Big Flavors and Price Tags at PRIMA
So, tonight was our date night and we strolled down to Main St. in Walnut Creek to see what all the fuss was about at PRIMA Ristorante. Entering the restaurant, I was impressed by the marriage of size and ambiance. A huge restaurant with two (three?) large dining rooms, easily able to seat more than a hundred at once. Yet each table seemed personal, sequestered, intimate. I later noticed that the lighting tracts on the vaulted ceiling were tweaked by the staff with the use of a long pole after each seating. A six seater got more light than a two seater. The beams were aimed softly at the diners. I've never actually seen this ritual in another restaurant; I was impressed.
On to the food:
Starter: Grilled Quail in Balsamico.
Primi: Risotto with Sausage, Zucchini and Mint.
Secondi: Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Green Beans and Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta Gratin.
The quail had an excellent flavor: rosemary, salt and pepper, very well seasoned. I love quail and to my taste it was almost overdone. You don't want it to be rare but with quail, you can get away with some pink; it needs to be juicy. This wasn't totally dried out but lacked moisture. Overall a B+. $13.
The risotto was PERFECTLY COOKED, a big deal to me, who wants a plate of mush? This was al dente, you could feel and taste each individual grain, but not too hard. There appeared to be a tiny bit of tomato cooked in--the arborio was slightly orange and sweet. I thought "sausage. zucchini and mint" to be an odd assortment but they melded together on the plate. Mint turned up alongside the quail as well and wherever they got it, it was very, very good. They seem to know how to work the freshest and best into their menu, even in unlikely combinations. My only quibble with the Risotto was the price: $19 seemed a bit steep for a little more than a cup.
The lamb was utterly delicious and yet it was the most controversial item on the table. My fiance, a chef, states that "rack" is generally defined as 6 to 8 chops. The lamb was Niman Ranch, which is apparently, usually a six chop rack. In this case, we received four chops: not entirely stingy, just not what we would have called a rack. And for $38, the tiny dollop of savory polenta and small pile of flavorful beans seemed a bit meager. The lamb, god, the lamb...Maybe, I just feel cheated because I could have eaten three of those portions of my own without sharing a bit with my fiance. The lamb was rare, herb crusted with a crisp skin and the slightest bit of yummy fat around it...drooling as I think about it. The highlight of the meal in terms of flavor, just a bit disappointing in terms of the portion.
We both had a glass of white, chosen from a section of the menu labelled "Jack's Picks", I think. It was the Terre Vulcano "Lava" 2006 (?). It was described as tasting of white peach and orange blossoms and it did not disappoint. Crisp, sweet; went well with the starter and primi.
Dessert was the plum tartlet with cinnamon crema and basil syrup. Tasty, good crust, not particularly memorable.
The meal came to $120 after tax and tip. Not too bad. The ambiance and service justified the price.We'll definitely be back if we're looking for a nice, simple, upscale meal without leaving Walnut Creek.
Nice report. Have you been to the wine shop yet?
How did you find the noise level. I read that the music can be loud.
Looks like they will have special events like the winemakers dinner this Wednesday with David Ramey
Those prices though ... yikes ... maybe the tasting menu is the way to go here.
1522 North Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Actually, the tasting menu looked delicious. Lobster ravioli and lamb in aged balsamico, items that weren't available a la carte. But we didn't have the time. At $54 a pop, with salad and dessert as well, it would have been a steal. The noise level didn't bother me. It was noisy, but for me it was white noise; a pleasant hum. Haven't been to the wine shop but the wine we had was excellent; maybe its time to pay a visit.
I have been to a few winemaker dinners at Prima. the food is always good and matches well with the wines, even with big groups they tend to have. I used to splurge when they were around $100 per person (like the zinfandel dinner, the pinot dinner, etc.) Seems like they are pushing $150 per person these days, so I haven't been in a while.
But the dinners I did go to, there was plenty of food and plenty of wine, and they sit the winemakers at different tables around the dining room. Enjoyable events.