A Warm Welcome to Spinster Sisters
As soon as I saw the dish on the menu at Spinster Sisters, my hopes soared. Soba noodles with kimchi and poached eggs is not something you see on many – well, any – menus in Santa Rosa.
But Spinster Sisters, which opened last summer isn’t aiming to be just any restaurant. First, there’s the unlikely location, off downtown on South A Street in Santa Rosa’s SOFA arts district, in a building that was hardly restaurant-pretty before the Spinster team took over. It was built in the late ’20s, and once held a small Italian family grocery before eventually becoming boxy, boring offices.
Then, there’s the partnership, of Liza Hinman, Eric Anderson, and Giovanni Cerrone. Hinman previously was head chef at the now-closed Santi in Santa Rosa. Anderson is a Santa Rosa native who now lives in New York and is a founding partner of Prune Restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village. Cerrone has enjoyed a long career in the California wine industry and is a Santa Rosa resident.
The trio saw potential in the plain bones of the property; so the story goes, when it was the grocery, two unmarried Italian sisters lived upstairs, inspiring the haunting tribute of the name.
Most importantly, there is the menu, which spans “bites” like smoked trout dip scooped with house made bagel chips and powered by pickled jalapenos ($8), charcuterie starring housemade duck liver terrine ($11), small plates such as grilled local calamari atop a slaw of zucchini, cabbage, mint, peanuts, nuoc cham and chile ($11), and large plates including Allagash Black Ale braised short rib atop creamy barley, Tuscan kale and horseradish cream ($25).
It’s a clever, wide-ranging line up that keeps our taste buds alive and curious, and even when it’s odd to navigate a meal — weekend brunch features deviled eggs doctored with kimchi and tiny bits of bacon ($3), next to a granola waffle drizzled in maple-agave syrup ($9.50), for example — it’s always fun.
Hinman has long celebrated Sonoma-fresh bounty, and the big bowl of gloriously addictive, slightly charred and feather light Brussels sprouts chips moistened in Meyer lemon aioli ($6) show her skills in keeping recipes fresh. She’s having a blast in the kitchen, and it shows, never letting up with at least one “who’d-a-thought” dish through every breakfast, lunch and dinner service.
I love her modern approach to dining, when I can munch homemade biscuits stuffed with country ham and honey butter ($8) at the same supper where I’m nibbling on Maitake mushroom tempura dusted in shichimi togarashi and dipped in daikon-kissed soy ($9).
For larger plates, I’m very happy with my Scottish steelhead lounging on a bed of forbidden black rice with crunch watermelon radish and juicy bok choy – the oven roasted fish is crisp skinned and bright with ginger and what my server says is Satsuma, a Japanese citrus ($24). That Black Ale braised short rib is everything it’s supposed to be, too, melt-in-the-mouth succulent, with the barley perfect for soaking up the meaty juices.
At dessert, the Sisters Sundae ($8) is simplicity and joy, bringing scoops of dolce de leche and vanilla ice cream scattered in toasted coconut, banana chips and hot fudge.
For the setting, the Spinster crew chose an industrial feel, which fits the edgy renaissance neighborhood just fine, centering around a large square redwood dine-in bar, a big communal table, and some intimate two tops around the perimeter for just under 50 guests. Lots of natural light floods in through the day, and at night, the streets dim lights and shade trees lend a very big city feel.
But big city, it’s not, thankfully. There’s local art on the walls, local butts in the seats, eager local youth providing friendly service, and great, local food to keep us coming back for more.
Details: The Spinster Sisters, 401 S. A St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-7100, thespinstersisters.com.