You might think this is a funny name for this place, Sides Hardware and Shoes, cuz it’s really a restaurant in Los Olivos. The name came from it’s origins as a store from 1901 in the same establishment. The new owners, the Nichol’s brothers, decided to honor its origin by renaming it back to its beginning days.
The decor and ambiance are delightful and we were greeted by a friendly face upon arrival. Our table was perfectly situated and the restaurant was full with diners at every table. Our waitress was quite pleasant and checked back continually throughout the evening, though her repertoire was a bit lacking.
Our martini’s were exceptional; dry, cold and kindly adorned with stuffed blue cheese olives upon request. The food overall was good, although there were several missteps that led us to a mid-range review. The effort was certainly apparent, the plating done beautifully, however there were some taste issues for our personal palettes.
Having done my homework prior to arriving, I knew that they were recognized as bacon aficionados so it was no surprise that our first item of choice was a daily special starter of Slab Bacon Panzanella! A delicious substantial but tender cut of slab bacon packed with flavor and cooked to perfection. It was served under slices of perfectly sweet & ripened nectarines with brioche croutons (not too crisp) and Hearts of Fire microgreens. The microgreens are attractive green heart-shaped leaves with contrasting vibrant striking red veins whose flavor resembles sorrel. This was my favorite dish of the night and I kinda wish I had just ordered a larger portion for myself and called it a day!
We never met a brussels sprout that we didn’t like, so we had to also order their Fried Brussels Sprouts with sherry vinegar & capers. On one hand, the sprouts were done better than most any other I have had in regards to the tender crisp quality and their nice bronze finish. However, they were ruined, in our opinion, with way too much of an overwhelming tart flavor from the sherry vinegar. The dish really needed something to offset the sharpness of the vinegar and capers were certainly not the component to accomplish that task. We couldn’t even finish these beautiful morsels, and that was a crime.
Next up, were two mains; Braised Pork Cheek with celery root puree, carrot, bok choy, crispy shallot and pork jus and Striped Sea Bass with “Paella” risotto cooked with saffron, Spanish chorizo and mussels. My favorite item on the pork cheek plate was the vegetables, believe it or not! I am clearly a meat lover and the meat was tender and moist, but to me, it lacked a bit in flavor. What did not lack in flavor though were their vegetables. They were deliciously seasoned to bring out the most of their delicate flavors and quite wonderful. I could have eaten a bit more celery root puree as it was yummy as well, but was used as more of an artistic element on the plate. Again, with the sea bass, their risotto was a home run, whereas the fish was served with a nicely crispened outer skin but too highly salted for our tastes.
Well, after some winners and some frustrations, we thought we should certainly try a dessert. We ordered their Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich w/ Maple-bacon Flavored Ice Cream served with caramel sauce and whipped cream. The photo shows a gorgeous plating of a generous dessert. Hmmm…not so wonderful though. We found the smoky bacon flavor in the ice cream to be a bit unflattering. Although I also make a bacon maple ice cream that is devine, I use bacon chunks instead of dispersing the bacon flavor throughout and somehow it works much better than this did. The cookies were dense and somehow the whole dish just didn’t do it for us. Did love the caramel though!
Not sure we’ll be running back there real soon, although I could certainly be happy with several servings of their panzanella. We’ll have to try it again and order some different items to see if we just hit a few oddities in their menu or maybe it was just an off day.