Roast chicken from Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo: Heather Irwin

Roast chicken from Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo: Heather Irwin

I never order chicken at restaurants. Ever. Because inevitably it’s the compromise entrée, the bland and uninspired dish for cautious eaters. But when a perfect roast chicken is the specialty of the house, as it is at the newly opened Pullman Kitchen, I bite.

Roasting a chicken isn’t as easy as it sounds. The trick is crispy skin and juicy, tender meat (both light and dark). Pullman Kitchen’s chef, Darren McRonald, hits the mark, serving up the bird with a light pan sauce and two dreamy spinach Parmesan pancakes.

It’s everything a roast chicken should be, which is comforting and hearty, homey and succulent. Consider me a convert.

After several visits, I’m a bit in love with Pullman Kitchen, housed in the former Syrah Bistro. The interior is familiar, with an open kitchen and cozy dining room, but the space now has better seating and a more open feel. The interior courtyard, always a bit exposed, noisy, and uncomfortable, has been sectioned off, giving it a more unified feeling.

The menu is brief and fairly consistent (though seasonal ingredients come and go) with plenty of rib-sticking entrées including fish tacos, cheeseburgers, skirt steak, lamb, and Manila clams with chorizo. What’s we’ve been inspired by, however, are the daily specials, such as a crab cake po’boy and fried green tomatoes. And don’t miss the bacon-wrapped dates with paprika, honey, and lemon.

Dessert is just as inspired and just as comforting. Rich carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (notice the golden raisins, a nice touch), warm rhubarb and strawberry crumbles with whipped cream, or house made ice cream—another dish I rarely order because of its banality. Again, I’m a convert, especially when the dish comes with warm sugar cookies on the side.

A few minuses, depending on your perspective. In warmer months, the menu seems a bit wintry, and the restaurant’s lack of air conditioning makes for a bit of a sweaty visit (especially near the front windows). We were also a bit taken aback by the automatic inclusion of a 17 percent tip on the bill. Servers do explain the logic, stating that it helps the staff have a living wage, and on both visits, servers were more than accommodating, and we added another 2 percent to the tip.

BiteClub is looking forward to seeing the evolution of this stellar dining car.

Open Mon-Fri lunch, nightly dinner, and Sat-Sun brunch. 205 5th St. at Wilson St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4300.