Last summer I wrote about the kitchen fallout I saw after Chef Johnny Church’s departed from Root 246′s staff. (Church took on the role of Executive Chef at Michael Mina’s XIV in Los Angeles.) When I wrote that post, I was hoping that Root 246 (one of my favorite restaurants in the Santa Ynez valley) would rebound positively in spite of the loss of a chef. Well, I am very happy to report that things are decidedly, and deliciously back on track. I’ve eaten there numerous times (at least twice a month) since last summer and it is clear that Chef Bradley Odgen has the kitchen running smoothly with the help of chefs Brian Ridgeway and Jordan Graf, even when the restaurant is packed with hungry diners.
Our foodie friends Mike and Sandra were visiting from out of town and hadn’t been to Root 246 before, so we reserved the table in the kitchen. (By the way, a big “THANK YOU” and photo credits go to Mike at Pixillusion.) We ordered the chef’s tasting menu (my favorite), which was both creative and delicious with interesting flavor combinations:
Course #1: Apple Sous Bois
Course #1: Apple sous bois amuse-bouche with crème fraîche, horseradish, beet and serrano honey. Great interplay of flavors – a fun and tasty start.
Course #2: Caviar salad
Course #2: Caviar salad amuse-bouche on toasted ciabatta with egg, chives and lemon zest. Bright and fresh tasting – the acid of the lemon zest makes the egg seem even more rich.
Course #3: Salmon sashimi
Course #3: Salmon sashimi and paddlefish roe with avocado purée and compressed cucumber, wasabi cream, puffed rice, cilantro, with a ginger soy reduction. This was a favorite all around our table. My notes for this dish say “CRAZY GOOD” and “how do we get this added to the regular menu?”.
Course #4: Beets with compressed yogurt
Course #4: Candy beets and rainbow beets roasted in olive oil with compressed yogurt, capers, and fresh rosemary topped with a honey vinaigrette and fresh greens. The compressed yogurt added great texture to this dish and was definitely a more interesting pairing than the typical restaurant offering of beet salad with goat cheese.
Course #5: Green lipped mussels
Course #5: Green lipped mussels topped with American sturgeon caviar and green curry mayonnaise served on top of julienne carrots and carrot-curry espuma. Foaming food has been pretty trendy and overused in my opinion, however I think the carrot “espuma” really works in this dish as it helps link the flavors together.
Course #6: Sturgeon fillet and Manila clam chowder
Course #6: Sturgeon fillet served with fresh Manila clam chowder, fingerling potatoes, carrots and herbs, served with a bit of citrus on top. The silky chowder provided the perfect backdrop for the clams and the dense, meaty sturgeon.
Course #7: Veal shank with mascarpone polenta
Course #7: Braised veal shank with shallots, Swiss chard and orange gremolata served on top of mascarpone polenta. Everyone really loved this one! The veal with the mascarpone polenta was very rich, however each bite was beautifully tempered by the orange gremolata. With his well-honed table side manner, Chef Bradley Ogden delivered this dish to our table himself , making us feel like we were dining in a close friend’s kitchen.
Course #8: Spiced apple cake and apple sorbet
Course #8: Spiced apple cake with pomegranate foam topped with Tahitian vanilla sorbet, julienne apple, pink grapefruit section topped with a ruby Port reduction and pistachio dust, served with apple sorbet on a taster spoon. There were many different flavors and textures in this dish. It was a fun dish that played around with apple in many different guises – the apple sorbet and the spiced apple cake were particularly wonderful and not overly sweet. I thought the Port reduction didn’t tie the various flavors together and so was a bit of a distraction. Aside from that small criticism everything else was creative and tasty.
Course #9: Butterscotch pudding with ginger snap
Course #9: Butterscotch pudding with a ginger snap cookie. Sometimes the sheer simplicity of a dish makes it that much more delicious. It is too bad that most pudding these days is made from a box, but I digress. The gingersnap cookie had just the right amount of bite so it played off the creaminess of the pudding beautifully.
It was such a wonderful dining experience, from the first amuse-bouche to the last dessert! I highly recommend ordering the chef’s tasting menu. Just be sure to come hungry! Here are a few more pics from dinner:
The burger to end all burgers at Root 246
The intrepid diners (photo credit to Sandra)
Hamming it up for the camera in the kitchen