You probably already know about Lodi’s great wine scene, but what about its food scene? I decided get a glimpse into Lodi’s food scene by checking out Fenix, downtown Lodi’s newest restaurant. I arrived at the restaurant a half-hour before dinner service began. I decided to wait in the well-stocked bar, which has an enticing selection of libations and brews (nothing quite like a cold beer to refresh the palate after a long day ofwine tasting).
As I sat at the bar, I found myself surveying the restaurant’s space. It’s configured in a long rectangular, rather than square shape, with lots of natural light streaming through its large windows. The natural light and the high ceiling give the space a warm inviting feel. Flanking the left side of the bar is a chef’s style table with a view into the kitchen.
Occupying the wall adjacent to the other side of the bar is an intriguing hand painted mural. I found myself pondering its meaning and how it was connected to the theme of the restaurant.
In addition to the ample seating inside, there is outside seating available on the restaurant’s patio. As I enjoyed the music, which included elements of jazz, new world and reggae music, playing over the sound system, it was easy for me to imagine myself savoring an al fresco meal with a cool breeze abating the heat of a hot Lodi summer day.
The Story Behind the Name Fenix
When I was seated for dinner, I asked my server Jerry, “What’s behind the name Fenix?” He responded with the cliff notes version Owner/Executive Chef Richard Hyman’s story. The inspiration for the name, which is the phonetic spelling of “phoenix”, is the mythical bird that was reborn from the ashes of its predecessor.
I wanted to know more. What I discovered is that for Hyman, the legend of the phoenix has meaning beyond being a metaphor for overcoming obstacles. That’s because he survived a propane oven explosion at another restaurant which literally engulfed him in flames, melting his glasses and causing severe burns to his face, arms and back.
After a long painful recovery, Fenix was conceived and born.
And what is Fenix? It’s a “farm-to-fork” restaurant serving contemporary American food.
Fenix’s Creative Menu
As I perused the eclectic menu, which included dishes with roasted marrow, lardons, gribenes, and duck fat, my first thought was that the menu is one you’d expect to see in San Francisco rather than Lodi.
My wife and I shared the Grilled Octopus, Nicoise Haricot Vert, Olives, Egg, Lardon and Frisse. I love grilled octopus, but experience tells me it is a real hit or miss proposition. We utterly loved the Fenix version!
The octopus, which sat atop the vegetables, was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of char, while maintaining a tender texture. Little, did I know that the playful, imaginative, interplay of textures and layered flavors we found in our starter would manifest itself throughout our meal!
For our entrees, I ordered the Pan Roasted Maine Day Boat Scallops, Short Ribs, Sunchoke, Barolo demi-glace, which is their version of Surf ‘n’ Turf. I looked over the wine list that was curated by Hyman, and chose a glass of local wine from Visit Lodi!’s 2016 Winery of the Year, Fields Family Wines; the 2015 Fields Family Grenache Blanc.
My dish was awesome! It was beautifully plated. The scallops were perfectly succulent. The short ribs were melt in your mouth tender. And the sunchokes had just the right amount of crunch. The Barolo demi-glace, which included a bit of soy sauce, simultaneously added just the right amount of seasoning to the scallops while seamlessly bridging the sweetness of the scallops and meaty flavor of the short ribs.
The wine, which is dry and refreshing with a silky texture, has an alluring white peach, tropical fruit, yellow melon character paired, exceptionally well with the scallops. And it, surprisingly, even found peaceful coexistence with the short ribs!
My wife couldn’t resist the temptation of the Sturgeon, Roasted Cipolline, Morels, Artichoke, Barigoule, Crisp Leeks.
The sturgeon, which was the only farmed fish on the menu, but sourced from a sustainable source according to our server, had a firm meaty, but tender texture. Again, the employment of classic techniques in a creative way yielded an absolutely delicious dish that was harmonious in terms of textures, tastes, and layers of flavors.
All in all, it was a very memorable dining experience that is unlike any other in Lodi. Indeed, Fenix has risen!
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