November 29, 2011
The new Zinfandel is a lot like the old Zinfandel, with good reason

We were surprised and disappointed last summer when we stopped by the Zinfandel Grille in Gold River and found the doors locked and the dining room dark. Then, one night last week, we found it open and operating under a new name - Zinfandel California Cuisine.

We sat in a booth, drank wine and ate a pepperoni-mushroom-pine nuts pizza from the wood-fired oven and studied the menu. Hmmm. With the exception of a few items, the lineup of dishes looked the same as when the restaurant was the Zinfandel Grille. Salads, pizzas, crab cakes, mussels, pasta, steaks, chops.

What was going on? Turns out the Grille changed ownership in April and closed for a slight renovation, then reopened under its new name in September.

"We wanted to break off from former (business) associations and have a fresh look, so we did a mini-remodel," said new owner Ash Khan on the phone Monday. "It took longer than we expected."

What about the menu?
"It was always (about) California cuisine, so basically it's the same menu, with seasonal changes," Khan said. "We kept most of it because we wanted to play it safe. We felt we should stick with what (the restaurant) has done well for so many years, and improve the wine list."

A smart move, really. The Zinfandel Grille had a loyal clientele, most of which found comfort in seeing familiar dishes on the menu. Which is one of the reasons why diners frequent certain restaurants - they known what they like and where they can get it. Consistency is key in the restaurant industry.

General manager Thomas Harris and chef Domingo Hernandez were with the Zinfandel before the name change, and continue there now.

"We've always used fresh everything," Harris said. "We've never had a freezer or microwave oven in the kitchen. All of our produce, fish and meat arrive four to five times a week. We're trying to get everything locally, and all our wines are from California."

Zinfandel California Cuisine is at 2220 Gold Springs Court, Gold River; (916) 853-9600,

Note that there is no relationship between Zinfandel California Cuisine and the independently owned Zinfandel Grille at 2384 Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento.

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