh and refreshing. Put the two together and you get chocolate covered strawberries! So awesome. But if you choose this combo, get more strawberry than chocolate on your spoon! The finishing touch is a house made sugar-encrusted shortbread cookie. Is it bad that I wanted an entire sheet of these?!
I get the feeling that there are several employees of Spataro who work at Hock Farm and are accustomed to the rush that sometimes accompanies making it to a show on time, so this will still be a great place to visit pre-show.
The bar area that Spataro had separate from their restaurant space will be used by the same guy who owns BarWest. It will be a high end, high-cover charge night club, separate from Hock Farm. Hock Farm has their own happy hour, which includes a selection of artisan cocktails and about half a dozen bites.
All in all, I was extremely pleased with my experience at Hock Farm and I’m looking forward to going back and trying out some of their Large Plates!
The only “negative” I would say is that the food came out in really quick succession. However, it is because our server knew we were going to see a show, and she thought it started earlier than it actually did. This was a nice surprise, which showed she was aware of a time constraint without anyone telling her, and if we had needed it to arrive as quickly as it did, we would have had no problem making it on time to the show.
Overall, I am so excited to go again and experience more of the menu!
Ambience: 4/5. It was a lot noisier than Spataro, but I absolutely love the new decor.
Price: $$.5/$$$$. Each appetizer was only $5, while the small plates ran no higher than $14 for scallops. Entrees went up to $23 for the salmon and asparagus dish. Bottles of wine are also priced where you’d expect. Overall, I was very pleased with the value. Portions were generous without being overwhelming.
1415 L Street
Sacramento, CA 95814