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New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro

Since I generally am too lazy to cook, I do a great deal of eating out. And in all my years of eating out in the Rogue Valley, I have yet to encounter a restaurant like New Sammy's.

The service is unparalleled: They take your coat when you sit down, employ a knowledgeable sommelier and fill your water and wine glasses without having to be asked. Questions about the food and drink are answered without a hint of pretension, which can be the downfall of many restaurants of a certain caliber.

The menu, although limited in selection, was broad in depth and quality. Diners can build their own meal off the a la carte menu, or go with the full dinner, which includes a starter, main meal and choice of dessert for $52.

Flipping past the strictly food items reveals a world of wines — pages upon pages of reds, whites, blushes and roses from the Rogue Valley and beyond. Wines are where New Sammy's shines, and any wine aficionado would easily find him or herself in wine heaven here.

I chose to order from the a la carte menu, picking the green salad with toasted hazelnuts, poached dried sour cherries and Rogue Creamery blue cheese to start, for $9.50.

But first, the swift, attentive waitress brought out a dish of Kalamata olives and poppy seed-encrusted crackers while I mulled the main dish. I settled on the poached halibut with a ragout of artichokes, fennel, leeks, potatoes, oyster mushrooms and Meyer lemon in truffle oil vinaigrette for $28.

My dining companion went with the full dinner: Frisee and escarole salad with Oregon bay shrimp, vineyard asparagus, and apple wood smoked bacon to start; Niman Ranch lamb with braised dandelion greens, ricotta gnocchi and tapenade vinaigrette.

To add to the growing anticipation of our meals, the waitress brought out another unexpected starter: tiny servings of chilled sorrel soup with wasabi, topped with equally miniscule dollops of sour cream. It was creamy and satisfying, and there wasn't so much of it that it spoiled our appetites, because next on the docket were fresh slices of New Sammy's Cowboy bread, undoubtedly made on-site, with slightly tangy, spiced-up olive oil for dipping. They sell the bread and other items at the local farmer's markets.

My salad was absolutely perfect. The cherries were anything but sour and added just the right touch of fruity sweetness to the otherwise light combination of greens, flavorful cheese and crunchy nuts. Hers was a little heavy on the bacon, but came with a soft-boiled egg and perfectly prepared shrimp in a creamy, delightful sauce.

My halibut was so tender I didn't need a knife, butter or otherwise, to dig into it. Bathed in a delicate sauce that complemented the fish's light flavor perfectly, I managed to wolf down the dish in its entirety.

My dining companion's lamb was, from my perspective, prepared like a high-end steak: crispy and flavorful on the outside, juicy and cooked medium-rare on the inside. Complemented with a pungent side of sautéed spinach and ricotta gnocchi that provided contrast in both texture and flavor, it couldn't have gotten much better.

After peering at the dessert menu, which offered not only a tempting array of sweets, but also a dizzying selection of dessert wines, ports, espresso and coffee drinks and an extremely comprehensive selection of teas, we settled on the bittersweet chocolate layer cake with cherry-chocolate mousse and kirsch ice cream.

The cake was bathed in a liberal drizzle of chocolate sauce and coated in hard chocolate with expertly prepared mousse and fluffy, rich cake serving as the foundation. The ice cream, laced with kirsch (a brandy prepared from cherries) and packed with chunks of dark chocolate and cherries, was a perfect accompaniment.

Finally, there was one last treat: a dish of candies that included an espresso-coated truffle, chocolate-covered ginger, and a cornmeal cowboy cookie that topped the meal off.

Overall, New Sammy's Bistro is a divine gustatory experience well worth the expense — a dinner for two will likely set you back about $100. They plan to expand their hours in the near future to include lunch. Reservations are recommended.

— Sarah Brown