There's no shortage of exceptional dining in the bay area. So for a restaurant to really stand it needs to have a unique personality. As you drive north on Hwy 101 across the Golden Gate into Marin county you may get hungry. Whether heading to wine country or visiting Northern California for shopping or scenery, take a moment and discover new "must see" dining spots:
Batika Indian - Novato
This discovery is in Novato of all places—not really the first place you think of when you think of fine dining. Batika Indian Cuisine is one of the finest Indian restaurants Mrs. B and I have been to anywhere in the world. And we've been to many including spots in Melbourne, London, Vancouver, Sydney and NYC.
Here in Novato's old town district (down the street from Whole Foods) is a diamond in the rough. Batika has a simple menu but everything on the menu is affordable, yet delicious. Take the Methi Murg for example. There's a reason "meth" is in the name, because it's like crack. The cream based spicy sauce and tender chicken melt in your mouth.
Speaking of melt in your mouth, can chicken be so succulent that it melts like butter when you eat it? The Tandoori Chicken sure seems like it. So moist and flavorful, yet so simple. Each bite is loaded with flavor from the exotic spices and tandoori oven smokiness. Although the wine list is limited, I found the Trefethen Riesling to be a great choice to pair with.
Add in some saffron rice and garlic naan and you're set. Batika usually has a Yelp deal going so you can get a discount. We can have an entire meal for about $40 without wine.
The Hummingbird - Fairfax
It's like owner, Michelle Elmore created a creole cafe in New Orleans then picked the whole thing up and carried it to California. That scenario isn't too far from the truth. The fine arts photographer left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded her neighborhood and moved out west with $69 in her pocket.
Elmore learned how to make cajun and creole street food through the years eating at people's homes and photographing New Orleans' colorful characters. Some of her photos adorn the walls, like the close up shot of a man smiling with gold capped teeth. The Hummingbird is tucked away in Marin county in the hippy-friendly town of Fairfax with plenty of nearby parking.
We go for the breakfast items like Chicory Coffee or Chicken and Waffles. The added touch of soul and funk music streaming from a New Orean's radio station adds extra flavor to the experience.
Mrs. B and I have eaten at The Hummingbird a half dozen times and plan on going back repeatedly.
Rosso Pizzeria + Mozzarella Bar - Petaluma
Located in the new up and coming Theater District area of downtown Petaluma. Rosso has only been open since May, but it's the right concept at the right time in the right location. Residents of Santa Rosa may be familiar with Rosso's other location on Montgomery street.
From artesian mozzarella to tripe to wood fired pizzas and daily specials, Rosso hits the mark with well priced delicious food. But the secret weapon may be the wine list. Rosso offers a unique selection of wines by the glass or by the bottle from affordable Italians to Harlan Estate (priced as "Don't Ask" on the menu).
A restaurant can be measured by how well they execute on the basic items. In this case, a basic item like Pizza Margherita demonstrates Rosso's commitment to quality ingredients and technique.