Sunday, 16 June 2024

Foodie Freak: The Saw Shop Gallery Bistro

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The Saw Shop Gallery Bistro is arguably Kelseyville’s least best-kept secret. I doubt that there are more than a handful of people in the county who haven’t at least heard of it if not actually eaten there. Since its opening it has maintained its paradigm of fine dining.


I’ll admit that I ate there a couple of years ago and I was disappointed. Back then I thought the food was overpriced and not very inspired, and I wondered why everyone kept talking about the place. But recently I’ve been hearing a lot of good comments about what Chef Jeremy Zabel has been doing during his reign there.


During a recent outing in Kelseyville my wife and I decided to try the Saw Shop again so I could evaluate Zabel’s changes. I haven’t personally met Zabel so I had no idea what to expect; this could be very interesting.


The menu can best be described as concise but eclectic. There’s a little bit of something from all over the world. I started with the tuna sashimi with the soy orange reduction and followed it with the prawns in Thai red curry. My wife ordered the chipotle tomato soup followed by the four cheese macaroni. Everything on the menu was less than $10 so that was a noticeable change from my previous visit right from the start.


The chipotle tomato soup was perfectly seasoned for me and was just what I would have hoped it would be from the menu description, but alas, it was my wife’s dish. She thought it was a tad, just a tad, too spicy, but she has a tender palate. She ate it all so it mustn’t have been too big a deterrent for her; the excellent flavor obviously outweighed the heat.


The tuna was very high quality (easily spotted by a sushi connoisseur like myself) but there was a little bit of sinew that was distracting to me. The orange soy reduction drizzled over the fish is fantastic and a composition I never would have even considered.


There was also a micro-green salad consisting partially of arugula and radish with other greens I couldn’t quite identify that I greedily wolfed down. I love micro-greens, they’re just so pure and new tasting. Amusingly (to me) I had already begun writing a column about micro-greens just before we left for The Saw Shop.


The four cheese macaroni was rich and evenly flavored with Gouda, parmesan, cheddar and, OK I’ll admit it, we don’t remember the fourth one. I don’t take notes as I eat since it causes the staff to stare at you. It also was flavored with bits of applewood bacon, which went perfectly with the cheese blend. It was fantastic in an “Oh my god this is so good but so rich” sense. The penne pasta was al dente and oozed cheese when stabbed with a fork. My wife claimed it was a flavor that she could eat every day. The portion was a good size and it was so rich that she couldn’t finish the entire plate, no matter how hard she tried.


The Thai red curry was as close to being like real Thai food without actually being in a Thai restaurant. The shrimp were huge and the chunks of vegetables were well cooked without being overdone. Red curry is typically the hottest of the curry blends and while it wasn’t too hot for me, if you aren’t a chile head be forewarned. There was a side of rice that will help cool the heat if you need it. I used the rice to soak up all of the red curry sauce so I wouldn’t miss a drop.


The wine list is filled with local wines by the bottle or by the glass. The variety is a little tight but with good exposure. I’d still like to see more selection of local wines that aren’t quite so common in local restaurants. For example, I found it a little odd that The Saw Shop is mere steps from the Rosa d’Oro tasting room yet carries none of their wines. The beverage prices are average for most restaurants.


Our waitress Annie was efficient and personable, but for some odd reason I was distracted by the necktie loosely worn around her neck. My weird psyche kept thinking ,“If there WAS a lumber mill here that would easily get caught in the machinery”... I know, a complete non sequitur, but that’s just how my brain works.


The art that decorates the wall is beautiful and is all for sale, but my taste in art is limited to sculptures of naked women and paintings of dogs playing poker so I felt a little intimidated by the opulence. My wife, the one of us that has good artistic taste and style, spent a couple of minutes wandering the dining room examining the displays. She informed me that there were some very good quality pieces.


So I came away from the place everyone is always talking about wanting to talk about it too. If you haven’t been to The Saw Shop recently it is definitely worth it. My wife and I were fortunate to sneak in just before a lunch rush, but if you don’t want to wait it’s a good idea to call ahead for a reservation.


The Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, 3825 Main Street, Kelseyville; telephone 278-0129. Visit the restaurant on the Internet at www.sawshopbistro.com, where you can see sample menus and wine lists, find out about events and read about Executive Chef Jeremy Zabel.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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