The Thai Style Crunchy Peanuts and Cashews weren’t very crunchy. That’s the extent of the criticism I can come up with for the recently-opened Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa. Uncrunchy nuts.
Spinster Sisters, in the SOFA (South of A) District opened in mid-August with former Santi Chef Liza Hinman in the kitchen and wine master Giovanni Cerrone heading the wine program. Behind the scenes is Eric Anderson (a local who’s involved with Prune NYC). Suffice to say it’s a solid cast of characters who’ve been to the rodeo a time or two.
The interior of the rehabbed space is sparse and clean, with a wraparound bar taking up three-quarters of the room. It’s the perfect height and width to feel like an extension of the dining tables rather than simply a drinking space. A concrete floor and smooth wood tables feel a bit industrial, but owners are working to warm up the space and deaden the sound a bit.
The menu is broken into a series of sections: Bites ($2-$4) are exactly that; Charcuterie and Cheese Plates ($6-$16); Veggies ($5-$7); Small Plates ($7-$14) and Large Plates ($14-16). Each works beautifully as a single sonnet, or together as an epic poem. Here, Hinman is able to gently tie flavors together with spice, texture or theme in a loose bow, rather than an unmanageable knot of confused ideas.
Here’s a stroll through the opening dishes:
– Thai-style crunchy peanuts and cashews ($3): Torn basil, lemongrass and Thai peppers infuse the nuts with flavor. And maybe a bit too much moisture.
– The Sister’s Pickle Plate ($6): Seasonal veggies with daikon carrots and beets have a light, dilly pickling. Kimchee packs a garlic punch, breath-rescuing ginger foils the funk.
– Kimchee & Bacon Egg ($2): A bold, edgy flavor if you like kimchee and eggs. Which I do.
– House Made Duck Terrine ($9): Foie gras is nice, but frankly, a good terrine is every bit as satisfying. This rustic duck liver pate comes wrapped in pork fat with toasted bread, cornichon and stone ground mustard. Soul-satisfying.
– Wilted Kale Salad ($9) A toothier version of the familiar wilted spinach salad, it comes with generous pinches of soft Pt. Reyes blue cheese, bacon, pearl-sized cherry tomatoes, croutons and mustard vinaigrette. A theme throughout is seeing so much of the produce torn, rather than chopped. It’s a small thing, really, but shows the kind of extra hand-work being done in the kitchen.
– Sweet Corn Coconut Fritters with Sriracha Aioli ($8): Oh. My. God.
– Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly with Watermelon, Feta, Ginger and Mint ($10): Fatty, sultry pork; crisp, clean watermelon and mint.
– Grilled Local Calamari ($9): Lip-tingling spice, Thai flavors, gently cooked.
– Crispy Chicken Thighs ($14): Thighs are the new breast. Packed with flavor, and gently pan-fried with plenty of salt and pepper, they sit atop creamy, yielding white beans and arugula. A grilled nectarine makes it weep-worthy with perfect, of-the-moment summer flavors.
– Kennebec Fries with SOFA sauce ($5): Fries need aioli. Period. Honey mustard informs this version.
– Earl Grey Pot de Creme: Proof that someone up there loves us. Orange and bergamot and chocolate.
– Wines: Around the bar are eight wines on tap, delivered to the table in a 500ml beaker. Plus, more than 20 by the glass or bottle, few of which the casual drinker will have heard of. And that’s a good thing. Finger Lakes Riesling, Hondarrabi Suria from Spain, Coastal pinots and Syrahs, Italian Primitivo, FrenchGamay. The menu begs for exploration. Plus several beers on tap, cider, cock-n-bull ginger beer.
401 South A St., Santa Rosa, 528-7100.