1401 G St, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 930-9988

The Japanese have long been enamored with seasons; from the sakura blossoming in the spring to the koyo-zensen slowly moving in and bringing with it its wave of fall foliage. Momiji (translated to mean the "reddening of the leaves," specifically the maple) has cleverly incorporated this theme of autumnal warmth into its decor. Located a few blocks away from the trendy J Street row of chaotic, sake-bomb swilling Japanese sushi bars, Momiji opts to reside in the shell of what once was Juliana's Kitchen in the Alkali Mansion Flats district. Due to its inconspicuous location and because Sacramento sushi joints to date have become as populous as Mcdonald's...overrunning the grid and spilling into the suburbs, many Midtown dwellers have yet to hear about this newcomer.
Now being a japanese food snob, I'd be hard pressed to say the offerings at Momiji are great, but I can acquiesce that the food there is solid and it is good. The menu is pretty standard- a handful of predictable apps (gyoza, yakitori, tempura), a page of sushi rolls, a smattering of nigiri choices and a few comfort food dishes such as nabemono, yakisoba, udon and donburi. My introductory dining experience with Momiji was via takeout. I opted for their bento box consisting of sabayaki (grilled mackerel), sashimi and kushiyaki (skewers of grilled chicken, beef and shrimp glazed with teriyaki sauce). The fish was well executed and the skewers were tasty but the sashimi was mediocre and left me lacking. My dad ordered the beef yakisoba (fried noodles) and remarked on the large portion-size and that it was not overly oily. Prices were reasonable and they do take plastic, which is always a plus.

My second encounter with Momiji was for an early b-day dinner with my friend, J. We ventured over there on a Thursday night and were a bit surprised to find only two other tables occupied. We were quickly greeted by a friendly waitress and allowed to choose where we wanted to be seated. We opted for the roomy half bench/half chairs seating towards the rear of the establishment so that we could comfortably converse. Walking to the back also gave us a chance to take a gander at the restaurant...and it's obvious that whoever decorated Momiji took some care in choosing its color scheme and decor. The warm reds of the wall and the exposed wood beams complement the simple black furniture perfectly. Also, interspersed throughout the background are various pieces of contemporary art, small mirrors and a few rice-paned partitions creating a cozy and relaxed dining environment...perfect for a small group of friends or a first date. The only oddball part of the atmosphere was the faint whisperings of 80's pop music (Cyndi Lauper, A-ha, etc) which elicited a chuckle from my dining partner and myself because it seemed so out of place.

As we perused the menu, our server took the initiative to service us with ocha and various complimentary starters (edamame, miso soup and sunomono). I just wasn't feeling the nigiri-vibe (it was pretty limited) so we decided to go with what I lovingly like to refer to as "gringo Japanese." We ordered two rolls to split - the Flamin' Tuna Roll (spicy tuna & cucumber topped with avocado, yellowtail, red tuna, albacore, spicy sauce & scallions) and the Garden Roll (steamed asparagus, sweet potato tempura & cucumber topped with avocado, garlic mayo, scallions & sesame seeds). The sushi chef also graciously agreed to prepare us a dish that was not on their menu - thinly sliced tuna seasoned with lemon, shoyu, chili oil sauce, jalapenos and garnished with a rainbow of tobiko. Our requested dish was not only aesthetically pleasing but perfect in taste as well. The Flamin' Tuna Roll lacked heat but I appreciated the fact that the itamae-san didn't drench it in mystery sauce to mask the fish, like so many places around town. The Garden Roll was the only miss of the night. The roll itself was good; however, the garlic mayo sauce adorning it was a turn off to both myself and J. The sauce had an odd, cloyingly sweet taste to it that neither of us appreciated and decided to scrape off.

The food at Momiji lacks culinary creativity but what dishes it churns out are acceptable and better than what you'll uncover at most Japanese places in Sac. The dishes are a bit rudimentary but hopefully as they settle in, they'll expand into offering a few more adventurous plates. I'd really like to see them extend their theme a bit and utilize seasonal ingredients. All in all, Momiji warrants a solid three stars for its food; however, I'm inclined to bump it up to four because the service we received was superb from start to finish. Our server was cheerful, attentive and unobtrusive...which definitely enhanced our dining experience. It's a welcome addition to the neighborhood and I'll definitely be dropping by again as well as recommending it to others.
5207 Madison Ave, Sacramento, CA 95841. (916) 334-8711

Growing up the daughter of a Brooklynite, all I've ever heard about is the days of Ebbet's Field, the infamous Brooklyn Dodgers, and the greatness of NY hot dogs ("none better in the world, honey!"). For nearly a century, NY has been famous for its delicious street-carters hawking it's tasty dogs and it's given us legendary wiener establishments such as Nathan's of Coney Island and Manhattan's Gray's Papaya. So it was much to my dad's surprise when we found a place in Sac that serves up tasty hot dogs, old school style--not those fancy pants Euro-dogs. Afterall, who doesn't love a great hot dog? Taking a big bite and hearing that snap of the's a throwback to a simpler time.

Wiener Works is inconspicuously tucked away in a strip mall off of Madison alongside a donut shop and Brazilian's your typical cash only hole-in-the-wall. Fancy-schmancy, WW is not. It's a family owned joint that's been around Sacramento for quite a number of years. It's decorated with crayola green tables and fire-engine red chairs, buzzing beer lights and a tile floor (for quick cleaning). The walls are adorned with various beverage signs, oddball dog prints and cute sayings. No need to gussy up and do your hair...if you're wearing a pair of jeans and a ball cap, you'll fit right in with most of the clientele. Although, lately I've seen quite a bit of suits during the lunch rush as word about this gem has gotten out.

What's on the menu, you ask? Plump, juicy beer-steamed beef hot dogs! Starting at around $4 for the basic, you can satisfy your hot dog fix with any number of preparations. WW offers up all your favorite condiments (ketchup, mustard, spicy mustard, relish, onions) along with a tangy kraut, healthy red cabbage and a grubbin' chili (with or without cheese). Your wish is their command! They also serve up corn dogs, bagel dogs, sausages and burgers. For those who just can't get enough, WW also touts a 14 inch dog for about $6. In addition to their mouthwatering dogs, WW has the best French fries in town, hands down. No frozen fries for these guys! Like an Army private on KP duty, there's somebody administering to transforming those piles of taters into some shoestring goodness. Now be aware that the fries come in three sizes: Tiny ($2.69), Small ($3.49) and large ($4.39). Those in the know, know that a Tiny is MORE than enough for two adult people. The serving size is crazy and you can get them sans salt if you wish. Lastly, WW is quite kid friendly and has a children's menu that includes a corndog, chips and a soda...sure to make the frazzled parent happy. BTW, drink refills are 1/2 off and there's a terrific assortment of beers to choose from.

If you decide to visit, you'll probably see me hunkered over with a ball cap lowered over my eyes and going in for a giant bite of my ketchup and chunky onion dog (hey no flack, that's what I like). Be sure to say hi, but keep your fingers out of my fries!

5829 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95824. (916) 456-8888

"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe..." There's something about dim sum that brings out the kid in me. Maybe its the dizzying array of delicious dishes to choose from as they whiz by on pushcarts or maybe it's that the purchases are tabulated on miniature golf-like scorecards? Regardless, I always look forward to when my friend Judy visits from Fresno and takes me out for some dim sum.

Our last visit to King's was on a hectic Saturday and despite the restaurant appearing to be quite busy we were seated right away at a roomy table. Tea was served immediately and we were in business. I'm fairly new to the dim sum game but Judy's an old pro and I love to hear her order various goodies in Chinese. Like a busy fish market, fingers are pointed, orders called out and heaps of small bamboo baskets are placed on our table to be sorted out later. Somehow we usually we end up with enough to feed a small country rather than six adults and two small children. This last dim sum expedition was no different. The steamed gai lan drizzled with oyster sauce was cooked to perfection, the yeung ngai gwa (eggplant with shrimp paste) made me call out for seconds and my new favorite-- jellyfish salad was crisp with a slightly spicy aftertaste, reminiscent of kimchi. Yum! We also ordered the standard dim sum fare- steamed shrimp crepes, fung jeow (chicken feet--don't knock it until you try it with some sriracha),congee (rice porridge), yeung tseng gwa (green peppers stuffed with shrimp paste), char siu bao (BBQ pork buns), pork shu mai, har gau (shrimp dumplings), wu tow goh (taro cake), steamed meatballs and spareribs. Everything was piping hot and fresh. My friend's young daughter took a special liking to opening up the lomai gai, which resembled a Christmas gift (lomai gai is a glutinous rice mixed with pork, wrapped in a lotus leaf) so we ended up with several orders of it, all of which were consumed. My only disappointment was the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) which were served without the requisite spoon and ginger/vinegar sauce.

As for King Palace itself, it's a bit tired and worn looking from the outside but nothing a little "rouge and lipstick," wouldn't fix. The dining room is clean, quite large and a bit over-decorated in gold and lucky red, but it does lend to a festive atmosphere once you get accustomed to it. Most tables are round making it easy for large groups to share their bounty as it spins around and around. I found the prices to be reasonable (I think the most expensive dish we had was around $3.00!). Also, even though many of the staff members did not speak a lot of English, they were friendly and eager to help during our visit --empty dishes were cleared quickly and my water was consistently refilled. Halfway through our meal, the manager (owner?) came over and chatted a bit which I thought was a personable touch.

I heard somewhere once that the Cantonese phrase "dim sum" loosely translates to mean, "touch the heart." After my visit to King Palace, I think they should change the meaning to also mean, "expands the stomach." I'll definitely be back for more dim sum. With no long wait, ample parking and good food ... I think New Canton's got some stiff competition.
2968 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95818, (916) 443-3237

Last Sunday was the perfect picturesque, sunny Sacramento day. I was excited to check out Dad's newest venture--Dad's Kitchen and engage in some springtime patio dining.

Upon walking in, I encountered a small, clean waiting area complete with hostess stand however sans hostess. I stood waiting for about 5 minutes at the counter, then sat down on a barstool for another 5. A few other patrons walked in, stood around looking puzzled then wandered towards the back. Finally a curly haired waitress came to the front but instead of a greeting, I got a dirty look and an abrasive, "Are you waiting for a take out order?" Obviously this person was never taught the Golden Rule of, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," when she was in elementary school. I responded politely that I wasn't and stated that even though my party wasn't here I would like to go ahead and be seated if possible. What I got in response was a flippant remark and a gesture which I loosely translated to mean "follow me." As I entered the dining room, I happened upon one of the people in my party I was waiting for; looking around the waitress had flat disappeared, so we took the initiative to seat ourselves outside. Luckily, once we were outside the service improved vastly. The waitress that was assigned to our table was cheerful, sweet and helpful. (Thank god!) She apologized for not knowing some things as the restaurant was new but was quick to get answers for us. She even asked Allie, another waitress, about the BFD crawfish for us (thank you!). Our drink orders were brought out promptly and my friend and I never felt rushed as we waited for our other two dining companions.

Please note that Dad's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Breakfast is available before 11am on weekdays and before 2pm on weekends (great, if you like to sleep in like me). The breakfast menu consists of various breakfast sandwiches and the standard breakfast fare (omelets, steak & eggs, and eggs with sausage/ham/or bacon). There are also biscuits and gravy and corned beef & hash for the more adventurous. On weekends only there are additional dishes available: a scrumptious French Toast covered with a spiced rum banana fosters sauce, as well as Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. I opted for the Eggs Benedict and it was divine. Served on a huge open-faced flaky homemade biscuit and topped with two poached eggs and the most delicious thinly-sliced black forest ham. It comes with Hollandaise sauce which I asked for on the side and was used up by one of my dining companions who ordered the same dish. The portion was so huge that I had to actually take half home. My friends ordered the corned beef and hash and the Eggs Florentine and from the happy sounds emanating from their direction I think they were quite pleased with their choices as well. We were curious about the Dad's Breakfast Tater and requested a side order to share. The taters are quite large and reminiscent in taste of a Japanese croquette. It comes with a spicy dipping sauce which didn't do much for my palate, I liked it plain better. We all decided to forgo our caffeine fixes and indulge in some freshly squeezed OJ, which I thought was quite tasty but a bit pricey at $4 a pop. There are numerous other beverage choices ranging from mimosas, strawberry bellinis, wine, beer (MKF!) and cider. Whoever chose the drink menu did a nice job, there's a little of something for everyone.

Overall, I thought my meal at Dad's was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. Our waitress was friendly, the backyard patio setting was relaxing and the prices fair (ranging from $5- $15 for the breakfast plates). I would definitely return. I am docking it one star however for the extremely rude waitress that I encountered when I first arrived. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

3260 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 448-5699
Moving to new location end of May 2011- 3839 J Street

While contemplating how to articulate my first experience at Formoli's, a saying of Julia Child's repeatedly popped into my head, "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces-just good food from fresh ingredients." Formoli's did exactly that and surpassed my expectations for a restaurant that had been open a mere ten days. Now take note, Formoli's is inconspicuously tucked away in the same strip mall as the Raven. The restaurant itself is small and narrow- more conducive for an intimate dinner than a large gathering. Despite the limited amount of room to work with, the owners have thoughtfully taken the time to make sure each painstakingly small detail from floor to ceiling is perfect and lends itself to the overall ambiance. Above you, the fluorescent lighting is masked by billowy swags of fabric and in it's place to illuminate are tasteful sconces. The warm walls are accented with various interesting works of art. Each table is outfitted with a small Moroccanesque candle and a single delicate, green cymbidium orchid floating in the water.

Upon entering, we were greeted quickly and ushered to a nearby open table. I found the staff to be both welcoming and attentive. Our server was quite knowledgeable and eager to ensure a pleasant dining experience. To start with, she recommended an excellent Tempranillo wine. I appreciated that she took the care to listen to what types of qualities I actually like in wines before selecting two that might be of interest to me, as opposed to automatically recommending the most expensive one on the list. She even brought over a sampling to make sure that I liked it before I finalized my decision, a nice touch which was appreciated- in fact, it made my dining companion decide to order a glass of the same.

We were then given the perfect amount of time to peruse the menu; which is broken up into- small plates, salad, burgers/sandwiches and entrees. The entrees section is a bit limited (I think it only listed a duck dish and two specials) but I think that worked out for the better as the small dishes are what really stand out here. Being a typical Libra, choosing what to order has always been a dilemma for me. Luckily my dining companion, Amanda, was game for ordering several small dishes and sharing. Although the stuffed dates and seared scallop dishes both sounded enticing and there was a tasty gazpacho that caught my eye, we opted to go with the calamari, yam frites, the Portabello mushroom and the ahi.

The calamari was sauteed perfectly and served tentacles and all upon a bed of greens and accented with endive leaves. The bite-sized pieces were tender, unbreaded (yum!) and not overly chewy. The yam frites were hands down my favorite dish of the evening. Cut in long thin stalks, the sweet yams were lightly sprinkled with sea salt and ground pepper and accompanied by a scrumptious paprika aioli. The paprika aioli balanced out the sweetness of the yams well and gave it a nice subtle kick of spiciness, only noticeable in the aftertaste. In fact, I contemplated stabbing Amanda with my fork to nab the last few bites of yam frites...luckily, I was able to restrain myself. The Portabello mushroom dish was okay. The Portabello was stacked pancake style and layered with (asiago?) cheese and thinly sliced domestic mushrooms, similar in fashion to a pastry. As for the seared ahi, it was the only dish that didn't wow me. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't awful and we did eat it but it was oversalted and the ahi was very tender. Additionally, the paired sauce resembled guacamole both in color and in taste and did little to enhance anything about the ahi. I ended up scraping off what I could of the seasoning and dipping the ahi in the paprika aioli that came with the yam frites. Yes, paprika aioli makes everything taste's like the ketchup of the Mediterranean.

Anyhow, any regrets in ordering the ahi were soon forgotten with my first bite of dessert- a crema catalana. Our server described it as a Spanish creme brulee and the description was quite accurate, although I found it not to be as rich or as heavy as regular creme brulee and the caramelized sugar topping was slightly softer and not quite as crisp. The crema catalana satiated my sugar craving and I found the slight ginger taste to be refreshing - an excellent after dinner palate cleanser.

As we were finishing up, the chef came by to introduce himself and to check on our dining experience which was a nice touch. In reflection, I feel- the ahi aside, Formoli's definitely has it's flavors dialed in. In addition, I found their service, to be equally friendly and efficient. I'm looking forward to more enjoyable dinners at Formoli's and am curious to see what it evolves into. Hopefully, they'll find their niche in Sacramento and perhaps even push the envelope with some regional dishes that are unfamiliar to the Sac food scene or offer up some innovative creations of their own.

- 2/2011

It's almost 3 years later and I'm still religiously dining at Formoli's. The food they put out continues to wow me and the service never fails to be friendly. The menu has expanded and changes regularly but every dish I've ordered since that first visit has been wonderful. If you can, order the scallops...the accompaniment may vary from a carrot puree to greens depending on the season, but the scallops are always cooked perfectly with a nice seared top. Also, give the whiskey burger a whirl- it's hands down the best burger in Sacramento, without a doubt. The whiskey demi-glace and habanero aioli will have you licking your fingers in an unladylike fashion.

(interior of new location)

920 8th St, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 492-9506
(May 2011- CLOSED. Same name but new ownership)

There's an old song called, "I love Paris," written by Cole Porter and most notably sung by Old Blue Eyes himself- Sinatra. The chorus of the song is a bit sing-songy and goes something like this, "I love Paris in the spring time. I love Paris in the fall. I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles. I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles." Well, after visiting La Bonne today, I can see why one would adore the Frenchies.

Waking up to a dreary, wet Sacramento morning the last thing I wanted to do leave the confines of my nice warm Midtown apartment to navigate the rain-slicked streets to downtown. However, once I scored a prime parking spot I got into the swing of things. Armed with an umbrella and heels, I felt a bit Parisian as I ducked under the awning and stepped inside the bistro. After all the hype, I was a bit surprised- there was no line! In fact I was the only patron in the establishment. Immediately, I was greeted with a friendly "Hello, Mademoiselle," by Chef Daniel Pont. Since I was waiting for my two lunch companions to arrive, I plunked myself down at the nearest table and enagaged in a conversation with the charming Mr. Pont. We politely chatted about the weather, discussed the crazy drivers that were out and about and then focused on the food. When I asked for his recommendation, Mr. Pont didn't leap into an one man presentation about the various dishes; instead he told me to whittle my choices to two that I liked and he'd be happy to discuss them further in detail. After perusing the menu for a bit, I settled on the smoked duck with homemade herbed mayonnaise and the baked salmon with a sorrel (?) sauce. Mr. Pont diplomatically advised that when a customer has gotten it down to two choices he usually advises them which item would be healthier. I went with the baked salmon and was pleased with my choice. The salmon perfectly cooked and moist was accompanied by fresh asparagus and nestled comfortably in a lettuce bed within the crispy baguette. I also opted to try the much acclaimed French onion soup, which lived up to all of its Yelp raves. Slivered onions, a soaked baguette and a dollop of delectable cheese intermingled together in this savory potage. I seriously could eat this saporous concoction everyday! To top off the triad of gluttony, I purchased a "French" brownie to go. Having indulged in the treat a few minutes ago I have to say, "That's one damn good brownie!" It was dense, not overly sweet and seemed to impart a slight liqueur aftertaste.

Don't go to La Bonne expecting a snobby French eatery or speedy-service, Pont's place is simple, small and somewhat slow. Each sandwich is individually (and carefully) put together by him. He acts simultaneously as the cook, the front line and the cashier. As he works, he chats with the customers about the various selections (today there was a broccoflower soup that he explained was a nutritious hybrid), daily goings-ons and I even caught a few exchanges between him and a few customers in his native French. Also, get there early as there is limited seating (BTW- this is not a good place to go to with a big group) and the lunch selections do run out. Sandwiches run about $6-7 and soups about $5.

I most definitely will be back to sample some of his other sublime offerings. If I play my karma cards right, I'm hoping I'll luck out and drop in on a day that he has his infamous creme brulee. As it stood, I had to control myself from grabbing the courteous Frenchman in an embrace of gratitude and cooing, "Merci, mon petit chou!" upon my departure. Instead I smiled, nodded a thank you and rubbed my content belly as I headed back out into the rain.

(*mon petit chou = a French term of endearment meaning my "little cabbage or brussel sprout")
3651 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816, (916) 455-7155

I may not know owner Dave Boyet personally, but sometimes I feel like his pub, the Bonn Lair, is an extension of my own home. Since I stumbled upon it about eight years ago, it's been the go to place for me to relax with friends, grab an after dinner drink with a date and even throw an unofficial Yelp event or two.

The BL is located next to the La Trattoria in East Sac but within stumbling distance of the grid for Midtowners. It's a cozy, traditional British-style pub that's graced Sac with it's presence since roughly the mid-90's and quickly developed into a favorite neighborhood watering hole. The bar itself exudes a masculine feel- long wooden booths, an assortment of sport memorabilia and a backroom outfitted with darts. In addition, the front end is equipped with a small patio for the overflow and the back end with an open gazebo-like area for the smokers to chill and chat. The atmosphere is relaxed with various locals congregated here and there sucking down their brews, decompressing and BSing about whatever comes to mind. Occasionally the steady hum of conversation is pierced by a loud cheer for some slick rugby move on the telly. I've always found the patrons to be friendly and have come away most nights with a new friend or two. The bartenders Joe, John and (my fav) Mike are quick with the pour and always willing to chat up both the old-timers and the newcomers.

And most importantly, let's not forget the beer...oh the wonderful beer! Bonn Lair carries my favorite- Chimay (aka the nectar of the gods), as well as my trusty standby- Guinness on tap but it also showcases a multitude of great draughts, ales, bottled beers and ciders for every palate (for example Old Speckled Hen, Maredsous, and lambics...quit salivating now...). Most recently I discovered that they also offer a "beer by the bucket" special, how cool is that?

Too much beer and need some grub? The BL is one step ahead of you and has taken the liberty of offering some pub fare to the likes of some fish-n-chips, bangers and the infamous Scotch egg. The staff also doesn't raise an eyebrow or grouse if you prefer more standard eats and wish to bring in some Chinese takeout from next door or a pizza from Pizza Guys just a few doors down. Oh and don't forget on Sundays once you've placated your tastebuds and destroyed your liver with beer at the BL, you can always match wits and engage in a friendly game of Pub Trivia. You gotta love a place that allows a group of girls to christen their trivia team, "The Yoni's." :)

My only gripe about the Bonn Lair...and it's a teeny-tiny gripe, is- what genius decided to install the paper towel pull on the opposite wall from the sink and a mere two inches above the toilet paper dispenser? When one is three sheets to the wind and has a bladder the size of a peanut, the last thing they want to do is mistakenly dry their yoni with a rough industrial grade paper towel. Ouch! Well, my yoni may not love you BL but I sure do! See you soon!

2724 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 447-1000

Ever watch one of those antique shows, where some poor schmuck brings on a rare "antique" lamp on to be appraised? You know the lamp that his Great-Great-Great Grandma Gertrude strapped to her back and brought with her on the boat from Poland that's supposedly 100% gold? The lamp that the appraiser inevitably flips over and rubs the bottom with his thumb to...lo and behold...uncover in tiny script the words, "Made in Taiwan"? Well, that's what Gianni's reminds me of. At first glance, its sleek Tiffany blue colored tables and exposed brickwork radiates an oh-so South Beach hipster cool but a little rub with the thumb uncovers a multitude of imperfections in its polished facade.

Let me explain...Gianni's was our choice for our January girls' night out. We entered the establishment around seven o'clock on a Friday and were greeted by a polite silver haired gentleman within seconds and were assured that we would be seated shortly. True to his word, the host ushered us over to a nice roomy booth within five minutes. Wonderful! From that point on though, the night pretty much went downhill. Now I'm a pretty easy going customer, I don't expect my waiters to channel Mr. Belvedere and wait on me hand and foot but our waiter that night took the term piss poor service to a whole new level. Seriously, when the service wasn't non-existent it was horrendous. Our waiter would disappear for extended lengths of time and we had to flag him down to order both our drinks and our meals. Had the restaurant been even remotely busy, I could understand but not only was it barely full but I could see the waiter slacking off a few feet away. In addition to this, our waiter actually got into an argument with us about what type of wine we should order and whether we should order individual glasses or a bottle. When we held fast and reiterated what we wanted (the Antinori Super Tuscan), his reaction was to pout and spout off a smartass remark...classy! Whatever happened to the customer's always right? At this point we hadn't even eaten and I was disgusted with Gianni's.

For our orders, we decided to share several appetizers and two pizzas. For the apps we opted for the house salad, the creamy polenta dish and the calamari. The creamy polenta dish was smooth and accented with a light hint of what I believe was truffle oil. The calamari was a good sized portion, marinated in buttermilk (unbreaded) and tossed with tomatoes, basil and chilies-- in my opinion, the best dish out of what we ordered. As for the salad and pizzas, they weren't anything to write home about but did the job of satisfying our hunger. During the course of our meal, the ex-waitress in me noticed that the silverware was dirty (I had to ask for another fork and knife because there were remnants from someone else's dinner encrusted on the tines and blade), the glassware was spotty and several plates had obvious chips and cracks. In addition, our busser was slow to refill our water and early in the evening had dropped a large hunk of bread in the middle of the table. I found it amusing that throughout the night, he continued to carefully bus around the bread as though it were a centerpiece. My guess is that bread is probably still sitting in the same spot on the table even to this day.

Now usually when I go to dinner with my girlfriends, it's customary for us to linger over dessert and some coffee, perhaps even an after dinner drink. At Gianni's, we couldn't get out of there fast enough. Although we did leave our server a tip, I sincerely felt it was undeserved and that he should have tipped us for having to endure his crappy subpar service and abhorrent attitude. I most definitely would not waste my money at Gianni's again nor would I ever subject anyone I know to such a hellacious dining experience by recommending it. It just goes to show that a restaurant can look pretty, but to get customers to return it needs to be able to offer up a pleasant dining experience as well. I believe Gianni's is what the Italians refer to as, "Tutto fumo e niente arrost," (all smoke and no fire) and places like that rarely stick around for long.

1112 Firehouse Alley, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 442-5751

Recently, some friends and I found ourselves ducking down a dark alley in Old Sac and timidly stepping through the iron gated doorway of the Back Door Lounge. Crossing over the threshold, we found ourselves confronted with a sight that equated a cross between Liberace's boudoir and an old time brothel. As your eyes adjust to the candlelit room, you're greeted by a sleek piano, gilded frames, and various mirrors tucked here and there. After taking a moment to absorb our surroundings, we sidled up to the bar and were greeted by a sprightly barkeep with a strong pour and a quiet smile. Seeing that he was the only person manning the entire bar, I was a bit in awe that the barkeep was able to keep pace with all the orders, all the while routinely putting coasters under the drinks to preserve the glossy wood bar. Leaning against the bar, I found the scene at the Back Door Lounge to be soothing. The atmosphere was dark and sultry and the old time crooners floating from the jukebox seemed to placate the masses. Besides the large bar counter surrounded by velvet flocked toile wallpaper, there are also deep booths to slide in and out of, as well as an upper level where couples can engage in a quiet tete-a-tete. We were advised that the Back Door Lounge can get a bit raucous when the lounge singer is in full effect; however, the night we were there it was much more subdued. Probably not a locale I'd frequent but I did enjoy my sojourn there.
3343 Bradshaw Rd, Sacramento, CA 95827, (916) 362-9292

It was a dark and stormy night, when... Ok, ok, maybe it wasn't stormy but it sure as heck was dark (and cold) tonight; when my buddy J., my hapa partner in crime M. and I decided to get together for some tasty Korean cuisine and catch up on our lives. J. brilliantly suggested a Korean BBQ restaurant by his home. As I turned off of Hwy 50 on Bradshaw and was preparing myself to drive at a granny's pace and squint through my windshield to find this Korean eatery, I was surprised to find myself suddenly confronted by a mammoth of a building (perhaps a Ho-Jo's in another life?), bedecked in miles of twinkle lights ... welcome to Oz , folks. Like a beacon in the dark, it's hard to miss.

As you walk up to the behemoth structure, you're enveloped in a wonderful heady aroma of garlic, sesame and soy. Just follow this delicious scent to the foyer. You'll find yourself in a spacious lobby decorated in muted earth tones with walls that are inscribed with short poems about the glory of Tahoe. There's plenty of benches and even a large table to wait at in the lobby but there was no need to tonight. My resourceful friends had already secured a table up front. I was the last to show, but within milliseconds of me sitting our server David materialized to take my drink order and drop off some tasty banchan (small side dishes) to be shared. Yelp Tip: During the week (Monday -Thursday nights), Oz offers an all you can grill and eat special for $16.99 per person, served family-style. This is a great deal! Seriously, I love meat as much as the next person and can tear it up like a T-Rex but I ate ridiculous amounts of meat tonight (although I think my dinner companions still out ate me). The food just never stopped coming. The first platter of raw meat that was brought out is a carnivore's dream- a potpourri of marinated galbi (beef short ribs), brisket, pork belly (bacon) and chicken. Once you finish that platter, you can request more of any of the meats specifically. Hands down our favorite was the juicy brisket and we requested encores of that several times. Now I myself dislike what I have dubbed "fatty" meat, but my dining companions chowed happily on the chewy pork belly. In fact, M. quipped, "Everything's better with bacon!" Condiments are graciously provided and consist of whole garlic cloves, fiery sliced chilis, crisp ssam (lettuce leaves) and a salty red bean paste. We were also armed with a pair of large tongs and heavy duty scissors to assist us with our dining adventure.

Dinner was wonderful. Our server, David, provided top notch, impeccable service. There was never a want for anything. More meat-poof, it was there! More water-poof, it's filled! Dirty dishes- poof, they're gone! We never had to ask for anything, as though he was ESP-driven David anticipated our every want. Also, since he was training to bartend David offered our table a free "house" drink each to sample if we'd take a short survey afterwards. Being the lushes that we are, we eagerly volunteered to be his guinea pigs (yeah, like you really have to twist my arm when it comes to accepting a free drink).The sample drink turned out to be a full sized cocktail that tasted like a day at the beach... could best be described as a coconutty mojito. It was oh, so tasty and the sweetness balanced the garlic-infused meal perfectly.

Filled to the gills with a delicious meal, my only last desire was a fluffy pillow so that I could curl up and take a nice nap by the warm grill. Like a content cat, I was purring after my dining experience at Oz and dreaming of my next visit.