219 Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, Calif. 95448
Contemporary American Fare
Sunday-Thursday 5 to 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 5 to 9:30 p.m.
[Photos courtesy of Spoonbar]
At the entrance of h2hotel, there’s a whimsical waterfall of spoons, a part of the original structure of the property, and the inspiration behind Spoonbar. The restaurant opened two years ago in downtown Healdsburg, and this spring Chef Matt D’Ambrosi took the helm of the kitchen, creating a new menu as inventive as the sculpture at the entrance.
The décor at Spoonbar offers a contemporary, warm Wine Country vibe. A communal table is available for large groups (up to 22 people) and offers a space for family-style dining. Alex and I arrive on a Wednesday at 6 p.m. and it’s clear the place is a popular spot for both out-of-town visitors and the locals. Our server for the evening is Ben Veum, who tells us that it’s “chicken Wednesday.”
We order cocktails to start—Beast of the Chase, which is made with Sazerac Rye, Pear Liqueur, black tea and demerara and smoke. This is a lush cocktail and the hint of smoke gives it a nice depth. The Hobb’s Bramble is beautifully presented with a sprig of rosemary and a blackberry, a light and refreshing blend of lemon and Crème de Violette and blackberries.
Next, we try a selection of starters from the menu. The Fried Beausoleil is an oyster on a half shell, served with creamed arugula and a prosciutto chip. The oyster takes the lead, but the creamed arugula frames it. This is a great dish to try if you think you don’t care for oysters. The ahi tuna tartare is a combination of avocado, cantaloupe coulis, cucumber, mint and fried quinoa, which gives it a nice texture. Served with black rice chips this dish is a perfect starter for sharing.
Chef Matt, as he’s known at Spoonbar, has a practical culinary philosophy. “I start with what I like to eat—the classics—and fresh seasonal ingredients,” he says. Seasoning is also key, he says. “A dish can go sour when it’s under-seasoned,”
Originally from Corte Madera, D’Ambrosi’s passion for cooking began as a child. When he was 13 years old, his family moved to Yucatan, Mexico, where he began working as a kitchen assistant in a beach bar.
D’Ambrosi recommends the creamy cauliflower soup with shaved Brussels sprouts persimmon salad and pomegranate gastrique and burgundy truffles. This dish is ambrosia—food of the gods—and an experience in itself. We also sample the heirloom tomato salad with Santa Rosa plum, Burrata cheese, roasted garlic Miso emulsion, which offers an explosion of concentrated flavors.
In keeping with the spirit of the evening—Fried Chicken Wednesday—we tried the crispy southern fried chicken with warm honey mustard potato salad, Haricot verts and sweet peas. Sweet and savory, this is elevated comfort food with a modern take on the classic, and perfectly paired with Flowers Rosé from the Sonoma Coast. We overheard Chef Matt tell the diners next to us that this was a dish he made 267 times until he go it just right. Indeed, he did. This entrée offers a generous portion of chicken—a great plate to share and popular with the locals. It’s easy to understand why. Chef Matt manages to take a classic dish and successfully transform it with a modern twist.
We also sampled the pan seared Alaskan halibut, an elegant dish served with potato puree, grilled fava beans, pea shoots and served with an arugula pistou Champagne Beurre Blanc. The fish was perfectly seared and its presentation is artfully executed.
For dessert, I recommend the powdered sugar beignets and citrus and yogurt panna cotta. As the meal came to an end we encountered two diners from Canada who were staying in Sausalito, but made the drive to experience Spoonbar one more time before traveling home. Spoonbar offers an approachable menu and the creations of Chef Matt are concentrated with flavor and artfully plated. Next time you’re in Healdsburg, stop by Spoonbar for an experience you’ll never forget.
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