By Ashley Bennett
Temecula is well known for its wineries and fancy-pants restaurants but most of the time, I prefer a casual dining experience. Fortunately, right on the border between Murrieta and Temecula is a restaurant that offers a relaxed atmosphere with an impressive high-quality menu. With a unique charisma and a homey-charm, the Sorrel Bistro stands out with its experimental world cuisine and amazing flavors.
Sorrel’s interior is decorated with a variety of items in an atmosphere of seemingly messy decor. In truth it’s not quite messy at all, nor cluttered, but comfortable. It’s that feeling of home where things aren’t quite perfectly organized but everything has its place; it makes sense. A shelf behind the host desk has unequally assorted books of all genres. There’s a small Bellagio-esque dome extending into the ceiling with tiny, colorful blown-glass spheres. The window behind the small live stage is artistically plastered with pages from a book. It all works together—it’s a vibe you can’t help but dig.
Each dish seems to have its own complexities inspired by owner Adrian Halmagean, who is one of the cooks after all, alongside the talents of Chef Douglas Sims. These talents come together to make dishes like the Charcuterie; the epitome of variety, and a great appetizer for a large group. Cured meats, pickled peppers, imported cheeses, a handful of dried cranberries and crunchy grilled artisan bread cover a family-style wooden platter. Eat each of them individually or stack them atop each other like the best damn adult Lunchable you can buy; it’s good in any combination. On the other hand, the Rustic Goat Toast is a powerful mix of multiple levels of flavor. Rich, creamy goat cheese is generously smoothed onto a few grilled pieces of toast, followed by a mountain of the juiciest grape tomatoes you’ve ever tasted and drizzled with an equally sweet balsamic reduction that just pulls it all together.
Meal-wise the Salmon is also sweet thanks to the addicting honey chili-lime glaze. The tenderly cooked fish is topped with a crunchy and unique flavor of ginger, lettuce and a few seeds that add a little spice. The amber-colored glaze drips off the tender slice of meat onto a variety of vegetables and pearl barely pilaf. Alternating each bite of either sweet salmon or filling veggies left me with nothing less than seriously satisfied. And it’s not just because salmon just happens to be one of my favorite dishes. It’s salmon like this that makes me like salmon at all.
But nothing matches Sorrel’s relaxing decor and environment like the Bistro Pasta. It’s the kitchen sink in terms of ingredients, featuring thick noodles (imported Bucatini Pasta to be exact) mixed with very salty, unsmoked bacon bits, the return of fresh grape tomatoes and one big-ass fried egg on top of it all. Mixing breakfast and dinner has never been more acceptable (or filling for that matter; this dish is a beast).
In this economy, a restaurant that’s stuck around for two-and-a-half years is definitely doing something right. Halmagean has put a lot of work into keeping the place running, which includes constantly retiring dishes and replacing them with newer ones as well as building the very tables you sit on, as well as the wooden bar you’ll find in the back. But most importantly, the food is amazing—a perfect solution to eating somewhere nice and without worrying about what to wear.
Sorrel Bistro, 41377 Margarita Rd., F-108, Temecula, (951) 296-3372; www.SorrelBistro.com. Tues, 11:30am-9pm. Wed-Sat, 11:30am-11:30pm. Sun, 11:30am-9pm. AE, D, MC, V.