Posted May 2006
El Dorado Kitchen
Perfectly Poolside, This Sonoma Restaurant Is a Summer Haven for Visitors and
SONOMA, CALIFORNIA—Sipping wine poolside is a luxury afforded
to few of us, though I'm happy to take a turn at it from time
to time—imagining myself to be one of the beautiful people, if
just for a few happy gulps. Hold my calls. Gulp. No autographs,
please. Gulp. Yes, darling, I will marry you and your fortune.
It's a reverie
that's within reach at El Dorado Kitchen, which opened in 2005 in the former
Il Piatti on Sonoma's town square. Grab a glass of rose and head out to the patio,
which is a rather decadent place to plant your self from May through October—shaded
by large umbrellas during the day and open to the stars come evening, not to
mention the pool just feet from your table (which, when gulping wine, one may
want to be attentive to).
inside the El Dorado Hotel, the restaurant is a favorite of travelers
looking for a unique Wine Country dining experience featuring
upscale California cuisine and a chef with impressive chops.
Hailing from such hotspots as Thomas Keller's French Laundry
(in Yountville) and Per Se (in New York), chef Ryan Fancher's
food has the precision and delicacy of Keller's. The menu is
an ode to seasonality, as well, with a recent dinner including
asparagus soup with lemon oil, mache salad with picked rhubarb
and expertly pan-seared halibut: late spring on a plate. But
there are standby's, as well, that work through all seasons,
like duck breast, perfectly pillowed raviolis, salmon, and a
delicate fritto misto—tempting little artichokes and green beans
with garlic aioli.
interior of the restaurant has recently undergone a pricey facelift,
rendering it sleek and contemporary with nice plenty of natural
materials—long wooden tables and bright open windows—that keep
it from feeling stark. But despite an open kitchen and close-together
tables, the noise level is kept at bay by well-thought-out sound
the tables are more casual, as is service, making it a good choice
for lunch, brunch, or cocktails. You may end up feeling a little
put off by the t-shirt and shorts-types who flock outside if
you happen to be planning a quiet, romantic night. Inside is
a more staid choice for business or intimate dinners.
way, don't miss the creative cocktail menu that includes a signature
mojito made with lime, mint leaves, rum and soda, the peach jalapeno (slice
jalapeno peppers, peach vodka, lime juice and white cranberry),
or a perfectly poolside sipper: muddled blackberries, crème de
cassis, lemon-lime soda, bourbon and fresh lemon juice. Just
mind the pool, darling.
If you go:
The Place: El Dorado Kitchen, 405 W. First Street, Sonoma,
Open: 11:30am to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 10pm (bar menu to
11pm). Bar open 11am to last call.
Service: Exceptional to fumbling. Though our dining experience was
comparable to some higher end restaurants, several tables around us waited
for drinks, meals and desserts. Several times dishes or large trays were
Reservations: Recommended. 707.996.3030.
Chef Celeb Factor: Chef Ryan Fancher was sous-chef for
Thomas Keller's French Laundry and helped to open Per Se in New
York. He's taken some hits for inconsistency in the kitchen,
though for the most part, his food has clean, fresh flavors and
the precision of Keller. Desserts can be less lustrious.
Wine List: Mostly regional wines, with few exceptions.
With Fancher's food, sometimes big, fruity Californian wines
can struggle and even dominate.
Price: Starters are about $8 to $11; Entrees start at
$17 and top out around $26. Dinner for two, with wine: $85-100
Romance Factor: Head inside if you're getting really
romantic, as the outdoors can have a more casual, touristy
feel. However, there's nothing like dining under the stars.