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Yuma--Fine Dining

e
e.d. May 28, 2001 07:08 PM

Fine dining in Yuma, in my mind, boils down to two restaurants: Julianna’s Patio Café and the River City Grill. Julianna’s is a nice, large restaurant with
shady outside dining as well. Tropical parrots provide some background. The fare is modern/traditional. This is the place in town for veal dishes—the Oscar is competent and done with broiled asparagus, the Marsala is decent if a bit too sweet for my taste, and the piccata (imho) is the best of the lot, excellent
flavor even with zucchini slices interspersed with the veal. I have sampled few of their other entrees, but the restaurant has a range of beef, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. While their soups are just OK, they make a range of interesting leaf lettuce etc salads. The wine list is competent but not outstanding—featuring mostly California wines—and all the wines are marked up severely. Even the mediocre wines on their list are priced at over $20.

The River City Grill takes a more radical approach to fine dining. This small place has a menu that ranges from the Mediterranean to Asia and from the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans. There are no beef, pork, or lamb dishes, only poultry, seafood, and vegetarian choices. While the food prices are high for Yuma (though entrees are all under 20 dollars), the wine list is full of good values, by restaurant wine list
standards. There are several excellent choices for under 20 and a Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir (1998 vintage) was only 40. The wine list is also superbly selected (imho) for such a limited list. It features Australian Shirazes, Oregon Pinots Noirs, and a Malbec from Argentina for example. The food, on the other hand, is a more hit or miss proposition. I’ve had a perfect Vietnamese style sour seafood soup (called “hot & sour soup” on the menu) in which all the flavors were balanced perfectly and complimented totally the fresh
seafood--though by my standards the serving was extremely small for a lunch entree. The Mediterranean salad I was served was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten—and I lived on the Monterey Peninsula in the middle of lettuce country for twelve years. A polenta with three mushroom sauces was an excellent dish that showed off the taste of each type of mushroom (morel, porcini, and chantrelle) by preparing them in similar sauces and serving them with three sizable pieces of slightly crunchy grilled polenta. But I’ve also had a
boring, starchy “Phad Thai” that was served on top of rice and covered with peanut sauce. The dish was unlike anything I've ever had in a Thai restaurant. Similarly, other pasta dishes seem to come out with over
cooked noodles. And some dishes (a teriyaki swordfish, for example) seemed pretty ordinary, if OK. Still, it is remarkable to me to find a restaurant that tries
to be this avant garde in such a right guard type of town—if you get my drift.