Then, as you enter, you may notice some quality content on the sound system. Amy Winehouse singing “Back to Black” accompanied our party through the front door. Several times during dinner there was comment on the tasteful music. There’s a small amount of artwork on the walls, and it, too, reveals the owners’ discernment.
That the Tatums are responsible for the subtle sophistication of Luma is apparent. And yet, at first glance, you could mistake this restaurant for a lunchroom.
The colors are warm, earthy but unassuming yellows, beiges and browns. There’s a service bar with 10 stools. The tables are bare Formica. Booths and banquettes are comfy but not luxurious.
But as we come to the culinary meaning of the word taste, luxury rears its welcome head. Not luxury in its sense of opulence or extravagance — that would be showing off — but luxury as giving great pleasure.
Here chef Frank Dodd perfectly renders the understated classiness of the place through his contemporary American food. For example, the Vegetarian Delight ($22, 4 stars) is exactly that, a long ceramic dish laden with a head of roasted garlic for squeezing out its fragrant paste; sweet and luscious figs with tops sliced open to reveal the seedy sweetness within, set on a base of caramelized onions; butternut squash cooked, but with enough integrity that it was shaved into squiggly little matchsticks and piled into a hayrick of nutty flavor; chili cornbread so good we fought over the last piece; saut?d broccoli florets and zucchini rounds; fuchsia-colored tangy onions fermented in brine colored with beet juice; whole cherry tomatoes, and braised Chinese greens dipped in a smoky oyster sauce. Incomparable.
The wine list is short, eclectic, global in scope and modestly priced. Among whites, a 2011 Sardinian Vermentino is $30, an icily crisp 2011 Moscofilero from Greece is $30, and a 2011 Torrontes from Mendoza, Argentina, is $24. Among reds, a stunning Dusted Valley “Boomtown” Merlot from Walla Walla, Wash., is $30, a rich and chewy 2011 “Bila-Haut” Grenache-Syrah-Carignan from Chapoutier’s Languedoc vineyards is $32, and a 2008 Crianza from Rioja, Spain, also is $30. Corkage is $15.
For many folks, stuffing is the best part of a Thanksgiving dinner. Get a foretaste with the Savory Bread Pudding ($5, 4 stars) side dish, made with forest mushrooms. You’ll want to stuff your turducken with this glorious filling. For a salad, don’t miss the Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese Crottin Salad ($11, 3 stars), comprised of a lovely and nutty chevre and baby arugula leaves, with roasted beets and grapefruit segments carved out of their membranes.
There’s a wood fired oven at Luma, and from its fiery hellmouth come heavenly pies, like the Wild Chanterelle Pizza ($18, 3? stars), a triumph of perfect thin crust topped with panna sauce. This sauce pre-dates the arrival of tomatoes in Italy and is made with cream, mushrooms, ham, bacon, butter, onions, garlic, herbs and spices. On top are chanterelles, roasted garlic and caramelized shallots.
Braised Pork Short Ribs ($25, 2? stars) was one of seven nightly specials, but nothing special. Two meaty braised ribs came with roasted broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes and a light gravy. Good but not great.
Things ended on a high note with another nightly special, the Rhubarb Crisp ($8, 3? stars), filled with bubbling hot rhubarb and strawberries under a crumbly browned crust with a scoop of vanilla on top. Delicious.
To sum up: Luma is quiet, unassuming and unexpectedly, gorgeously delicious.Jeff Cox - Press Democrat
On sunny Sundays, the tables out front are particularly coveted for relaxed morning meals, perhaps recapping the previous night’s music show at the Mystic Theatre. (Henry Rollins will be doing his thing at the Mystic on March 29; Mazzy Star and the Carolina Chocolate Drops are upcoming in April.)
At dinnertime, the restaurant, which opened last year, serves what owner Tim Tatum calls “eclectic American” or “global comfort food”–pizzas from a wood-burning oven, a pasta or two, lots of salads, truffled mac n’ cheese, and chicken under a brick, with specials that might range from Korean short ribs to swordfish with capers, dished up by chef Jen Solomon, who worked at AsiaSF and District wine bar in the city before coming to Petaluma.
Tim, a builder and developer who grew up in San Francisco, built the mixed-use building that houses LUMA, with a plan for a restaurant in mind. The ceilings are high, the bar (where locals gather to eat, drink, and kibbitz) front and center. “We’re still getting discovered by people,” says Tim, who opened the place with his wife Kate hoping to create a “neighborhood joint” for locals, especially those in the 2-block-by-8-block riverfront district, where some 200 residential units have recently joined the old industrial spaces, where much of Petaluma’s agricultural output was processed for shipping to San Francisco and beyond.
Without making a big deal of it, LUMA boosts many local products: coffee from the nearby Petaluma Roasting Company, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, ice cream from Three Twins, port from Sonoma Portworks, Saison beer made in two-barrel batches in a warehouse down the road by the Henhouse Brewing Company. (Given Petaluma’s history as the egg basket of Northern California, a beer company named after a chicken coop is no surprise.)
With a short but intriguing wine list in place, LUMA’s now working on building up a beer program to match. “The craft breweries in this neck of the woods are phenomenal. Everyone who works here is very into beer. Up the North Coast, the Lost Coast, the beer scene is really exploding.” says Tim. He hopes that, over time, the menu could adapt to accommodate these new beers, although already the Satan’s Kiss pizza, topped with roasted cherry peppers, Italian sausage, mozzarella, and ricotta seems custom-made for a tall draft. Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen - KQED
Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta ($5.75, 2 stars) put an end to my swooning. The disassembled sprouts were burnt on their edges and unpleasantly bitter. But a slow-building sharp pungency set the mouth aglow and rescued the dish from total failure.
The kitchen rebounded with a steaming bowl of Linguini with Chicken and Gorgonzola ($16, 3? stars), a tummy-warming dish of juicy, all-dark-meat chicken and a creamy (no tomatoes) gorgonzola sauce with flecks of that excellent house-made ricotta dotting the top.
There are a lot of folks of Italian descent in Argentina, which explains the Skirt Steak ($18, 3 stars) served over Tuscan cannellini beans with the Argentinian national sauce, chimichurri — typically a mix of olive oil, vinegar, parsley, oregano, garlic, cayenne and black pepper, which the Argentines pour liberally on their world-class beef.
Desserts were another matter. Bread Pudding ($7, 1? stars) was soggy and dense, infused with a port-caramel sauce that made no culinary sense. Apple Galette ($7, 2 stars) wasn’t that much better, with a dry, crumbly crust and a sparse filling of thin apple slices.
To sum up: A warm, cozy, really good restaurant announces Petaluma’s warehouse district as a place for folks to gather and gloat over their gastronomic good fortune.
Jeff Cox writes a weekly restaurant review column for the Sonoma Living section. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Jeff Cox - Press Democrat