John Ash & Co (Santa Rosa, CA) – Where People go to Di(n)e
Went to Campton Place for lunch the other day, none of the other quality restaurants were available Sun last minute, the Porsche wanted to fling itself around curvy mountainous roads, so why not try something to the north?
Armed w/ only my Zagat guide (am I better off blind?), I read through the North of the Bay section. Quite a few restaurants garnered 25s and above (out of a scale to 30.) The few i knew seemed accurate (Farmhouse Inn, Pilar, FL, Jeantry, La Salette) so why not give some new place a shot?
After a few calls, reservations for John Ash & Co @ 7. That’s just enough time for a loud, raucous jaunt up the coast; more terrorizing unsuspecting drivers on the cut back through the mountains to 101; and an 90mph+ sprint to river road. Sounds like fun.
This is what zagat had to say:
Food – 26, Decor – 25, Service – 24
“After a quarter of a century, this “landmark” at the Vintners Inn remains a “perennial contender for tops in the Santa Rosa area”; from inside the “lovely” “Spanish hacienda” or “outside among the vines” you can “watch a future vintage Chardonnay growing as you dine” on “inventive and inspiring” Cal cuisine” (paired with “fantastic” local vintages), presented by an “accommodating”, “gracious” staff; in short, it’s “what people expect” in a wine-country restaurant “but seldom find.””
I don’t really care about such things (which might be an overstatement considering my favorite restaurants) but I always find it dreadful when restaurants use the Disney-fied version of italy as their motif. Simulacreas do not an atmosphere make.
Again, I don’t really care about such things unless there are egregious errors. However, I can’t help point this out since their score is relatively high. The waiter forget the day’s specials; my amuse bouche was placed on top of my menu (which was on top of my napkin) and threatened to fall at any moment; and 1-2 other things that slip my mind right now.
uh oh – one look at the menu and I realized this probably wasn’t up to the level. what can be done now?
A cold sweet potato dumpling that they might have forgotten to cook? Regardless, certainly no “wow” there.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup w/ Maple Creme Fraiche
Good, the curry gave it a nice spice, but nothing you can’t get anywhere else (including your own kitchen.) Hearty, but unexceptional.
Wild Mushroom Ravioli
Better than the amuse, but no better than what one can cook at home. The pasta itself wasn’t delicate or fresh, the mushrooms inside were a little too mushy, and the whole dish was drowned in sauce.
I never order crab cakes but these were better than most i’ve had – you could taste the crab inside rather than it being one big fried crab ball. I’m sure good crab cakes are like this, but like i said, limited experience here (yes, I’m odd.)
Pork Tenderloin w/ Zinfandel Poached Pears & Apple Sauce
Serviceable, not great, but way too much salt. One thing we noticed was that the average dining age was ~ 65; they could just be catering to their demographic here. The pears & apple sauce were nothign special.
Duck Done Two Ways
Only had a bite 1 way but not to my tastes – there just wasn’t too much flavor.
Pretty easy conclusion here – stay away. We know zagats is not perfect, but they were way off the mark. Presumably, the smaller sample size for such a restaurant skewed its results heavily.
Next time, i will do a tad more research. The ride back was fun – santa rosa to SF in 40 minutes.