Monday, August 8, 2011

Petite Syrah

Sonoma Bento: I have been wanting to visit and review this restaurant for some time now, but Carina (traitor) decided to get another job, and we have been working with schedules trying to plan out our next restaurant adventure. Petite Syrah used to be Syrah Bistro, but underwent a transformation to a small plates format in April 2011. To be honest, I had only visited Syrah Bistro maybe twice before it made the transition. I work in radio: I'm poor. But chef owner Josh Silvers (disclosure: I work with Josh on a monthly cooking show called Cooking In Sonoma on KSRO 1350AM) wanted to change things up, so he closed the restaurant for a few weeks and then reopened at the end of April. Josh likes small plates, and he also understands that it is more economical for people to pay 5 to 15 bucks for a plate to share, trying lots of different things, than spending 30 plus per plate. I think it's a great move. Plus, as you will see, these plates are not really small. They are more like middle sized portions.

Coco Carina: I was so excited when Sonoma Bento suggested we go to Petite Syrah for our next dining out adventure. She's right, it's been a while, I am a traitor and left for another job, and our schedules are crazy... but we made it work and boy am I glad we did! When I go out to eat I like to try as much as I can, so small plates of a variety of dishes to share as opposed to one dish to yourself is my kind of style! Don't let the small dishes scare you, we definitely did not leave hungry.

Smashed potatoes with orange aioli

Sonoma Bento: I have to also give major props to Jamil Peden, Chef de Cuisine at Petite Syrah. He incorporates Japanese flavors and styles into his dishes, which as a bento fanatic, is very exciting to see. When you are seated at Petite Syrah, you are offered still or sparkling water, and a complimentary appetizer of sweet potato chips with a yogurt dipping sauce. The dipping sauce has chinese five spice powder in it, yum. We nibbled on these while we figured out which things to order.

Coco Carina: The sweet potato chips with the dipping sauce were a nice little appetizer to keep your hunger at bay while you decided on and contemplated between the many delectable dishes available. Everything sounded so good. For starters we decided to get some wine, Sonoma Bento got a Prosecco while I decided on a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Food Paparazzi!

Sonoma Bento: On previous visits I have tried the crispy pork belly with apple and caramel sauce. It's pretty freaking amazing, so I had to order that. I wanted to try the albacore tataki, since Jamil had made another tataki dish during our last Cooking In Sonoma show. I also love the fried squash blossoms, so I chose that one too. Despite eating at this restaurant at least 5 times since it has reopened as Petite Syrah, I had yet to order dessert. I just get so carried away trying the small plates, that I am too stuffed to order dessert. But Carina insisted. So when Jamil told us about a special Gravenstein Apple cake new to the menu, I knew I would order that. Restaurants throughout the Bay Area are highlighting Gravenstein Apples this month, hoping to encourage people to eat them, and hopefully buy them from local farmers. The Russian River Slow Food site should have a list of participating restaurants, but so far they still have last year's list up.

Coco Carina: I gotta say, I love pork. I tried to not eat it for a while but, seriously, who was I kidding? I need to eat some delicious, yummy, savory pork! Especially when cooked to perfection! Sonoma Bento insisted on ordering the crispy pork belly with caramel sauce and apple on top as well as the fried squash blossoms. I was a little hesitant about the squash blossoms, but was indeed delighted once I took my first bite. That's what I like about eating out with Sonoma Bento, she makes me eat things I wouldn't normally order... and for that I say cheers!

Crispy Pork Belly - it's like a caramel apple with bacon. Yes, please!
Sonoma Bento: If you can swing it (and are a party of two), reserve the spaces at the bar facing the chefs. Josh, Jamil, Jake Ameral, and Carl (sorry, I didn't catch Carl's last name) are fun to watch and happy to talk about the dishes they make. Jake seemed to be particularly enamoured of the oil poaching machine, which maintains a steady temperature and poaches sea bass until it is perfectly done with a silky texture. I called it the Bass-o-Matic, hardy har har.

Coco Carina: Haha... yes... the Bass-O-Matic! I gotta say, I LOVE the Bass-O-Matic because the Bass was one of my favorite dishes of the night! It was so savory and perfectly complimented by the bread crumbs underneath. I will definitely order it again the next time I visit Petite Syrah. Sonoma Bento and I had such a good time eating at the bar watching the chef's create these amazingly delightful dishes that are sure to put a smile on your face.

Jake shows us a squash blossom right before he brutally batters and fries it for our pleasure. What an animal!
Sonoma Bento: I was so glad that Carina ordered the potatoes. Dang, they were tasty. Fingerlings are boiled, lightly smashed, then deep fried. Wonderful textures, plus they add fried parsley on top and the auditory frenzy of fresh parsley in a fryer is a kick. Though the menu changes seasonally, I think this one will stay on the menu for a while since it is so damn good.

Coco Carina: Ummmm... yes, those potatoes were SO delicious! I think I would eat them every day if I could. They were perfectly fried and the orange aioli sauce was the perfect compliment. Seriously, I want to go there now and eat this all over again. It was the perfect dish to start our meal off right!

Tempura squash blossoms with avocado slices, ponzu and togarashi spice.
Sonoma Bento: Can I say, it is good to know people. Since we were having the squash blossoms, Jamil comped us this dish with thinly sliced zucchini, dry jack cheese, parsley, olives, pine nuts, and CornNuts. Yes, CornNuts. It's hilarious and tasty. Both Carina and I were saying that the last time we had CornNuts was when we were 12, so it was a little bit of nostalgia. Very clever.

Coco Carina: Very clever indeed. The smokey, saltiness of the CornNuts added great flavor to the fresh zucchini salad. It was hilarious, because it took us a while to get over the fact that we were eating CornNuts at this amazing restaurant - so clever and such a great thing to spark a fun conversation!

Fresh Zucchini salad with parsley, percorino cheese, olives, pine nuts and CornNuts.
Sonoma Bento: The albacore tataki with fennel, watermelon, and sea beans was my favorite dish of the evening. It was well balanced, cool, lovely to look at, and very satisfying. I was curious about sea beans, as I have seen them included in bento boxes before. This was my first time trying them and I was happy to find that they weren't seaweed-y as I expected they might be. You should definitely try this dish!

Coco Carina: I liked this dish as well, I'm relatively new to sea food and tuna was one of the first that I was exposed to and liked! The tuna was perfectly prepared with a nice crispy outside layer topped with the fun sea beans, refreshing watermelon, fennel and a yummy togarashi spice. I definitely recommend trying it once you decide to go to Petite Syrah.

Albacore Tataki with shaved fennel, watermelon, sea beans, and togarashi spice.

Jake and Jamil work hard in the open portion of the kitchen at Petite Syrah
Sonoma Bento: I mentioned before how much Jake loved his Bass-o-Matic oil poaching machine, and after going on and on about how amazing it was at cooking fish, he put together this plate for us on the house. (Woot!) It's oil poached sea bass with basil bread crumbs, chiffonade basil, and cherry tomatoes (kind of like a panzanella salad, but with crispier bread), and a salad of zucchini, olives, and rehydrated dried apricots topped with micro basil. The plate is dotted with basil oil. We heart this dish!

Coco Carina: Big-time heart this dish! As I mentioned before this was one of my favorite dishes of the night... so thanks so much to Jake for hooking us up! Seriously, when you go to eat at Petite Syrah, you must order this dish. Sooooooooooooo yummy!

Sonoma Bento: Ok, I have to admit, I had a REALLY bad experience with gnocchi the first time I tried it and it completely turned me off of the stuff. It's kind of like when you have your first really bad hangover from a certain liquor, and just the smell of it will turn your stomach. My first gnocchi experience wasn't that bad, but it was a disgusting pasty mass of yuckiness. So I figured I would take a polite bite and let Carina eat the rest. Holy dumplings, this was good! Potato Gnocchi with cauliflower, broccoli, pine nuts, cheese, and a smear of lemon curd. You mix everything together, and dig in. It was aromatic and light, not the glutinous mass that I feared. My gnocchi nightmare monsters can go back under the bed to hide.

Coco Carina: Oh, so delicious! I've had my fair share of perfectly fluffy delightful gnocchi, so my standards are pretty high when eating this traditional Italian dish... but I must say I was not disappointed. Actually, I was quite delighted and I didnt' want to share! This dish also ranked really high on my lift of top dishes of the night, try it... you won't regret it.

Gnocchi with cauliflower, broccoli, cheese, pine nuts, and lemon curd
Sonoma Bento: Although I was already full, especially with the extra dishes we had been treated to, I was very excited to try the dessert. The upcoming Gravenstein Apple Fair is my favorite fair of the year, and I am so happy to see restaurants supporting this fruit. The cake was eggy, but not too heavy, the foam was fun, the ice cream tangy, and the nuts on the bottom of the ice cream kind of made me think of a sundae (very cool), but the part of the dish that surprised me and made it come together was the thyme. Savory and sweet, really balanced. Jamil says this will only be on the menu for about 3 weeks, so GO ORDER IT!

Coco Carina: I got a little flack for ordering the typical dish, but what can I say... I love chocolate!!! Plus, I knew I could steal a few bites of Sonoma Bento's apple desert... win-win for me! And on top of that we got a nice little sample of a melon sorbet which was perfectly refreshing and quite complimentary to my chocolate dessert. I tried Sonoma Bento's apple cake with the foam and I must say, it was quite yummy and very well balanced, I'm glad she let me try it! I may have to go back sooner than later to get an order for myself!

Gravenstein Apple cake with cider-thyme foam, buttermilk ice cream, and hazelnuts

Sonoma Bento: I didn't try Carina's dessert, but I do have to mention that the chefs mocked her for ordering this. Ha ha! That's alright, Coco. I know you are taking babysteps and I am very proud of how adventurous you have become. ;-)

Chocolate Puddle Cake

CocoCarina: The Chocolate Puddle Cake was delish! I don't regret ordering it one bit! Don't hate on the chocolate. :)

Two Happy and Very FULL Girls
Sonoma Bento: The service was great! We had three or four servers keeping an eye on us and checking to see if we needed new glasses of wine or new plates/silverware. Sitting at the bar and interacting with the chefs was very fun. The decor is really relaxing, and there is also room to sit out in the atrium area. The wines by the glass list has enough for you to find something fun, and they do both 3oz and 5.5oz pours, which works well with the smaller portions. The food is some of the best in the county. I love that Petite Syrah is now a place I can go to often, not just for a special occasion, but I have to say I felt very special during our dinner, like a VIP. I told Carina that we should just focus on reviewing Petite Syrah over and over for this blog. That way it would literally be Two Girls, ONE Restaurant. :-)

Coco Carina: This was one of the best experiences Sonoma Bento and I have had on our outings. Everything was perfect from the atmosphere, to the service, to the food and the selection of wines available. I did enjoy that they allowed you to choose between a 3oz and 5.5oz pour - like I said before, I like to sample a variety of things so this allowed me to try two wines. I probably would have tried more, but I didn't want to get too crazy! It was a great experience and I have a feeling this isn't the last time Petite Syrah is going to see Two Girls, One Restaurant!

205 5th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 568-4002

FRIDAY & SATURDAY 11:30am - 10:00pm
SUNDAY 4:30pm - 9:00pm


  1. Sounds fantastic. Do you think, though, that you got extra attention and food because you know the cook, or would everyone have the same experience? And may I ask what the grand total was for all that gustatory goodness?

  2. Hi dragonmamma! The bill came to 99 bucks, including tax. We did not pay for the zucchini salad or the sea bass dish. If you reserve the spot at the bar to watch the chefs, you MAY get comped something, but I can't say they do that all of the time. Regardless, the small plates format is not cost prohibitive. Dishes range from 5 dollars to about 15 dollars, and we were really full by the end.

  3. Yeesh, that's a tad pricey for me. I can buy an awful lot of Ford Ranch grass-fed beef at the Saturday farmer's market for that. (Which I highly recommend, by the way.)
    I always feel guilty when I go out to eat; I'm usually calculating how many days' worth of groceries I could buy for the price of that one meal!

  4. Haha! You need to splurge every once in awhile. :) Petite Syrah is a fun place to try just 1 dish. Maybe head there for an appetizer or dessert when you are in Railroad Square. And what the hell are you doing up at 4:42am? I'm covering the morning show. You should be sleeping. :)