How do you convey in words something that everyone agrees is indescribable? When everyone leaves a place and saying to each another, ďyou canít possibly explain this to someoneĒ and ďno one would believe this unless they experienced itĒ, how do you do it justice in writing?
That is the question I ponder after each time I eat at Sacramentoís best and most unique restaurant, The Kitchen.
Before I get to the food let me start with the restaurant itself. This restaurant is a prime example of ďdonít judge a book by its coverĒ. The restaurant is very nice, but itís small, set back from the street, non-descript, sandwiched between a video rental store and some small vacant offices. Itís across the street from a 24 Hour Fitness and Chevyís and two doors down from a gas station, and itís one of the best restaurants in which you will ever eat.
The Kitchen prides itself on being the ďanti-restaurantĒ. Doors open at 6:30 and everyone comes in at once. Customers are free to stay as long as they want; thereís only one sitting each night. The next remarkable feature about The Kitchen: you can walk anywhere you want. Want to get an up close view of what the executive chef is doing while preparing the nightís meal? Feel free to wander into the back of the house or into the kitchen and just ask. They encourage it. You can talk to the staff and they are more than happy to answer any question you throw at them. On one visit I saw the executive chef preparing something so we walked over and asked what he was doing. He told us he was testing out a recipe for the next nightís dinner and that if we waited a few minutes we could taste it.
What else is remarkable about The Kitchen? You can have seconds of any or all courses at no extra cost. If you like something that much just ask and they will be happy to bring you a second helping.
One more thing before we get to the food. The menu changes at least monthly and sometimes weekly or daily. Also the menu isnít a list of items for you to pick from, but rather a description of what you will be served that evening. Everyone in the restaurant will have the same 7 or 8 course menu depending upon how you count the courses. Of course they will customize the menu for anyone who has food allergies or dietary restrictions. I once went with a vegetarian. Her meal was every bit as good as the planned meal, and she wasnít made to feel like a second class citizen.
I am not sure the above descriptions actually do the restaurant justice. Until you go, or at least hear someone rave about it, you canít really understand how unique and special a dinner at The Kitchen really is.
So now about the food. Again the same question seems to arise: How do you describe in words that which can only truly be experienced?
The only way of which I can think to accurately describe the food is to simply say it is perfect in every way. The flavors are impeccable and every dish perfectly balanced; nothing is hurried or forced in the cooking; the flavors are built over time with each step and each dish given the exact amount of preparation necessary. Before you taste the food you smell it and see it. The aromas from the plate are fantastic, but before that your appetite is whetted by the aromas from the open kitchen. Once the food hits the table and the finished aromas are wafting up from your plate you can hardly wait to take the first bite. In fact, the only thing stopping you from actually taking that bite is your hesitation to destroy a work of art. Each plated course is a masterpiece, refined and restrained; anything less and something would be missing; anything more would be overdone.
Itís hard to go into detail about the food because it changes so regularly. Itís mainly American fare with influences of other styles. One night we started with their take on French onion soup and two courses later we were eating an amazing macaroni and cheese with lobster in it. I had seconds.
There are two caveats that relate to The Kitchen. 1) Plan well ahead, reservations book up three months in advance. 2) Itís not cheap. The price is set at $125 per person and that doesnít include wine. I will say this: it is absolutely worth every penny.
This restaurant is on a par with French Laundry and Chez Panise. Itís equal to any of the other top restaurants in the world at which Iíve dined. After your meal, as you are heading to your car, you will know you have had one of the most special meals of your life.