Roxy on Main
While Shenanigan's continues to fight for its Riverside locations, the new tenants of 410 E. Main St. — formerly Sambuca Martini Bar and Sloe Bar & Grill — have settled into the chic space with sophisticated bistro fare.
Kelli Powers and Brian Wray opened Roxy on Main two weeks ago. The establishment will continue to operate as a jazz club and martini bar, independent of Shenanigan's, but these aspects will come second to dinner service.
Powers spent the past 27 years in the restaurant business, first in the San Francisco Bay Area and later at 38 Central in Medford. This is Wray's first restaurant venture. The pair imagined a modest but classy menu, which chef Chris Smallwood brought to fruition.
Smallwood studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif. In the past 11 years, he's held chef and sous-chef positions at The Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside, Calif.; the Jacksonville Inn, Redrock Italian Eatery; and the Rogue Regency Inn.
Smallwood says his fusion dishes are executed using classic European techniques with an emphasis on color and presentation.
"I want guests to eat the food with their eyes before they even touch it with their lips," says the chef.
The menu is simply five "small plates," three salads, seven entrees, two pizzas and three desserts. Prices range from $7 for bruschetta to $22 for grilled New York steak, but the average dish costs about $16.
Smallwood, who picks up a lot of his ingredients at local farmers markets, says the menu will change with the seasons. Spring-to-summer selections include a burger with spinach, Brie, caramelized onions, apples, clover honey and rosewater aioli; shrimp scampi in garlic beurre blanc over cappellini; and a grilled-vegetable sandwich with eggplant, seasonal veggies, goat cheese and tomato aioli on foccacia.
From the brief list, my husband, Sean, ordered pan-seared, fennel-crusted halibut ($18), and I chose the pan-seared chicken breast ($16), plus bruschetta to share.
On that particular Saturday evening, Roxy's casual but trendy dining area was empty. The space is dimly illuminated with blown-glass lamps hanging from high ceilings and tea candles on more than a dozen tables. A brick wall runs the length of the east side of the restaurant and was part of the former Roxy Theater, which occupied the building from the 1920s until it closed in 1947.
The bruchetta was a flavorful precursor to our meal. The crunchy, warm crostini were topped with a thin layer of housemade pesto and teemed with chilled tomatoes, olives, Parmesan and basil.
Other appetizers available include crabcakes; a cheese platter with Rogue Creamery varieties, candied walnuts and merlot-poached pear; calamari; and chicken satay.
The halibut was coated in a thin crust of freshly ground fennel seed. The subtle flavor of the fish was remedied by the bolder flavors of the coconut risotto underneath and the only slightly spicy mango salsa on top. Bok choy halves gave the otherwise tropical dish an Asian spin.
The waitress sold me on the chicken for its side dish: potatoes au gratin. The cheesy comfort food lived up to her praise, but I was more impressed by the chicken, served in a mushroom, garlic, pancetta and sun-dried tomato cream sauce. Sean also marveled at the tender but firm asparagus, "cooked just right."
For dessert, Roxy serves a lemon tart, mini chocolate upside-down cake and — as the special — mascarpone-stuffed, banana crepes. Sean and I shared the special in which candied bananas, mint leaves and an edible twist made Smallwood's attention to detail apparent.
More couples filtered in as the evening progressed. Many headed straight to the bar for one of mixologist Christian Warren's signature martinis. Others sat back to listen to guitarist Phil King play. Live jazz is offered at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Although business was slow during our visit, give it time. Roxy on Main looks poised to be a hot spot.
— Teresa Thomas