Sacramento is many things.
An often testy political hotbed. A rich agricultural center. A place of torrid summers.
But a powerhouse of destination-dining?
Not so much.
Enter Pajo Bruich, executive chef of Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood, who aims to change that.
A native of Sacramento, Bruich came on board at the 15-year-old restaurant a year ago, following a major remodel. He’s serious about making it a must-stop for discriminating diners, having brought on board Sous Chef Stan Moore, formerly of The Kitchen in Sacramento; Pastry Chef Edward Martinez, formerly of Hawks in Granite Bay; and General Manager Jenny Yun, formerly of Per Se in New York and the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena.
A five-course tasting dinner is $75 while a seven-course one is $105. A la carte options also are available.
Perhaps, it’s no surprise that Bruich, a former caterer and executive chef of Lounge ON20 in Sacramento, became a chef. After all, his grandfather owned a kitchen equipment company, as well as a fast-casual burger joint in Sacramento.
Still, he knows he has an uphill climb to lure people to make a special trip from the Bay Area to his restaurant in Sacramento. To generate more fanfare, he has invited some of San Francisco’s stellar chefs to cook at Enotria this summer, including Matthew Accarrino of SPQR and Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn. On Sept. 21, Chef Mark Pensa of Acquerello will join him in the kitchen.
To spread the word even more, last week he held a media dinner in San Francisco at the Stable Cafe. I was a guest at the intimate dinner, where Bruich’s staff outnumbered the diners 12 to 8. That included bringing all their own plateware and stemware, too. After all, if you can’t lure the SF press to Sacramento easily, the next best thing is to bring the restaurant to them.
The food served that night would easily give many top restaurants in San Francisco a run for their money. The fact that it came from a chef who is courageous — or foolhardy — enough to do it in Sacramento instead made it all the more extraordinary.