Friday Feature: Hawks Restaurant

Many believe that Hawks in Granite Bay is the most unique, impressive, and amazing dining experience in the Greater Sacramento area. After my recent visit, I would have to say that is an extremely adequate description. I found everything about my evening at Hawks to be a delight, and cannot wait to return!

Hawks Dessert

Walking into Hawks, you are greeted not only by the warm and welcoming staff, but also an air of understated elegance.  Soft blues and grays, elaborate lighting elements, and sparkling mirrors create a lovely, warm scene.  However, it’s not until after you’ve been seated and have a moment to take in your surroundings that the true character of Hawks becomes apparent.  Simply framed black and white photographs of trees and farmland adorn the walls throughout the restaurant, giving a very grounding feel.  It is in strong contrast to the ornate contemporary accents, yet reminds you of the source of the food that sustain us.  You can get lost in those photographs; thinking of how clean the sky must be, the refreshing wind blowing over newly plowed fields, and the rich warm smell of the soil.  These photographs also serve as a testament to the freshness and quality of the seasonal menu items available at Hawks.

An evening at Hawks can be whatever you decide to make of it.  Want a late night glass of wine and incredible dessert with a few friends after a long day? The expansive wine list and dessert menu won’t disappoint.  Looking for a way to make a special occasion even more special?  The seven course seasonal tasting menu at Hawks is just waiting to create an unforgettable meal.  Want an impressive first date?  The amazingly romantic atmosphere at Hawks is guaranteed to lead to date number two.  But most importantly, if you want a truly unique dining experience with elaborate dishes you think can only be found in the bay area, then perhaps the Sea Urchin Flan with Sunchoke Soup and Shaved Black Truffle can convince you of the amazing options only minutes away.

Upon arriving at Hawks, I had the pleasure to speak with a few of the other patrons about their favorite dishes.  Not surprisingly, within moments almost every item on the menu was recommended to me as being a must try.  The one dish that was raved about repeatedly was the house made Gnocchi, which definitely piqued my interest.  Fortunately, the wine list was an excellent distraction from my rumbling tummy as I immediately became immersed in the almost overwhelming decision between the local and international wines offered.  It’s always a good sign when the wine list has a table of contents!  I decided upon a lovely cabernet blend 2010 Cuvee Alexandra by the Napa based Moniz Family just in time to be seated.

While the seasonal tasting menu was quite tempting, I decided to focus instead on the offerings of the dinner menu.  Immediately after ordering, a flurry of activity descended on my table as butter, bread, water, china, flat wear, and an amuse bouche suddenly appeared by at least eight different hands.  This dizzying experience certainly signified the beginning of the meal, and also made me sit up a little straighter in my chair with the overwhelming desire to snap my fingers at someone.  Not because I needed anything, but because the service is so attentive!  The amuse bouche of cauliflower soup was amazing.  It should be a restaurant law that all soups are to be served at the exact temperature that this cauliflower soup maintained.  Steaming, incredibly rich and creamy, it was the perfect way to invigorate my pallet and awake my appetite.

Next arrived the Ahi Tuna Tartare and Goldbud Farms Apple and Belgian Endive Salad.  The Tartare was unlike any other I have ever experienced.  Topped with a quail egg, it is lightly tossed tableside adding even more depth to the other 14 ingredients that constitute this dish.  The tuna melts in your mouth, with the strong accents of cumin, fennel, citrus, and chives all playing perfectly together.  Pine nuts add additional creamy texture to the dish.  The Apple and Endive salad was also very memorable.  It’s not often that something with such a delicate aroma has such amazing flavor.  Paper thin slices of Gala apples are tossed with red endive, lightly candied walnuts, and blue cheese creating a spicy, sweet, peppery and tangy experience.

Hawks Gnocchi

And then there was the House Made Gnocchi.  Oh dear sweet Gnocchi.  You were never one of my favorites until I met the best of you.  I drove home thinking of you.  I woke in the morning thinking of you.  I’m already planning when I can see you again.  I am fairly certain that I am obsessed with you!  The Gnocchi was creamily dense and paired perfectly with earthy, chewy Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  This was my first taste of Hen of the Woods mushrooms, and hopefully not my last.  They have a texture similar to morel mushrooms, chewy and maintained, but with a lighter woodsy flavor.  The Parmesan cream sauce melded all the flavors together, taking the dish from delicious to out of this world amazing!

It was hard to believe that with all that had happened already entrees were on their way!  The Slow Roasted Short Ribs are rumored to be amazing, but I had to try the Double ‘G’ Ranch Flank Steak and Liberty Farms Duck Breast.  The duck was some of the best I’ve enjoyed, crispy and golden on the outside, tender and rich on the inside.  A sweet parsnip puree with a hint of maple served as a lovely compliment.  The dish had a bit of whimsy to it as well.  As I was enjoying the duck I kept finding little hidden treasures…a piece of mandarin here (local, of course), a slice of roasted chestnut there.  The Flat Iron Steak was also a treasure in and of itself.  Cooked to perfection, it was accompanied with roasted bone containing the marrow.  Before you go “Ewwwwww”, give me a moment to explain why this is a wonderful thing.  The Flat Iron Steak itself was amazing, with a strong sear and juicy, rich flavor.  Now top that with a tiny bit of marrow or “beef butter” as our server described, and it’s like adding in the salty smoky flavor of bacon without distracting from the tender texture of the meat.  It’s an amazing inventive combination, and one of the few moments when you are allowed to play with your food as you create the perfect bite!  The Flat Iron Steak has also managed to maintain its own sense of humor by being accompanied by the world’s best oversized tater tot which almost steals the show!  Perfectly seasoned and extra crispy, this potato rosti proves that childhood classics never go out of style.

At this point I was completely under the Hawks spell and there was no way I could say no to the Hawks Bar for dessert.  Part candy bar and part ultimate decadence, this dessert is an experience in and of itself.  Layers of brownie, salted caramel, crunchy toffee, vanilla cream, and tempered chocolate…it was so lovely I almost didn’t want to ruin its perfection, especially the chocolate.  There are few things as beautiful as perfect glossy tempered chocolate.  I was so entranced I almost forgot about the Valrhona Cocoa Nib Gelato…but only almost.  Did I mention that the gelato is also house made?

Hawks has perfected the art of the tight rope, balancing between ultimate extremes in all aspects of its menu offerings.  They manage elegance without pretention, attentiveness without being overbearing, classic without boring, and innovation without being eccentric.  I know I will be visiting Hawks again in the near future, not only for the Gnocchi but also for their Sunday Supper.  Four courses, $40, and a different menu every week with the exception of the last Sunday of each month.  That special day is reserved for fried chicken, and with everything else that I enjoyed at Hawks, the fried chicken is guaranteed to be phenomenal.

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