CLOSED JUNE 2012
There are only a handful of restaurateurs in the North Bay that can stir up as much moist-eyed nostalgia as Narsi Samii. A good brisket can do that to a person.
The former owner of Narsi’s Hofbrau in Santa Rosa’s Coddingtown Center, Samii has gentle, soft-spoken way about him that belies the very public fight he waged for two years over his 27-year-old restaurant. At the age when most people consider retirement, Narsii, now 65, waged a $500,000 battle against Simon Property management over his lease. He lost the battle and the restaurant.
But Narsi may have won the war. This week, Narsi and his brother, Sam Samii, opened Mister Hof-brau in the recently vacated SRJC Culinary Cafe space at B and Seventh St.
Cut from the same jib as the French dip, carved turkey and cafeteria-tray Hofbraus that dot the Bay Area*, Mister Hof-brau is predictably predictable. Hunks of roasted meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, brown gravy and a few cold salads punctuated by piles of sauerkraut, steaming pots of soup (Borscht is a staple) and a case of cakes and pies.
Think Sunday dinner at grandma’s. With a cafeteria tray.
At the heart of the restaurant — a literal glowing red center of heat lamps — is the carvery. Halfway down the 12-foot runway of food, stands a chef with very sharp knives and more than a passing knowledge of poultry and livestock anatomy. He slices thin pieces of moist turkey, roast beef, brisket, pastrami and corned beef and with a quick flick of the wrist, they land on plates neatly piled with stuffing and mashed potatoes, asparagus. Sandwiches get the same treatment, with meat piled onto rye or sourdough, a smear of Thousand Island. Uncomplicated and delicious.
Sides and soups are a bit pedestrian, but comforting, reassuring and easy to chew. Salads mostly hail from a bygone era — lots of iceberg and grated carrots piled with meat. Macaroni. Coleslaw.
But that’s the charm of Mister Hof-brau. It’s exactly what it is and nothing that it’s not. It’s a steam-table sanctuary in an ocean of a la minute eateries, with nothing precious or pedigreed to get in the way of an honest plate of food.
The restaurant is currently awaiting a beer and wine license, and plans to offer morning coffee and pastries as well as some less carnivorous options.
Mister Hof-brau, 458 B St., Santa Rosa, 545-6237.
*If you’re curious, Hofbrau’s in Germany refer to breweries that have ties to the royal court. In the Bay Area, Hofbraus like SF’s Tommy’s Joynt, Lefty O’Douls and Harry’s Hofbrau are synonymous with the kind of old school cafeteria-style meat-and-potatoes eating you’ll find at Mister Hof-brau.