Scallops, pickled watermelon rind, radish, and lime zest.
Up in Healdburg there’s been a changing of the guard at two-year-old Spoonbar. Former Aziza chef de cuisine Louis Maldonado was hired this spring to revamp the formerly Mediterranean-focused menu which Mr. Bauer once said took a backseat to the great cocktail program. Maldonado has remade the place indeed, putting together a sophisticated, imaginative, and on-trend menu the likes of which many Mission restaurants would be glad to serve. But for wine country, it’s already taken a little getting used to. “We’ve gotten some push-back from guests about the single-word descriptions of the ingredients,” Maldonado tells us. “People are like, ‘But what is it, really?’ They’re kind of coming around though. And we’ve had to adjust to expectations around here in terms of portion sizes too.”
Nevertheless, the menu is fun and unpretentious, and it shows off Maldonado’s talents and years of training in a Michelin-starred kitchen. It features things like hamachi collar and chicken cracklings which haven’t yet become common sights outside the city, all of which work well with the new cocktail program by Cappy Sorentino, which builds on the legacy of opening bar manager Scott Beattie.
You should note that the portions pictured here were specific to tasting-menu sizes at a dinner we attended Sunday, and that the actual portions on the regular menu are much more generous.
Earlier: What You Missed at Spoonbar’s ‘Eat 100’ Dinner, Featuring New Chef Louis Maldonado
Things started with a house-carbonated cocktail from bar manager Cappy Sorentino. This one combines Hangar One blueberry vodka with lemon and grapefruit juice, bergamot, and pickled and carbonated blueberries. Yes, the blueberries are a little fizzy inside.
Sorentino shows off his new toy, a carbonation system similar to ones they have at Chez Papa and Gather where the cocktail is carbonated with CO2 without having to dilute it with soda water.
Dinner kicked off with canapés from the snack section of the menu: chicken cracklings with green goddess dressing and nasturtium.
That was followed by a modern beet salad with braised cherries and ash yogurt.
Easily one of the highlights is this dish of corn with lightly spiced popcorn, purslane, and a delicious stuffed and fried cigar of polenta cake.
Cobia, avocado, and coconut milk with pickled onion and cilantro oil.
Probably the most refined and pretty dish on the menu: raw scallops with pickled watermelon rind, radish, citrus oil, and lime zest.
Hamachi collar with scallion, capers, and cilantro.
We fit in another cocktail: Sorentino’s house-carbonated take on the Tom Collins, made with Old Tom gin and dubbed the Old Tom Collins.
A rich and warming vegetarian dish: porcini mushroom, quinoa, orange, mint, and jalapeno.
Pork (loin and belly), topped with crushed pretzels, and served with padron pepper, mustard, and a cucumber salad.
A simple but memorable dessert of macerated strawberries with rose sorbet.