Wildwood is the place to sip and be seen
By Greg Sabin
Open for just a year, Wildwood Kitchen & Bar already cuts a pretty impressive figure. The large indoor/outdoor space in the Pavilions shopping center is truly striking.
The newest undertaking by restaurateur brothers Fred and Matt Haines, Wildwood is something of a departure from their other, more casual Sacramento restaurants, and it feels like a step up in profile from their popular 33rd Street Bistro brand. With a focus on the bar and a keen eye toward design, Wildwood comes across immediately as a destination for conviviality.
Tucked away ever so slightly in the Pavilions center, the restaurant isn’t immediately visible from busy Fair Oaks Boulevard. A short jaunt into the interior of the retail center brings you to either Wildwood’s modest front door or its expansive patio. Neither entrance really hints at the spectacle of design and art that makes up the interior.
Immediately inside the front door, a trio of bold, eye-popping landscapes by artist Rozer grabs the first-time visitor right away. From the doorway, most of the notable three-sided bar and expansive dining room is obscured by a gorgeous bottle rack. One step around the rack and you will find the slick bar and substantial dining room, draped in subtle hues, sharp corners and gripping art pieces.
The Haines brothers’ other dining spaces have always had lovely elements of artistic design about them, but this new room is really a modern beauty. An airy light sculpture hangs from the ceiling. A drapery of heavy braided ropes obscures a wall-sized mirror, giving the impression of a hidden space beyond the reach of the diner. A framed profusion of Ireland-green moss hangs (grows?) from another wall.
The pieces are uncluttered and unfussy. It’s the type of art that fosters meditation and thoughtful gazes.
The large patio offers some nice touches as well but is most notable as a comfortable lounging space, dotted with high-top tables, couches and fireplaces. Spending a fall evening with a well-made cocktail or well-chosen glass of wine next to one of those fireplaces seems the right way to go.
The menu is dotted with some lovely small plates and a still-evolving entree selection. Brunch, lunch and dinner are offered.
The standout on the lunch menu is, without a doubt, the French dip. Stuffed with shaved prime rib and slathered with horseradish aioli, the soft, yielding bread does an admirable job of soaking up the indulgent peppercorn sauce served in lieu of au jus. I have been quoted as saying that the dip at Bandera (just a stone’s throw from Wildwood) is the best in town, but my mind may have been changed.
On the small-plate side, the chilled smoked prawns are a treat if you like to eat with your hands. They involve peeling. Also, the rather bland-sounding hummus is actually stunning. With bright flavors and gorgeously made naan bread, it’s a surprisingly complex dish.
Barbecued Skuna salmon, which shows up on both the lunch and dinner menu, feels like the dish most influenced by the Haineses’ Pacific Northwest roots. A beautiful plate of lacquered salmon outlined by a daring streak of blackberry “paint,” it’s fresh, smoky, sweet and impressive.
Also recommended is the rock shrimp risotto. Bright green from the basil pistou and cheesy as all get out from a generous layering of Parmesan, the dish is a dense, indulgent experience, well suited for an autumn night.
Service is quick, friendly and attentive. The only critique: We were asked to keep our silverware between courses. A gorgeous room with a mid-high price point probably deserves a full clearing of the table between apps and entrees.
The star of the show, as mentioned before, is the bar, with a substantial by-the-glass wine list, a clever cocktail menu and a tap lineup that bounces from standout local brews to international favorites. Between the visually stunning space and the generous drinks menu, Wildwood stands out as a place to while away some hours with friends, relaxing and snacking, drinking fine wines and chatting while the sun goes down.