Monday, August 25, 2008

Ca Bianca

This past weekend was our girls spa getaway for Melissa's birthday. I pretty much planned the whole thing and it was kind of stressful! I mean, how hard is it to decide between a facial, a massage, or both? I personally went for a facial and a pedicure and it was pure bliss. My complexion is glowing and my feet are sooo soft and my toenails are Tangerine Scene. I don't really know these girls too well, but I've been invited to hang out with them on occasion. I met a few new ladies and we all had a blast.

The birthday dinner was held at Ca Bianca in Santa Rosa. It's in a gorgeous white Victorian House with the most beautiful garden in the front yard, which is surrounded by a white picket fence. We had a reservation for 9 since 3 ladies missed spa day and were just meeting us there. We were greeted and seated right away in a small room located near the back of the house. Our waitress was great, the service was excellent, and the food was delicious. Now, I had not eaten all day and I was famished, so it may be that reason that I felt that the portions were small, but in retrospect, I still do think they could have been larger. Especially since we had 9 people sharing appetizers. We started with Beef Carpaccio, Caprese Salad, Eggplant, and Polenta. They were all amazing and delicious! For my entree, I had the Chicken Picatta. The chicken itself was delicious, but the sauce could have been more lemony and the side was a tiny portion of salty, diced potatoes & bell peppers--it reminded me of a breakfast hash. Again, the portion of the entree was very small for this ravenous girl. The waitress brought out a trio of desserts with a candle for Melissa: Chocolate Mousse w/ mini Biscotti, Apple Tartlette w/ Vanilla Ice Cream, and Tiramisu. Delicioso!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Picante, Bobby's Cafe, & Jason's

This post is dedicated to White on Rice Couple who reminded me that I promised to review these restaurants soon. I'm so glad you liked my blog and I hope it comes in handy! :) Thanks for your comment!

We went back to Picante's the other day because we were in the mood for fish tacos. I should have tried the pork to see if it was any better than last time, but I just wanted a fish taco. It was really good with grilled Mahi Mahi, red & green cabbage, a slice of avocado, and salsa verde. They have the best salsa! I really do like Picante and I'm sure we will continue to go there.

We finally had a chance to try Bobby's Cafe in downtown San Rafael a couple of weeks ago. I was not very impressed with either the ambiance nor the food. The service was ok until our waiter disappeared for about 15 minutes at the end of the meal, making us wait way too long for our bill. We couldn't wait to get out. We ordered 2 items off of the "Specialties" section of their menu: Fish & Chips and a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Both were just terrible. The fish was overly battered & greasy. The chicken was like a frozen chicken tender and the baguette it was served on was too hard to bite into. I wish Bobby and his crew all the luck, but we won't be returning any time soon. Maybe they serve up a good breakfast; I don't know.

Now Jason's, on the other hand, was delicious!! His old space was in an industrial area of San Rafael and did well there for a little over 3 years. Well, when Giorgio's moved out a few months back, Jason didn't waste any time moving in. And I have to say, maybe he should have. The decor was a little bit tired and I would have liked to seen at least some new, updated carpet. I have a few complaints regarding the service, but the food was actually pretty amazing.

We did not have a reservation, so we put our names in around 6:40 pm on a Saturday. We were quoted a wait of 40 minutes, then they said 45-60. Not a good sign especially since there were clearly several unoccupied tables. We decided to wait in the bar and have a cocktail. At about 7:30, we were offered a deuce that we saw at least 2 couples refuse (they did not appear to have a reservation, and I even asked one couple if they did, and they said no), so we of course refused. It was right in front of the kitchen and I wanted to be in the dining room or the patio. Well, at 8:00, I was quite upset. I was hungry and cranky. I told the hostess, who I think was Jason's mom, that we had been waiting well over an hour and we'd seen many people who came in after us being seated. Turns out the other, younger hostess was somehow under the impression that we were waiting for the patio. No idea how she thought that, but whatever. So, we finally get seated, waited at least 10 minutes before we were greeted by our waitress, Jennifer. I'm just going to leave it at this: the table service did not improve and was very, very slow. She didn't seem bombed, just not in a hurry, I guess.

We ordered the Dragon Prawns appetizer which was out of this world!!! Tempura prawns are drizzled with a wasabi aioli sauce, chili oil and tobiko on top of a cucumber salad. Yum! We also shared a delicious bleu cheese salad. Then for our entree's, my husband ordered and enjoyed the Seared Cajun Ahi Tuna, which was served with a mango salsa over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, and these amazing crispy tempura fried green beans on the side! I ordered the Blackened Rib Eye Steak, which was cooked beyond the medium I asked for, but it was still delicious, and served sliced over a bed of jalapeno mashed potatoes that were to die for. We did not have room for dessert, but next time--and there will be a next time--I'm going to have the Bananas Foster.

Bottom line: Check out Picante, avoid Bobby's, but run as fast as you can to Jason's...but be sure to secure a reservation!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Aurora Ristorante

Wow! An authentic Italian restaurant complete with authentic Italian wait staff & chefs! We have been wanting to try Aurora's in Novato for quite some time now, so last night we finally decided to check it out. After reading a few reviews, we were a bit apprehensive and I kept saying, "I hope its really good because I'm starving!". Well, it was fabulous!!! We cannot wait to go back.

We were greeted immediately & seated at a large booth right by the front door. Next time I wouldn't mind getting a bit more into the dining room, but we were content. The decor was nice and warm, the walls were adorned with artwork by local artists, and the place was packed! And a bit loud. I think it would also be nice to sit outside on the lovely patio on a nice day. Our waiter, Luca, was so sweet and attentive! We loved Luca. His Italian accent was adorable.

For starters, we ordered my favorites: Beef Carpaccio & Caprese salad. They were delicious! The beef was thinly sliced and had capers and a slight drizzle of dijon mustard, and the Caprese had thick slices of tomato topped with thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, strips of basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. My daughter had a Caesar salad and it was light and devoid of anchovies, which we appreciated!

On to the entrees. My daughter had the Mushroom & Sausage Pizza, without the mushrooms. She liked it alot. My husband and I decided to share two dishes: the Tortellini with Proscuitto & Peas in a creamy white sauce and the Chicken Saltimbocca, which was served with some steamed veggies & what appeared to be scalloped potato slices. Both dishes were excellent!!!

We even decided to order dessert, which is rare. I had the tiramisu (lady fingers, rum, espresso, & marscarpone) my daughter had the affogato al caffe (vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and espresso), and my husband had proffiterol (tiny cream puffs, chocolate sauce, & ice cream). Again, they were all absolutely delicious and made in house by their passionate pastry chef!

Aurora & Carlo Scatena also own Arrivederci and are co-owners of Caccicucco Cucina Toscana here in Marin. We've been to both places a few years back, but those visits were not as memorable as this visit was. Aurora rocked our socks!