San Leandro Reviews

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A Caveat

Note: This restaurant has closed. A burger joint may open in its place.


Summary: Friendly service can't overcome lackluster food.

One of the things I very much dislike about writing restaurant reviews is giving a bad review to a new restaurant in town. This is particularly true in San Leandro, where restaurants are scant and good restaurants are few and far between. I cherish every new venture that opens its doors here and hope, sometimes against hope, that it will be good and that I will be able to proclaim its greatness to the world - or the web, as the case may be. But often I can't, and I'm left with the ugly choice of panning a place I really wish well, or betraying you, my faithful reader. These reviews may be non-professional and unpaid, but I do take them seriously. So here I am, writing about Sonoma's, and telling you that as much as I wish the place to succeed, I was disappointed with the food.

I went to Sonoma's with my friend Aamani, one weekday night in December 2007. I had heard mixed reviews of the place - our friends Regina and Boris had been there a couple of times and had not been impressed - but I'd had a good lunch there, and wanted to give it a fair chance. We got there probably around 8:00 PM and the place was pretty empty, I think there was only one other party there. But they do close early, at 8:30 or so. It was clear by the time we were done with our entrees that we were keeping the place open, so we decided to have dessert at Horatio's instead.

Sonoma's menu features wine country cuisine, which is not really that different from California cuisine in general. They have a fixed menu plus specials of the day/week. Most dishes are in the high teens and low twenties.

Both Aamani and I eyed the duck, but she ended up ordering it. I had the steak instead. I don't remember how the duck was made, but it was the most unpalatable duck I've ever eaten. Duck is usually served medium-rare to rare, it's bright red color stimulates your eyes as well as your taste buds. Here it was completely beige, with no hint of pinkness at all. I can't describe the taste, except to say that it wasn't pleasant. Aamani was not happy to have to eat it. I declined a second bite. I should say, however, that duck is a very difficult dish to get right, and Sonoma's should not be vilified for not getting it. On the other hand, they shouldn't be listing a dish on their menu that they don't know how to cook.

My flank steak "served with mushrooms, capers, and a Dijon mustard vermouth sauce" was OK. The sauce was actually pretty nice, sweet and flavorful, though I would have appreciated if it didn't remind me so much of a Dijon-Marsala sauce I'd made some months back and liked better. The other problem was that it hid the flavor of the meat - which is fine if you are serving a pretty tasteless meat like pork and veal, but a crime if it's hiding a flavorful flank steak. And yes, that crime was apparent from the menu description, but I still wanted to try it.

As I said, we didn't order dessert, and none was offered, so I'm not even sure if they serve it. Service was very good. The owner/manager/waiter is very nice, and very attentive. This is why I so hate writing this review, I do wish him and his restaurant well. All I can hope is that we visited on an off night. I welcome comments from my readers who have had other experiences at this restaurant.

1027 Macarthur Blvd
San Leandro, CA
(510) 636-1143

Lunch Review