Watermelon, Arugula and Feta Cheese Salad, Grilled Local Calamari with Salsa Verde, Red Wine Braised Angus Short Ribs over Three Cheese Risotto
Occupation: Primary Educator and Mother
Favorite Restaurant: Central Market
Reviewed Central Market: Thursday June 12, 2007
Central Market is located in the heart of the charming area of downtown Petaluma. The area has grown tremendously in the last five years and would be a destination of interest for travelers.
Parking is generally easy to find. The restaurant is located on the corner with window boxes. Upon entering the restaurant, you feel a very welcoming, homey, comfortable feeling with very high ceilings and the old brick wall intact. You definitely get a Napa/Sonoma type feel with the restaurant, and the kitchen is open; you can sit at the raw bar and watch as they prepare the appetizers, or you can sit in a comfortable booth and have a quiet dinner. It is a friendly restaurant to children, important when living in a suburban town. As chef an owner of Central Market, Tony Najiola's presence is constantly felt as he walks from table to table to insure that you have had a good experience. It is a favorite spot for us to frequent. The menu is broad and changes with the seasons, the flavors are spectacular and unique, and the environment is friendly, relaxed, and warm.
The food is where Central Market really shines! On our last visit, we started with a variety of appetizers since we were a party of five. Some of the highlights:
The Kona Kampachi was incredibly fresh and absolutely wonderful. The burrata cheese was spectacular and a must-order on every visit. The trout salad and fish soup were also great dishes.
The main entrees: the hanger steak is a real favorite of ours and tonight proved no exception. The star dish of the evening were the short ribs, and I have been
thinking about them ever since we visited -- they melted in your mouth and provided an incredible flavor explosion. The desserts were also amazing, especially the fresh fruit crisp, but do not miss the espresso macaroons at the end, because you would miss the final exclamation point of Central Market.
Occupation: Accordian Player and Octogenarian
Location: South San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: West Coast Cafe
Reviewed Central Market: Saturday July 14, 2007
A party of four left South San Francisco at 3:30 pm and arrived at the Central Market Restaurant in the center of Petaluma at 5:00 pm. The restaurant opens at 5:30, which gave us a little time to critique the area and location of Central Market. A very nice area, parking could be a problem. Located in a corner brick building, the restaurant is quite large.
We were the first four to arrive, greeted and seated by our waitress to sounds of background music. In the next 30 to 45 minutes the place was two thirds filled, you no longer heard background music. A very busy place.
We found selection of our dishes difficult. Overwhelming, too many unknowns. For example: "Pork Bomba stuffed with ricotta cheese over braised Tuscan kale, fava beans, and tomato." We ordered four dishes and one starter we would all sample and a bottle of wine. The food was served, found good and tasty, service excellent, including two visits from the chef or owner.
Criticisms: we found the dishes pricey for what we received. Five grilled calamari with salsa verde for $12. We were able to try one calamari apiece. You can buy a lot of calamari for $12. Our dinners were served on brown paper place settings instead of cloth, though we did have cloth napkins. The ciabatta (bread), we found quite doughy and partially sliced part way through, making it difficult to tear a slice off (a pet peeve of mine). I don’t understand why some restaurants don’t slice the bread all the way through so that it is not handled by everyone at the table. Serving it warm goes a long way with me also.
Further criticism: I ordered for myself the Red Wine Angus Short Ribs over three-cheese risotto ($24.50). It was good and also tasty, but it was served layered, risotto with cheese on the bottom, spinach and string beans on top of the risotto, plus the three short ribs topped by sauce all over. I would have preferred ingredients separated. Well, maybe I’m old fashioned.
In closing, may I say that we left just under $180 there and I’m sure it will not happen again.
Occupation: Media Guru
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Marta's Kitchen in Jay 'N Bee Club
Reviewed Central Market: Sunday July 15, 2007
We walked in on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, so we decided to sit out on the patio facing the river. The fresh homemade bread basket was nice, as was the decor and simple surroundings. The main dining room was spacious with huge ceilings and an open kitchen. Our server was very accommodating, friendly, and knew the menu well, so we relied on her suggestions for most of the orders. The Pinot rosé arrived and was very nice and refreshing and seemed to be a perfect "light" and crisp wine to pair with the "light" watermelon salad and salmon appetizers. Unfortunately, the watermelon salad was much more interesting in concept than execution, as it basically tasted like watermelon with not enough arugula, and feta cheese. I think the dish would have been better had it been more arugula salad with some watermelon. The house-cured salmon also seemed a bit on the underwhelming side, but all in all, they were both fine and light to begin with. The latke was perfect however, a sublime combination of crispy with potato flavor. The main dishes arrived, and this seemed to be more where they really excelled. The short ribs were good, though very rich. The meat was succulent, if fatty, which contributed to the flavor, so if health is of your concern in food ordering, you might want to stick away from this one. This was the one dish that was highly recommended as the one dish to make sure to order. The crispy pork confit was perfect. A great combination of textures, flavour, and accompaniment, and the fact that my plate was clean when handed back showed really how I felt about it.
The menu was really diverse, the portions were great, and I really enjoyed the environment. I would definitely return to try other dishes on the menu, especially if I lived in the area, or in North Bay. Overall, a fine dining experience, and a decent bang for the buck. I also must applaud the adventure taken in the menu, especially for Petaluma, and its location. The surroundings were perfect for the whole time, and though a couple of dishes were not out of this world, I would recommend this to any of my friends as a place to check out.