Rustic modern or modern rustic?

Roya’s Garlic Garden in the middle of Lafayette is no more.  Restaurants with Swedish/Persian chefs have a conceptual problem right off the bat, and Roya never managed to overcome it.  She wanted to be cosmopolitan, she wanted to be middle Eastern, it just didn’t work.

Replacing Roya’s is Rustic Tavern, a very professional operation run by three people with experience in the Lark Creek restaurant group.  They know what they are doing and present a unified whole of an experience.

The first thing we noticed is that this place is LOUD.  Really loud, unpleasantly so.  They have been open just over 2 months, so perhaps they will make some adjustments. We were able to take a table outside, the better to enjoy a perfect evening.  If the weather were less clement, I doubt that we would be willing to eat in the clamor that is the dining room.

I also note that there is nothing rustic here.  Modern decor, modern menu.  Why they call it Rustic Tavern is beyond me.

They are so new that their website is only 1 page.  No menu, no “story”, no nothing.  A phone number and a link to to make a reservation is all there is.  That should improve along with everything else.

The menu is quite short, but there were 3 salad specials and an entree special to add to the mix. The food is California modern, all locally sourced, organic and touchy-feely.  Dining out has become a political statement; where the foodstuffs come from is as important as how they taste, it would seem.

I started with one of the special salads–heirloom tomatoes.

Heirloom tomatoes, basil, bleu cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Heirloom tomatoes, basil, bleu cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Salads are usually served quite chilled, but the chef here has the good sense to serve this salad room temperature, which brings out the meatiness of the tomatoes.

Gail had the Dungeness duo, a crab cake made from the body meat  served on a jicama and green papays salad, paired with the claw meat which is served on asparagus.  Gail thought the salad was very salty, but still enjoyed it.

House fettucini

House fettucini with poached egg on top.

Gail’s dinner was the house fettucini, an excellent carbonara.  The dish is served with a poached egg on top; the diner breaks the yolk and mixes it in with the pasta to enrich the sauce of cream and cheese.  Rich is the operative word here–this dish is majorly heavy, a little goes a long way.  The menu says it includes “pork belly”, but it sure seemed like they were taking liberties with the term–it looked and tasted more like bacon to us, and somewhat overcooked bacon at that.  Real chunks of pork belly, or at least genuine Italian pancetta (cured, not smoked, bacon)  would be much better.

I love fettucini carbonara, but decided to have the California Sea Bass special in an ongoing attempt to make my cardiologist like me.

California Sea Bass

California Sea Bass


This dish was a mixed bag–the fish was excellent, the vegetables ranged from ice cold to piping hot, perhaps the result of inefficient microwaving.  There was a bit of salad, which had another exceedingly salty dressing.

Two months is not a long time to work out all the kinks in a new operation.  I liked the iced tea spoon they gave me with my drink: I wish they had Splenda as one of their sweeteners.  I like the outdoor tables: I wish they would work at leveling them better so my dinner wouldn’t rock so much.  I like the service in general, but we had to use my napkin to mop up a spill (uneven table top) and the waitress forgot to replace it.

Rustic Tavern is not cheap–dinner for the two of us was over $100 with the tip.  For that price I’d like to see more consistency, but I’m willing to give them a little more time and another chance.  The food here is better than most; they should be able to fix the small errors soon enough.



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