June 9, 2015 – Soif Restaurant and Wine Bar in downtown Santa Cruz is relaunching with a new open-plan kitchen and dining room, new menu items and a large new bar area.
Following an expansion and remodel that began in early May, Soif is holding soft opening dinners for family and friends and, if all goes well, is expected to reopen to the public within the next few days. A free Reopening Celebration is set for July 8 from 4-6pm and everyone is invited.
The wide-open kitchen is a focal point as you enter the restaurant, highlighting angular trapezoid beams above.
“Kitchen staff are happier when they can see people out there in the dining room enjoying the food they prepared,” said owner Patrice Boyle, who worked on the new design with architect Mark Primack.
“I think customers are more satisfied, too, when they can see the food being prepared. I like the energy to emanate from the kitchen,” she added.
The former bottle shop has been converted into a long bar area with a gleaming copper counter that overlooks the dining room. The retail area has been moved into a larger space next door, where there is more room to display bottles and hold events.
Chef Mark Denham, who honed his skills in some of the Bay Area’s finest restaurants like Chez Panisse, Manresa and Postrio, has created new menu items that take advantage of the new kitchen “toys” including a gas grill, plancha, and deep-fryer.
“The kitchen works great. The grill is a lot of fun for getting that smoky and rich quality with charred vegetables like asparagus or broccoli de cicco,” he said.
Denham is also taking advantage of the extra kitchen space to buy and butcher whole lambs from Don Watson’s Wooly Weeders flock in the Napa Valley.
“The butchery is laborious, but it allows us to serve cuts that would otherwise be unaffordable,” he said. “It also helps re-introduce the staff and customers to whole animal cookery, so they know there’s more to lamb than just the rack.”
Using a whole lamb over the course of one week, Denham plans to offer mixed grill for a few nights, followed by roast leg of lamb for a couple of meals and then braised lamb shoulder. All the trimmings—along with heart, liver and fat—go into his Moorish-style lamb meatball appetizer. Bones are used for stock and reduced for sauces.
It’s part of Soif’s commitment to sustainability, which includes buying most produce from local farms.
Other new dishes on the seasonal menu include: polenta frites with smoked blue cheese aioli; fava bean fritters with mint, cilantro, scallion and tahini; and seared Atlantic scallops with sweet pea risotto, nettles, preserved Meyer lemon and dill. View partial menu below.
In the new bar area, wine director John Locke and retail manager Alyssa Twelker are flaunting their creativity with a quartet of fruity, yet sophisticated, wine cocktails. There’s the Chimera made with fresh muddled pluots and aromatized aperitif wine, the refreshing ginger and lime based Tia Louise, and an Asian-style Spanish Rebujito.
“It’s got Spanish fino with kieffir lime, rangpur lime, yuzu juice, cucumber and a splash of soda,” said Locke. “It’s just filled with colorful fruit.”
Locke’s own Birichino wine is one of the labels on offer in the newly expanded local wine section of the retail shop.
“The special focus is on Santa Cruz County and wineries that buy grapes from the Santa Cruz Mountains,” said Boyle. “We’re trying to highlight tiny craft wineries and younger winemakers who are bootstapping. People like John Locke, Ian Brand and Nicole Walsh, who are searching out the most interesting grapes around.”
The wine shop has already started collaborating with the Santa Cruz information kiosk down the street, by providing detailed recommendations to tourists who want to visit local wineries. A series of weekly wine tasting events in the shop will be rolled out soon.
Soif will be open seven days a week for dinner only, check their Facebook page for precise opening date.