I’ve long had it in my head that Chanterelle was out of my price range—or, more to the point, out of the Capitol Weekly’s price range.
After all, it sits in one of the fanciest buildings in the Grid, the venerable Sterling Hotel. I’d been to their ballroom plenty of times for Sacramento Press Club and other functions, but for reasons of personal cheapness, it had never occurred to me to actually eat there.
So I was rather surprised when I finally did discover that Chanterelle really isn’t that expensive. Not that it’s cheap. A lunch for two could easily run $40, but could also come in at a lot less.
We started our recent lunch there with the steak salad ponzu ($14), which came with thin strips of rare beef laid out over a bed of mixed greens, carrots and shitake mushrooms. The highlight here was the ponzu dressing, a rich combination of sweet, salty and tangy.
We followed that with the chicken murat ($12), which came with sautéed chicken breast with artichoke hearts, tomato, spinach and mushrooms over rice. Again, the sauce was quite good, rich with flavors of wine and butter.
My favorite dish I’ve had here so far, though, was the grilled salmon ($14). As a longtime Californian, I’ve had salmon about a million different ways, from sushi to jerky, but Chanterelle’s version managed to be both straightforward and something kind of new to me. For starters, the fish was done more rare than I’ve usually had it, still pinkish orange on the inside. According to the manager, this is the way salmon is supposed to be cooked, but most places I’ve had it have tended more towards the jerky end of the spectrum. And yes, the sauce again was quite good, intense (but not too intense) with great big mustard seeds visible in it. It came over a simple bed of slim slices of crisp vegetables.
For dessert, I had the chocolate mouse ($7). Served in a martini glass, it was darker and more intense than most I’ve had. And it wasn’t drowned in whipped cream, which I was glad about.
Overall, the food is interesting without being over-the-top. This isn’t some shiny urban bistro bidding to out-fusion the competition with a broccoli-and-caramel reduction over aardvark and polenta. Think California cuisine, but with a traditional/French bent.
Chanterelle features an attractive patio facing out on 13th St., a quiet spot just off the bustle of J St. and the convention center. The ground floor interior is kept light by a liberal use of glass throughout. The hotel itself is also worth a quick stroll, especially for the interesting artwork, much of it depicting local Sacramento spots of the present and yesteryear.
1300 H St.• 916-442-0451
Lunch Mon- Fri: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner Mon- Sun: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.