Roaring Back

Ella was missed, but she’s solid as ever

By Greg Sabin
September 2021

The Selland family of restaurants includes Ella Dining Room & Bar, The Kitchen, OBO’ Italian Table & Bar and Selland’s Market-Café. The options run from grab-and-go to Michelin starred. Diversification is on display.

But each kitchen shows expert care and culinary attention. That’s why Randall Selland is renowned among Sacramento restaurateurs.

During pandemic shutdowns, the family kept the Selland’s Market-Café locations (Broadway, East Sacramento and El Dorado Hills) and OBO’ running with increased vigor, smart health protocols and no reduction in quality. The fast and fresh vibe of each outlet kept countless households from having to cook on many quarantine nights.

Ella and The Kitchen, two fine-dining options in the group, recently reopened after months of darkness. Thankfully, a visit to Ella shows the Downtown dining destination hasn’t lost a step.

The environs are homey yet modern, just as they were when the restaurant opened 14 years ago. Cheeky touches such as gaily painted shutters, long-corded drop lights and dinosaur-sized houseplants elevate the space while still making it cozy. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside inside.

And, even if the view onto K Street isn’t as bustling and prosperous as many of us would like, it’s a still treat to dine with your fellow Sacramentans and watch the world go by.

From the start, Ella has been known for its bar. As diners walk in, they are immediately confronted with one of the best whiskey selections in the city. It’s hard to miss, literally set up like a museum display. It feels a little over the top, yet fits perfectly with the displays throughout the space.

The service follows the storyline of cozy extravagance. While Ella’s culinary pedigree and price-point might suggest more formal service, the vibe is highly competent but disarmingly informal. Throughout a meal, a water glass never goes dry, a drop is never spilled, orders never misplaced.

But the service team can also bring to mind friends who just finished a day of surfing or helped you build a deck—and they just happen to have sommelier-level recall of the wine cellar. It’s an extremely pleasant and unstuffy atmosphere.

Dishes from Executive Chef Rob Lind’s kitchen arrive with expert preparation and comfortable familiarity. Each dish has one or two innovative touches to separate it from a host of similar dishes served at a hundred restaurants.

An appetizer of chicken liver mousse is mostly as anticipated. But the accompanying celeriac and caper salad add perfectly calculated bitter notes that harmonize with the finely turned mousse.

The wood-fired pork chop feels familiar, but the cranberry beans and pork belly in the accompanying succotash elevate the dish. A spot of bourbon-peach marmalade jumps it up another rung. This is an exceptional dish, big enough for phenomenal leftovers the next day.

The pan-roasted king salmon might be straightforward, but an enhancing bed of mascarpone-creamed corn mixed with earthy chanterelles makes for a lovely plate.

Pastry Chef Alison Clevenger’s dishes are whimsical. A plate of “caramel corn doughnuts” delights with a light dusting of caramel corn on brioche doughnuts topped with a “caramel jam.” The plate feels like wonderfully fancy fair food.

Similarly, the “raspberry creamsicle” delights the eyes. Packed with raspberry and lemon hits, and not light on the cream cheese, the dish looks like a bright red popsicle but eats more like lemon cheesecake.

Whether you’re looking to up your Tuesday night dinner game or ready for a special occasion destination, Ella is a winner. You’ll find casual elegance, easy professionalism and memorable dishes. Welcome back.

Ella Dining Room & Bar is at 1131 K St; (916) 443-3772;

Greg Sabin can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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