Friday, December 10th, 2010
Wood-barreled knives honed to razor-sharpness shimmer on the table. Set atop a stark white napkin, they are the lone characters in Shimo’s opening set. Meant to dazzle and awe — and maybe intimidate a little — the hand-forged Japanese cutlery made especially for Chef Douglas Keane’s new steakhouse send a rather pointed message: We’re not kidding around here. The cut on our server’s finger from an earlier run-in with the blade serves as fair warning.
Named for the glistening frost, as well as the white marbling of beef, Shimo Modern Steak, is the third Healdsburg restaurant for Keane. With business partner Nick Peyton (who opened St. Helena’s Market in 2002), the two have built Michelin-two-starred Cyrus into Sonoma’s hautest eatery and both run the more everyday Healdsburg Bar and Grill.
At the helm is Chef de Cuisine Kolin Vazzoler who brings a fresh perspective to the menu, but pays homage to many of Keane’s meticulously executed trademarks — tweezer-perfect plating, table-side composition of plates and ever-present Asian flavors. The interior has been minimally transformed, though careful touches, like reclaimed wood tables and the honed steak knives speak to a more complete vision.
Beef, is obviously what’s for dinner here. Keane’s concept is for smaller shared portions of meat cooked on the bone whenever possible. It’s a noble concept, but one that Keane admits will take a bit of education.Weighty cuts like New York Strip, filet and Porterhouse are brought in from Allen Brother’s Steak in Chicago. A 24 ounce bone-in New York Strip for two (or three) runs $94, which at first blush can be some serious sticker shock. If you break down the cost, however, it’s $47 per person or $4 per ounce. By comparison, Allen Brothers sells their USDA Prime bone-in for about $2.60 per ounce retail.
Australian Wagyu is $10 per ounce, but boneless cuts are significantly less (about $52) and the Korean BBQ tri-tip, which is one of the most flavorful choices, runs $23. Fish and chicken are also offered and a prix-fixe prime rib supper is served from 3-8pm Sundays.
Steaks are both wet and dry aged, then cooked sous-vide and finally seared off with seasoned butter. The Japanese knives, which are taken away upon seating and returned with the steaks, seem almost redundant when meat is this tender. A house steak sauce is served complimentary, but Bordelaise, Bearnaise, ponzu, blue cheese and (best!) seaweed yuzu butter are a la carte.
Sides are equally well-thought out, but will likely undergo some continued tweaking. Best bets include:
– Cheddar fontina biscuits drizzled with steak butter (the tasty remainders after steaks are seared in the pan) ($6)
– Twice baked potatoes: Potato gnocchi baked with cheese, bacon and white sauce ($12)
– Ginger shiso dashi with rock shrimp shumai ($12)
– A deconstructed shrimp cocktail with horseradish pudding, tomato syrup and edible flowers ($13)
– Tempura oysters with pickled lettuce and ginger sauce ($16)
Dessert is clean and simple: A palate cleanser of tart granite, usually, followed by a green tea Krispy treat.
Keane has hired Jaren Keller (formerly of The French Laundry) as Maitre’d, so service standards are already impeccable and the wine program is equally impressive (and includes sake). A full bar features cocktails and sake-inspired drinks.
Overall, there’s still some polishing to do, but once fully-honed, Shimo should easily be one of Chef Keane’s sharpest endeavors.
The Price: Expect to pay about $150 or so for two people, with steaks running about $35 to $40 per portion.
Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 433-6000. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 5-9pm, Sunday from 3-8pm (prime rib supper). Closed Monday and Tuesday.