Fresno: Small Plates Everywhere [Moved from Site Talk]
I have been in and out of town for over a year so I might be behind on this development.
TAPA INVASION. First I noticed Flamenco opening and then another tapa joint out by Yosemite ranch. Ofcourse the trump is in Fig Garden Village, Pangea which now seems would have the most to prove by opening so late in the Fresno tapa season and the most to lose due to what I expect to be an expensive rent.
What I am curious about is the trend. What does another Fresnan think about this?
There are many ingredients to keep fresh and a large menu to execute quickly.
There have been a lot of postings lately about Flamenco. I am not a fan, but many others seemed to enjoy it. Freshsness wasn't the issue at Flamenco- everything was obviously very fresh.
I am looking forward to trying Pangea and Senses. Has anyone been to them?
I hadn't noticed the trend until you pointed it out.
Senses was very good when I went a couple of months ago. Some dishes are better than others but that's to be expected. I believe Roy Harland is involved with Panega.
Here's a review of the tapas place in the OSH center: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/374807
I googled Pangea Fresno, and came up with some info. Chef Michelle Marquez demo'd her recipe for Profiteroles Filled with Asian Style Duck Confit, Fruit Compote and Daikon Salad
at the Home Show this weekend. The advertising blurb mentions that Pangea is the "new restaurant venture partners Joseph Pressutti, Tony Sciola, and Executive Chef Floro Bugnosen (from Campagnia....)
Tavmark- Do you remember what you enjoyed at Senses? Their menu is posted online at sensescuisine.com and several plates caught my eye.
Senses is an amazing find. I have dined there with friends and family several times and never am disappointed. Wine prices are reasonable and the small plates are excellent. There are several good vegetarian entrees such as the one with chickpeas, the pizettas, salads and I love the mahi mahi with Thai rice. Desserts are TDF. One of the chefs used to work at Echo.
I think Fresno is just responding to a national trend toward small plates. I think people like small plates because it is less formal, more fun, and you get to try several different dishes.
While the restaurant has to be able to churn out more dishes, each dish is smaller and ususally not as time consuming as cooking a hunk of meat. Small plates are generally fresh ingredients served with little cooking and not too many fussy sauces.
My girlfriend and I liked everything we tried at Flamenco's, which was about eight things. The jamon serrano-wrapped shrimp were probably our favorite, with the potatoes brava being the least favorite of the ones we tried. My parents are huge fans of the steak there, and the waiter told us that their steak is from the same prime provider as Fleming's, but Flamenco gets it aged longer. Flamenco is probably the priciest of the small plates in Fresno.
La Paella also does tapas, but is more moderately priced. Their food shows a marked improvement (as does their service) when the owner is there. On days the owner is not there, it is inconsistent in its cooking and service.
Senses is possibly the most reasonable, and the oldest. Their blueberry BBQ lamb is worthwhile, as are their pizzas. Other things change frequently and are inconsistent. It's best to go with a pretty decent sized party to try lots of things, to avoid being burdened with some choices not to your taste.
Of course, you can pull off small plates dining in lots of other places just by ordering appetizers and sides. It works well at Fleming's and Manhattan, for instance.
I checked up on this and I found out that Flamenco's and Flemings don't get their steaks from the same place. Apparently Flamenco gets theres from the "Stockyard" in Chicago which is the same place that supplies the Bellagio's "Prime" Steakhouse in Las Vegas. All I could gather about Flemings is that they have a four week aged Prime. But I don't think it's from the same place. I also made my way and tried that new French California Cuisine called Rhema but I'll start a new thread on that.
I'm not happy with Fleming's. On my anniversary my husband and I had reservations to celebrate there. After 20 minutes of listening to a din so loud we couldn't hear each other, we still weren't allowed at our table. They will not have our business. As for tapas, we were thrilled with the food at Paella.
Seriously, if you haven't been to Pangea, go NOW! Make a reservation. They opened Mon. and have been packed. Probably because of the samosas. It seems like they are still trying to figure out what to do with the young, fig-garden bar scene though. You might want to eat early. They have and very decent sake offering, too. There's sampler for 7 bucks.
I went to Pangea on Thursday and I totally agree. Go NOW! The mini trio burgers were so TASTY! I also loved the scallops and the salmon. I can't stop talking about the creme fraiche cheesecake either...it's definitely not the average NY cheesecake that everyone else serves--it's light, flavorful, etc. I expected a few missteps because it is so new and the place was so busy but they did an awesome job for their first week.
The Sturdy Wench, the Step-son, and I just returned from an excellent dinner at Senses with friends. I'm full, content and sleep-deprived, so this will be a more terse review from me.
If you haven't been yet, please do yourself a favor and go, preferably with friends and loved ones. As a previous poster said, that way you can all sample the dishes and no one gets stuck with the liver nibbles.
The decor is lodge-y. Rounded dark red square floor tiles, unfinished plank walls and barn ceiling, river rock fireplace. When I looked out the window, I kept expecting to see snowy pine trees and the snow-capped Rockies in the background. (Reminded me of Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia Nat'l Park.) Very comfortable.
Our waitress, Kelsey, did a fine job, especially as she was the only server on the floor tonight. She was knowledgable about the wine and the food.
All five of us at the table shared everything and all the adults agreed the food was outstanding. (The teenage Step-son, grumpy at being dragged to a place that didn't have mac & cheese, bean burritos, or hamburgers, contented himself with the four cheese pizzetta, which he liked, although he said he wished it had more sauce.)
Our first plate was the Organic Zucchini Pancakes, Persian Dill and Bulgarian Feta ($8). The zucchini was hashed like potato hashbrown and grilled in a fat which made it crispy and dark golden brown. The feta oozed out through cracks. Outstanding. A.
Second was an off-menu special, a pumpkin galette with fried (acorn?) squash ring. The crust of the galette was flaky and tender, and the pumpkin filling was smooth, creamy, and tasted exactly like pumpkin, and was not overwhelmed by cream or seasoning. (Unknown price) A-.
Next came the two salads: Salad of Port–soaked Black Mission Figs, English Stilton, toasted Hazelnuts, on organic Spring Mix with Pomegranate Vinaigrette (10) and Salad of organic Blueberries and Lavender-Bread Crumb crusted Goat Cheese on organic Spring Mix with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (10).
I'm so full, so happy, and too tired to describe the salads. Suffice to say they are as advertised and were superior. Yum. A+ for both.
What next? Oh yes, the Oven Pancake with Niman Ranch Dry Cured Bacon, Mushrooms, Caramelized organic Onions & Parmesano Reggiano Cheese (10). This was a thin pancake with raised edges, similar in appearance to a Dutch Baby. The onions, bacon and mushroom flavors were present and accounted for, and perfectly balanced the punch of the cheese. It was about 10" in diameter. A.
Now we come to the Coconut Lime Pork Shoulder with Jasmine Rice (14). The pork was well cooked, although just a little dry. The lime flavor really came through and sat nicely on top of the taste of the pork, which sat on what I think were baby spinach leaves. The rice was typical sticky jasmine rice, its nuttiness nicely contrasting with the citrus and meat flavors of the pork and gravy. While this was very good, it was the weakest dish of our meal. B-.
After a short break, we received another off-menu special, a shrimp scampi pizzetta, which I ended up eating about half because everyone else was starting to fill up. It was delicious, thin crust and perfectly cooked with just enough crispy bottom. I wished for a bit more shrimp, but that's my personal preference. A-.
Now Kelsey served us the Grilled fresh Salmon Kebab with Pomegranate-Honey Sauce (9). This was a winner! Tender, very moist, flaky salmon and a rich, dark, sweet sauce. A.
The last was a curried chicken and vegetable in whole squash (I don't remember the price.) The squah was soft and creamy, the vegetables were crisp tender and the chicken carried the curry flavor, which was delicate and perfumed. A.
Senses is a restaurant that encourages you to use your senses: Taste, smell, sight, sound and feel. Taste and smell for the food and wine, sight for the food, decor and the original art hung on the walls (for sale, too), sound for the contented conversation of happy diners, and the feel of the rounded floor tiles, the gorgeously heavy stemware for the wine which added a feeling of luxury.