1. Punch out at 5.
2. Meet a friend to catch up.
3. Have a nice dinner out with Jim.
And lo! That's exactly what happened.
Despite it being located right at the top of Penn, Jim had never eaten at Sonoma Wine Bar (I'd been to the bar once for a happy hour), so since that's where I was meeting my friend, I figured we'd snag a table. The original plan was just to wing it, but when I arrived at 5:45, the bar was mobbed with Hill-types (at least two Representatives and their assorted staffers), so as I waited, I used OpenTable on the iPhone to confirm a two-top at 7. (And people say smartphones are ruining society. Bah.)
Enough friends have reported back on Sonoma that I wasn't expecting anything revelatory; just something solid that didn't require me to turn on the stove. Quite honestly, Sonoma outperformed my expectations, at least a bit.
We started with the house-made burrata, chive, tomato jam, fried bread ($11). This is the one dish I'd tasted before, in fact, and it was better last night than the first time I had it, with one exception -- the burrata was served too cold. I would prefer my burrata be cool, of course, but as though it had been in les caves, rather than bearing a level of chill that brings to mind the refrigerator (even if it's never seen the inside of one). However, despite its temp, the burrata was delicious, flecked with chive, creamy and spreadable. Being just a bit warmer would have allowed it almost to melt into the crispy bread, but each bite, topped with a bit of the sweet/sour tomato jam, was still a lovely contrast of tastes and textures.
We also had the grilled calamari, paprika, red pea salad ($11). This was outstanding, my dish of the night. The calamari were charred just enough to impart a great smoky flavor, and retained just enough chew (but weren't chewy) to set off the tender peas. The peas themselves were infused with a different, but complementary, kind of smokiness from the paprika; eaten on their own, they were good, but taken together with the squid, the flavors dovetailed in unexpected ways.
Jim got the small portion of the pappardelle pork bolognese ($13), the noodles made in-house. I didn't try any, but it was a perfect size, sauced not too heavily but not too sparsely, and he finished every bite. I had the roasted rainbow trout, zucchini purée, zucchini, aleppo aioli, squash blossoms ($20) -- I seem to be on a trout kick. This presentation came as a lovely piece of skin-crisped fish, the flesh juicy and flavorful, next to a dollop of aioli, three lightly-fried squash blossoms, some sautéed zucchini coins (should have had a few more of these), and a bed of the purée. The last item had an odd bitterness to it when tasted by itself, but that flavor disappeared when paired with the sweetness of the fish and the buttery zucchini.
With a glass of the belle glos “oeil de perdrix” 08 pinot noir blanc (rosé) ($14) and Jim's rye old fashioned ($8), the meal was complete, and quite a nice treat on a steamy summer Tuesday.