[Photo: Courtney Cochran]
The thing about opening a restaurant in a vintage stable is, sometimes the roof leaks. After ducking out of the rain into Dcantr, the casual sidekick to Michelin-starred Saison, I found the service, food and wine couldn't have been better. But the rain just wouldn’t stop. And the deluge leaked into the warmly lit space, spattering me with a light rain throughout my two hours there.
I didn't care. I was too busy savoring winning items from the brief but show-stopping-good menu, like Marin gem oysters with citrus-seaweed mignonette, chicken liver mousseline toasts with orange marmalade and a braised Petaluma chicken leg cooked with podi spices in Saison’s outdoor wood-fired oven. Sommelier star and partner Mark Bright tisk tisked the moisture and added it to his “long list” of maintenance things to attend to. Having finally come into his own as an owner-somm after nearly a decade tending to others’ lists -- like the ones from a little restaurant group owned by Michael Mina -- 28-year-old Bright shoved a long list of great pours under my nose, including a taste of a ’99 Corton Charlemagne he slung at me while racing back to the floor at Saison.
Perhaps most interesting are the wines Bright makes himself on the Sonoma Coast. Two pours: a 2008 Pinot from Clary Ranch Vineyard and a 2009 from Tirados Vineyard, are on offer for blending to-order. The menu references the blending, administered at table by a staffer, as “creativity encouraged.” It's all done with beakers of various sizes, lending a scientific air to the process. I would love to see more varieties and vintages available for these custom blends, though it’s tough to complain about the program given its significant high notes. Namely, at Dcantr the wines allow the food to shine. They enhance the experience without trying to steal the show on their own. It's the mark of a savvy wine program. Chef-owner Josh Skenes flatly declares of Bright, “he doesn’t touch the food, and I don’t touch the wine.” Of course that can’t be exactly the way it is, because the food and wine are in such fabulous harmony. Regardless, Dcantr gets it right with high caliber fare for shockingly reasonable prices -- they use the same fresh ingredients, chefs and kitchen as highly praised Saison next door -- lovely wines with a touch of DIY flair and a knee-thumping soundtrack that strikes just the right mood. To hell with the rain.
- Courtney Cochran
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