Localis Stays Vibrant
This restaurant offers beautiful flavors and gorgeous visuals
By Greg Sabin
On the corner of 21st and S streets in the quiet neighborhood historically referred to as Newton Booth, a small space has housed short-lived but exceptional restaurants for a decade.
Ten years ago, chef Adam Pechal opened Tuli Bistro, a lively culinary enterprise that pushed amazing flavors and upscale cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Throughout its short stint on the corner, it garnered its fair share of fans, me included. Due to marketing miscues and bad timing, two more restaurants came and went.
At some point, the Broderick group, owners of Broderick Roadhouse in West Sacramento and Broderick Midtown, came on board as owners of the space. They hired a young, passionate chef to create a locally sourced, fine-dining menu. The result was Localis. Just six months ago, that same chef, Christopher Barnum-Dann, took over full ownership of the Sacramento restaurant.
Localis is a thoroughly Northern California expression of dining. Each plate embraces the Sacramento ethos of farm-to-fork dining and local sourcing. But Barnum-Dann eschews the rustic charm of farm-to-table presentation. Instead, he treats every dish like a work of art.
The dishes at Localis are visually stunning. Even a simple salad is raised to high art, combining the freshest, most meticulously sourced ingredients with thoughtful preparation. Each farm and farmer is promoted to the level of superstar.
If you’re lucky enough to reserve a seat at the long, high counter at Localis, you’ll see the busy, expert kitchen at work. This is the type of dining experience in which kitchen staffers—saucing, sautéing, and conversing with guests—provide as much entertainment as a Broadway show.
This is not modernist cuisine. The plates are not dominated by foams and emulsions. You will find a few of the techniques associated with molecular gastronomy.
For example, Barnum-Dann adds beet “dust” to his complex, lovely beet salad. Showcasing beets in multiple ways, the dish features ruby red and golden beets roasted, smoked and pickled with a light sifting of ingenuously engineered beet “dust.” Rather than highlighting technique, the dust is there for an additional smattering of flavor and visual texture.
Other dishes satisfy with homey flavors and equally gorgeous plating. A small plate of roasted octopus could not be more divine. Perched on a smear of root vegetable puree and delicately garnished with pickled cherries, it’s a plate not to be missed.
Simple fish-of-the-day and meat-and-potato dishes hit home with deceptively simple ingredient lists and complex flavors. A healthy chunk of Wagyu beef with mashed potatoes is a gorgeous thing accompanied by morels and asparagus and some restrained yet powerful saucing. A lovely hunk of halibut sings over a joltingly spicy raft of coconut curry risotto.
Dessert is no less a thing of beauty. On my last visit, the menu featured a strawberry bread pudding with buttermilk ice cream that was the best thing I’d put in my mouth this year.
Guests are welcome to pick and choose from the small but well-curated menu, but the chef’s tasting menu is where the big guns come out. A five-course, roughly $80 selection of always-changing dishes shows off the talents of Barnum-Dann and his kitchen.
Prices for small plates are in the mid- to high teens, entrees in the high 20 to mid-30. Portions are small, and the well-chosen wine list doesn’t have many bargain choices. Expect to pay between $150 and $250 for dinner for two. But this will be an exceptional culinary experience, not just another weeknight dinner. If you care to dip your toe in without the high price tag, “Local Hour” offers discounts on drinks and small plates from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Or try Sunday brunch.
The serving staff shows care and delicacy in their suggestions, their attentiveness and their presentation. During my dinner at Localis, I felt taken care of, not pandered to nor rushed through.
Reservations are a must. Given the small confines of the restaurant and the languid pace of service, Localis can accommodate a limited number of diners.
This is experiential eating. This is delicate eating. This is engagement with artistic vitality. Come with an open mind and expectations of a full evening spent surrounded by culinary creativity.
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org