Dine Downtown returned to Sacramento this week. This is the Capitol City’s version of Restaurant Week. It runs for 10 days this year from Jan. 12-22 and features three-course meals at 35 restaurants in downtown and midtown for a fixed price of $35 each. A dollar from each meal is donated to the Food Literacy Center and other Sacramento social programs.
Each year just prior to the start of Dine Downtown a small group of us carefully go over the menu offerings online of each restaurants and settle on a new place to dine. The Firehouse was near the top of our list of places to try this year. We had an excellent experience at the sister restaurant, Ten22, at last year’s Dine Downtown. The Harvego Restaurant Group owns both restaurants. The Firehouse was a magnificent choice.
The Firehouse is a landmark dining destination in Old Sacramento. Housed in an old Victorian era firehouse (c.1853), it has etched windows, exposed brick interior walls, and extremely high ceilings. The main dining room is beautiful; resplendent with flowers, crystal chandeliers, and white linen tablecloths. The walls are decorated with beautiful paintings in baroque-style, gold frames and a large oversized mirror. The whole effect is traditional and elegant but not in least bit stuffy. The Firehouse is classic, upscale, and quintessential American.
To start off our culinary experience we were served a basket of warm, fresh-baked bread and fresh butter (both the bread and the butter are made on the premises.) We were also served a complimentary teaser-size cup of cauliflower potato soup topped with Gruyere cheese. The soup was delicious and I had a hard time not disgracing myself by licking the cup clean.
Our first course was Local Winter Endive Salad with candied walnuts and cranberries. It was very tasty and the presentation was charming. This was followed by a small serving of lemon cucumber sorbet to cleanse the palate before the entre. The sorbet was refreshing and pleasing.
My selection (and Bob’s) was the Sautéed Organic Bay Salmon. My verdict: the salmon tasted mild, tender, and buttery but had a firm texture. I asked our waiter, Anthony, if it was locally sourced. (The Firehouse is one of the leaders in the Farm-to-Fork movement in Sacramento so it seemed a logical question.) He told me the salmon was sourced out of Vancouver, Washington’s Skuna Bay and raised in salt water on an aquafarm. It’s the salt water that gave it the fresh-from-the-ocean taste. The salmon was served over a Winter Mushroom Risotto with Shallot Buerre Blanc. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. If only I had the skill to duplicate this meal at home
Everyone was extremely satisfied with their choices. We had a lot of small plates being passed around the table with taste of all the entrées. My sister had Walnut and Sage Gnocchi, house-made. It was served on fried sage with brown butter-walnut pesto. Her husband ordered the Grilled Vande Rose Pork Chop served with French bean and walnut roasted white sweet potatoes, diced. It was garnished with what our wait person called popcorn sprouts. There were so pretty fanned out on the pork chop. We also learned that they were grown out back of the restaurant in containers.
There were two choices for the dessert course—Traditional Plum Pudding and Apple Croustade. I am glad I did not choose the plum pudding. The rum-raisin crème and brandy-apricot coulis was too strong for me but Heather really liked it. The rest of us all went for the tamer selection of the apple dessert topped with vanilla ice cream. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
It was an elegant evening and everything hit the right note. Service, presentation and food were all outstanding. The Firehouse pays attention to every detail and staff are very attentive without being overbearing. The wait staff were all men and there must have been a small army of them. I think we were waited on by no less than eight people. Water, bread, butter, dishes seemed to magically appear and disappear.
Towards the end of the meal the manager stopped by our table to introduce himself and thank us for coming in. He shared a little of the history of the building with us. The brick firehouse was built to house the Fire Chief and volunteer crew of Engine Company No. 3 in the mid 1800’s. He pointed out a brass insert in the wall to that effect. The Firehouse opened in 1960 and it was an immediate success. It attracts millions of patrons including politicians, diplomats, sports and entertainment celebrities, international business people, tourists, and locals. As governor, Ronald Reagan held both of his inaugural dinners here, and they’ve hosted every governor of California since.
Dine Downtown is a wonderful opportunity to experience great restaurants with impeccable service. The Firehouse is one of those classic, been here forever, top quality, high end restaurants that have survived for the best of reasons—the food, service, and ambiance are all top notch.