December 4, 2006
Cow Punchers Ride a Parisian Range

The lights of Roxy were on Friday evening and the place looked fairly busy, even though we'd heard it wouldn't open until sometime this week, so we pulled off Fair Oaks Boulevard to see what was up.

What we found was a training session at a nascent restaurant that just might put the gourmet back into Sacramento's Gourmet Gulch, but with touches unaffected and even charming. Investors in the restaurant and other guests who would be understandably patient with a staff developing its moves had been invited to test drive this latest addition to the local dining scene. We were interlopers who just had eaten down the street and hung around only long enough to sample the large, fresh and delightfully flavorful Dr Pepper chocolate cupcake with buttermilk anglaise and candied pecans ($7). (The menu has it Dr. Pepper, but as we say, the place just is being broken in.)

Dr Pepper, buttermilk and pecans suggest that Roxy has a western theme. Indeed, the owners, Ron and Terri Gilliland, who also own midtown's Lucca, say their intent is to bring to Sacramento a restaurant best summed up as "Paris meets the ranch." The place, though unfinished Friday - bar stools had yet to arrive, a large drapery had yet to be hung - carries off the theme with more taste than kitsch. The handsome early 20th-century backbar the Gillilands found in St. Louis is fronted with a modern curving cherrywood bar. A large and sparkly chandelier dominates the dining room, where tiered tables and booths are arranged in a subtle horseshoe pattern. Some of the booths are dressed with cowhide from Brazil, others with a golden brocade. The balance of curves and straight lines throughout the place suggests the fencelines and rivers of Wyoming.

The menu, which blends French aesthetics with western traditions, also avoids joke and cliche. It also introduces a passle of relatively new players - chef Jeff Ivaska, sous chefs Daniel Origel and Jess Milbourne, pastry chefs Kristina Etchieson and Mathias Masera.

The food looks as if it will be fun, with hot sauce and a jalapeno chile pepper aioli spicing up the calamari, braised beef and a smoky tomato sauce filling roasted piquillo chile peppers, an avocado salsa attending the roasted chicken, and an El Toro Beer barbecue sauce and smoked-Cheddar macaroni and cheese accompanying the Bledsoe pork chop. Terri Gilliland is especially excited about the desserts, which in addition to the cupcake include a lemon buttermilk cream cheese tart with huckleberry meringue, a citrus panna cotta with pomegranate gelee, and a s'mores pie.

When it comes to inventive new restaurants in Sacramento, 2006 hasn't been an especially interesting year, but Roxy looks like it could put excitement back into the dining scene all on its own. If all the furnishings are in, it should be open Tuesday. It's at 2381 Fair Oaks Blvd.; the phone number is (916) 489-2000.

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