Living Up to the Hype (Hawks Restaurant - Granite Bay, CA)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"It lives up to it. You have to go," Kate explained to me. Kate, the restaurant reviewer for SN&R and a friend of mine, gave Hawks her very first 5 Star Review. I was intrigued. Of all the places she had ever reviewed, and we had been to many of the same great places, this one beat all the rest. So after hearing time and again from every other food fan out there that they were shocked I hadn't been there, Rob and I made reservations to go.

The chefs, Michael Fagnoni and Molly Hawks, finally opened the much acclaimed restaurant after many delays. Along with pastry chef Michelle Andreotti, they have developed a menu that will blow your mind.

The decor, designed by Shawn E. Hall designs, is classic, clean, elegant. I was envious. It's the exact style I have always dreamed for my living room. EXACT. The powder blue walls, the white clean lines, the contemporary lighting, the dark chocolate brown accents, the playful large print paisley curtains. My lord, even the dog tooth chairs (my God, is there anything gayer than me right now?). I was smitten!

As we sat down we started the meal with adorable tall shot glasses of spring onion soup. Spring onions, some veggie stock, and I think some cream. Light and grassy, an image of Spring itself. Presentation was a plus, as I enjoy minimalist simplicity.

I also would like to take a moment to speak about the waiters and busboys. It is my belief that the busboys are part ninja, part magician. They somehow sneak about and, while they're out in plain sight, you never really notice them. Suddenly *BAM!* they're at the table, and just as you notice they're there, *poof* they're gone. Soon you look down and notice that the dirty dishes are gone, the bread replaced, and the water refilled. I'm tellin' ya, ninja magicians. Hot ninja magicians.

The waiters are kind, informative, and know the menu well. I never felt pressured to purchase wine and didn't feel off-put when I asked for tap as opposed to sparkling water. Props.

Instead of wine, I went with a cocktail, one called the Kumquat Smash: bergamot, kumquats, and a sweet citrusy/floral liquor that I can't recall the name of. It was, literally, the best cocktail I ever had. The drink bloomed with flavor from the kumquat syrup and chopped kumquats within the drink, it enveloped me in an aromatic haze. The rim of the glass had been dipped in citrus juice, then dipped into sugar, an addictive trick for the tongue. (Also, where does one find bergamot in Sacramento?)

We started with a grilled artichoke heart, asparagus and beet salad with fresh greens and shaved Parmesan; exactly as stated on the menu. The dish was flavorful, fresh, and seasonal. A delightful salad that could easily be recreated at home now that the inspiration was there.

The potato gnocchi was light and airy, practically evaporating in your mouth into potatoy whisps. The woody hen mushrooms were surprisingly meaty and well, woody, with a slight scent of birch. A creamy sauce joined the two as one and allowed a delightful mingling to occur in my mouth.

The crispy duck confit with lentils de puy, baby watercress, and candied mandarinquats was, to be put it simply, amazing. Words cannot describe the tender juiciness of this duck. The skin was light and crispy with a snappy bite. The lentils were well prepared, not so much due to taste, though they were rich and musky like being deep in an overgrown pine forest, but due to texture; mine never come out so perfect. Whereas my lentis usually had a sort of mashy texture these were clean individual pearls of tastiness. The candied mandarinquats were sweet and floral, a perfect contrast to some of the natural salty and savory tastes of the duck.

When tasting the grilled pork tenderloin, with braised bacon, savory cabbage, and creamy polenta I almost melted like the pork did in my mouth. The chef suggested the pork medium-rare, and when it was seasoned and cooked slowly, it just seemed to transport me to a sweet and salty plce where only good things happen. Oh lord, it was the best pork ever. The large square of bacon was sweet and delicious as well, and the polenta was creamy and fit nicely with the pork and bacon.

For dessert we tried two different dishes, a chocolate semifreddo and beignets. The chocolate semifreddo was studded with hazelnuts, dark without being overly rich. The beignets were light pockets of delicious air and sugar. Served with vanilla pastry cream and citrus caramel it was comfort food elevated.

We then paused and reflected over the meal. I was in a stupor, gazing into nothing. Rob was getting upset with me since I was unable to respond to any of his now one-sided conversation due to the onset of my blissful food coma. And not a so-full-I-want-to-explode food coma. This was a best-meal-ever food coma.

The bill was brought over with tiny offerings of fresh made peanut butter cups and frozen mint leaves rolled in sugar and dipped in chocolate. Fresh and delightful were each. Just pure, untainted flavors.

The only downside during the night is there is a bit of a wait for things, but nothing oppressive, but enough for it to come to mind. Also, Hawks is a pricey meal, hitting around $50 a person on the low side, but you really get your money's worth.

My final word is this: Hawks lives up to the hype. Totally and completely.

Quarry Pond Shopping Center
5530 Douglas Blvd. Suite 110
Granite Bay, CA 95746
Image From Shawn E. Hall Designs


  1. Bergamot can be seen in the citrus grove at Greystone CIA in St. Helena. It's a flattish yellow-orange orange. You could probably pick one sneaky-like if nobody's around, or ask at the info desk inside if doing so would be okay.

    Otherwise, try food co-ops or natural food stores.

  2. I live close by..I am going there :)

  3. All that for $50 a person??? I wish I lived in Sacramento instead of Chicago! :)

  4. Wow.

    The way you describe everything is beautiful... I could almost taste it.

  5. I have to agree with doctorsquared, if I could eat that good for the even 50 euro (+/- $80), I'd think that I was getting the deal of the century in Amsterdam!

  6. Our bill for two people, each having an appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink, was $114. Plus tip, about $136.

    Not the cheapest meal in the world, but not bank-breaking either. Well worth it in my opinion. For us, this was a special occassion meal.

  7. Oh man now I really wnat to go there! Great post!
    Maybe I'll take the hubby for our anniversary or some other occasion. Thanks G.

  8. I guess you liked it?

    Nice find. I may have to wander by sometime. I take my duck confit very, very seriously, so I'd be interested in seeing how they measure up...

  9. This was quite possibly the best overall experience I,ve eve had...I'm a new regular

  10. I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience. We tried it a couple of months ago and no one in our party could understand the hype. The appetizers were wonderful but the entrees were good, not outstanding. We had the same deserts and were not overly impressed. Maybe they were having an off night. Both my husband and brother-in-law flat out didn't like it. We'll have to give it another try.

  11. Thanks for the review. I have contemplated making reservations there for it is right around the corner. Just it seems recently the newer restaurants in the area have not been great and I liked to be "food struck". I am looking for A WOW! It's hard to leave my kitchen and grill anymore. Based on your review we are giving it a go this weekend. Will let you know.

  12. Went there last night and it was OK. I have had better meals locally for less $$ and better service. The biggest issue I had was the corkage fee, $25. I though this was a bit high. I have been to many restaurants (better) around the world, in major cities, that have a corkage fee that is less. Remember this is Granite Bay, CA, not San Francisco, CA. Probably won't go back because it was just OK and they had an arrogance when I questioned the corkage


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