best restaurants in sacramento

Small Plates for May at Ella Dining Room and Bar

May Ella dining room and bar

Light Rail rounds the corner at Ella Dining Room and Bar in Midtown Sacramento.

There I was on Friday, minding my own business, tweaking a couple of my new listings in Zillow when the thought occurred to me it was May at Ella Dining Room and Bar, and I had not checked out the new menu. Usually, getting into Ella on a Friday night without a reservation is a bit tough, but in early spring, it’s still not too hot to sit outside, and most people leave the patio dining area after Happy Hour. The only thing that was left was to persuade my husband when he got home from work to go back out into traffic.

The magical words of May at Ella Dining Room and Bar was all I needed. Yes, he had heard, too, it was a Latin American emphasis at Ella. I had perused the small plates and quickly identified three I would love to sample. While the cauliflower soup with cheddar cheese sounded tempting, I figured I should focus on the small plates first. That turned out to be a wise decision.

May at Ella Dining Room and Bar

Hibiscus and Mezcal cured Steelhead Trout

First I dug into the Cured Steelhead Trout in Hibiscus and Mezcal. It was served with cucumber, smoked vanilla salt, avocado, sea vegetable and ground chili. Seemed like the perfect starter plate while I nursed my authentic Ella Gin and Tonic. We watched homeless people stroll by. My husband called our table, the “Gimme a dolla” table, but nobody said anything remotely like that. Although I did enjoy watching the woman pushing all of her belongings in a stroller with a tiger cat riding on her shoulder.

May at Ella Dining Room and Bar

Local Albacore Tuna Ceviche at Ella Dining.

When I couldn’t decide between the foie gras or the Albacore tuna, our server who says he never talks anybody out of foie gras but he truly enjoyed the freshness and unique flavors of the Albacore tuna had talked me out of the foie gras and into the tuna. The foie gras was served with Oaxacan mole, and since our last trip in February was to Oaxaca, I almost caved in. But I was glad I stuck with Albacore tuna. This was a larger plate than I had thought, served ceviche, with plantian chips, Thai basil, bits of pineapple, jicama and a spicy vinaigrette.

May at Ella Dining Room and Bar

Mesquite Grilled Octopus at Ella Dining.

Last of my small plates for May at Ella Dining Room and Bar was the simply delightful grilled octopus. Served in its own grill plate still sizzling with avocado, Yukons, pickled ramps (wild leeks only in season for a few weeks), red jalapeño slices and coriander dressing. It was every bit as delicious as the grilled octopus we enjoyed at Jose Andres in Mexico City. Maybe even meatier. Which is OK as long as I don’t think about what I’m eating.

I occasionally still suffer from nightmares that developed after I on accident killed a squid that I tried to keep as a pet when I lived on the Rincon in Ventura. Ever since I found that squid in a tide pool and it died, I began to dream about its mother, a giant octopus, slapping her tentacles on the windows of my house during the rainstorm, the same rainstorm that eventually caused my house to collapse into the ocean in 1981. She was a monster octopus, searching for her baby squid. Never mind that squid and octopus are two different molluscas.

Anyhoooo, let me say those 3 small plates were perfect for a pick-me-up dinner at Ella. I had a good week. Although I put 3 listings on the market a week ago Friday and they sold by Sunday night, I had the good fortune to list two more on Friday. You’ve got to take a little time out to celebrate, is my motto. And Ella is one of my favorite downtown Sacramento restaurants.

iPhone photos Elizabeth Weintraub

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