Intimate, Elegant and Quite Unforgettable!
By Bernie Whitmore
206 Worcester Road, Princeton, MA
As someone who lives, works and frequently dines in Worcester, occasionally it’s necessary to bust out beyond town limits and experience what’s happening “out there.” And what’s happening out at Sonoma is very worth the trip.
Years had passed since my last visit to Sonoma, yet upon entering I felt I’d come home…home, that is, to warm hospitality framed by elegant touches of formality, innovative cuisine and a carefully honed dining experience. My guest and I were led to a booth and seated at a table spread with white linen. Rich plum-colored napkins were propped upon even deeper-hued chargers that reflected the warm glow from a dragonfly-pattern lantern. A small dish of olive tapenade sat ready for dipping.
Debbie, our server, arrived forthwith. After presenting appetite-whetting morsels of tender pork layered with roasted vegetables and pesto she recited the day’s menu specials. When it came time to take our drink orders she guided me from a zinfandel she considered unassertive toward a glass of Ferrari-Carano Sienna. This blend of Sangiovese, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon has deep velvety berry flavors ~ an excellent recommendation.
The appetizer list was both playful (diners at a nearby table merrily teased each other about the Selection of “Jerks” they’d ordered) and seriously designed to rivet my attention. We decided to share the Kobe Carpaccio. A splendid way to appreciate the marbled fatty texture of flavorful Kobe beef, it was sliced paper thin and served cold with shaved parmesan cheese, drizzled with olive oil, a few shakes of sea salt and a toss of capers. We were able to cut the raw beef with a tine of our forks! I don’t consider myself foremost a carnivore, but I’m very partial to Carpaccio. This was a rich start and ideal for sharing.
Caesar Salad is one of Sonoma’s signature dishes; their classic interpretation has the traditional dressing that clings to the creases of each romaine leaf. But they take it a step beyond with a miniature hatch-shell of shredded asiago cheese fried crunchy gold. Don’t refuse the anchovy! They don’t use those salty canned bristles; Sonoma nestles a meaty white anchovy filet on each portion.
Between courses Debbie brought oven-hot buns that we tore apart and dipped in the tapenade. With every tear, shrapnel of crumbs were scattered onto the tablecloth. Each time she returned, Debbie gamely de-crumbed our table and straightened out my silverware ~ never once a weary sigh.
My entrée was a landscape of flavors. Horseradish-crusted Salmon was baked and presented on a wooden plank. This was fresh catch-your-breath horseradish root shredded with a grater and piled onto the juicy salmon. It was served with cooling Dijon mustard sauce. The pink flesh of the fish was crispy brown on the edges and flaky-tender throughout.
On a more classical note, my guest’s entrée, Tournedos of Beef, was two filet portions, each wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon and served with a vegetable-stuffed artichoke and tomato couscous ~ perfectly tender and flavorful! Both entrees came with a vegetable hall-of-fame: tiny carrots with honey, grilled asparagus, tender slices of ruby beets and steamed broccoli raab whose sharp bite stood in contrast to red bliss potatoes whipped with gouda cheese.
After clearing our dishes Debbie returned with Sonoma’s dessert cart. Hmmm…would I go with the pairing of Crème Brûlée’s or fresh ice cream ~ tonight’s feature was Crushed Sumatra-Coffee Bean? We decided to share a Limoncello Bundt Cake. The ring-shaped cake was flavored with a touch of lemon liqueur and filled with white chocolate icing. It was served with blueberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries. Debbie also brought a dish of the creamy Sumatra Coffee ice-cream.
As you enter Sonoma, the sign promises “Intimate, elegant and quite unforgettable!” I must commend their modesty; for those who appreciate the fullness of flavors and innovative combinations that made New-American Cuisine the chef’s equivalent of jazz-on-a-dinner-plate, Sonoma Restaurant remains true to its craft.
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