When Francis X. Hogan, executive chef at the brand new Sabio on Main in Pleasanton, traveled through Spain this past summer, he already knew he loved the classic foods of the country: Serrano ham, tortillas, patatas bravas. What he left understanding was that the Spanish are, more than anything else, good at innovation. The best meals he had made use of local bounty, of course, as well as tradition, but chefs also gave ingredients their own spin — which is what he’s doing at Sabio on Main.
We started with a cocktail from Darren Loveland’s (formerly of Meadowood) lighthearted “Spanish Mistress” with St. George citrus vodka, St. Germaine elderflower, and notes of ginger and lemon, made even more refreshing with the addition of cava.
The wine list, steered by general manager Matt Classen, is equally compelling and, surprisingly, not heavy on Spanish wines. He tends to favor local versions of European varietals, such as an Albarino from Lodi and a Tempranillo from Livermore Valley. These work well with the bold and bright food coming out of the kitchen. And a treat for those who want a special glass but can’t commit to a bottle are the Coravin pours, which currently include a La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon for $40 a glass or $21 a half-glass.
While the menu has a selection of large platters meant for sharing, it’s driven by tapas, small plates that allow you to experience more of the kitchen’s range. We focused on these, and were roundly impressed with the depth of flavor, composition, and (optional) wine pairings.
The Spanish-inspired interior design, by Jim Maxwell of Architects II who also designed Gather and Chop Bar, emphasizes intimacy with private-feeling banquettes on one side of the room and socialization on the other, with a communal table that can seat up to 24. The open kitchen is framed by copper-hued Spanish tiles and set next to a refrigerated charcuterie display with a glass door, enticing the obvious.
We started with a sculptural presentation of ceviche mixto: tuna, squid and shrimp balanced on crisp taro along with Peruvian toasted corn. The dish was “cooked” lightly in lime juice, a great opener to the meal that woke up my palate.
Next up was a deceptively rich heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad placed atop a sweet red plum with sherry gel and smoked hazelnuts. The nuts, even more than the plum-tomato combination, made the dish stand out.
The winner of the meal — among a string of winners — was the Wagyu steak tartare roll with bone marrow peanut sauce and Vietnamese pickles. This is a special dish you’d be hard-pressed to make on your own and well worth the $15 price tag for the beef alone.
It was hard to follow this dish, but the ssam-glazed pork belly with salmon caviar and pickled mushrooms, served in a lettuce cup, did the trick. This and the tartare are destined to quickly become two of Chef Hogan’s signature dishes.
Lamb meatballs infused with currant and pinenuts, with eggplant-yogurt purée and pomegranate, were deeply satisfying — decadently rich, but not too rich when served tapas-style.
We tried two desserts: a caramelized white chocolate and bacon doughnut with butternut squash and maple ice cream, a nice balance of sweet and savory, and a dark chocolate torte with cocoa nibs, milk chocolate Chantilly, and salted hazelnut brittle, again, a play on sweet and savory.
Service was spot on, despite the fact that the restaurant is just one day old. Look for Sabio to be packed with locals, so much so that those looking to drive out from other parts of the Bay Area, which they surely will, need to book well ahead.
Sabio on Main
501 Main St. [Map]
Pleasanton, CA 94566
Ph: (925) 800-3090
Hours: Mon-Thu, 5-9:30pm; Fri-Sat, 5-10pm; Sun, 4-9pm
Price Range: $$-$$$ (Tapas $11-$17, Entrees $31-$60)
Facebook: Sabio on Main