Barndiva -- A Quirkily Casual Restaurant
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
If I lived in Healdsburg the Gallery Bar at Barndiva would be one of my regular haunts. The wall of frames of cigarette card collections from the first half of the 20th century, casual chairs, silent movie reels, and quirky saying above the fireplace "Ceci n'est pas une cheminée” (with apologies to René Magritte) create a laid back, but thought-provoking, atmosphere.
There is a lot that is quirky about the fare at Barndiva as well: Its massive wine list that belies its informal circumstances. Its more than fair selection of California gin. Its Sunday-only fried chicken for pickup.
The short and concise menu is quirky in all the right ways. It is as though each item has been chosen and then tuned in a multi-session labor of love to make it the best expression in town. So, in the appetizer section, the humble croquette is elevated to a chèvre croquette that just squeezes into the average gob hole and delivers streams of tart crumbly flavors that make you immediately check how many are left on the plate. Pommes Frites are golden corrugated slices of Kennebec potatoes with a side of aioli contrived to make you keep dipping for more with better metronomic cadence than a crack addict getting his fix. The Quail Egg BLT, a toasted brioche slavered with tomato butter holding the egg and topped with bacon and chervil is thoughtfully small enough to be consumable in one bite. Good, since all the yolks were delightfully soft on the plate that we got. In a classy touch the Gallery Burger is made from filet mignon (ground in house) and topped with jack cheese, caramelized onion, bacon, garlic, and aioli. At this hybrid gallery come restaurant it will take the smart insiders to get it considered for best burger in town, but that it may be.
For mains I had the pan-seared petrale sole served on a base of fregula sarda with sun dried tomatoes replacing the usual dried currants and cucumber and avocado relish on the side. The fillet of sole flaked submissively to the fork and seemed to merge with the tomato and pasta in the mouth. I preferred more seasoning, but salt is a felony rather than a condiment in California.
For beverage, try a Botanica Spiritvs from locally-based (Richmond) Falcon Spirits Distillery with the Fever Tree tonic on the side for an earthy yet elegant gin expression.
At Barndiva gallery it is the decor that is in-your-face. The food, and its ingenuity and execution are in stealth mode. But they are there.
Update: This was a media event.