Blue Ridge Kitchen combines fine dining with comfort

As the server poured silky gazpacho over a chunk of lobster in the bowl before me, I suddenly realized how much I’ve been missing fine dining. After so many months of take-out meals or eating on casual patios, it was so nice to enjoy the upscale service offered at the new Blue Ridge Kitchen at the Barlow in Sebastopol.

After my first spoonful of the refreshing soup, I knew chef Matt D’Ambrosi is putting a lot of thought into his Cal-Creole-Cajun recipes. The chilled gazpacho is marvelous on its own, in a sweet-tart, peach-colored puree of melon and tomato dotted with radish, a round of chopped avocado and shiny drops of basil oil ($9). With the generous chunk of seafood (add $7) and the elegant tableside presentation, it’s luxurious.

All the details line up so well at this classy spot, which took over the former Zazu Farm + Restaurant space that was vacated in 2018. For now, we eat on the patio, a pretty area set with wood tables and European-style bistro chairs, all shaded by sailcloth and flanked by trees, herb gardens and flowers. I’m looking forward to when we can eat inside, too, and admire the centerpiece cocktail bar and the open kitchen.

D’Ambrosi was known for his creative cooking at Healdsburg’s Spoonbar, Harmon Guest House and Pizzando. Here, he comes up with inventive dishes like carrot cake pancakes. The brunch specialty makes a delicious statement; it’s a sweet but not sugary hybrid of carrot and apple soufflé cakes on a pond of cream cheese-poppy seed glaze and topped with golden raisins, candied pecans and smoked maple syrup ($18).

Overall, though, there’s nothing weird on this expansive, all-day menu. You can get something as simple as a perfect smash burger with secret sauce ($9.50) or as indulgent as a nicely charred New York steak served in a metal pan with grilled asparagus, sauce béarnaise, crispy ham fingerling potatoes, cowboy steak sauce and roasted tomato ($39). The constant theme is the kitchen’s skill, making this my new favorite place to dine.

You can eat affordably, filling up on a first-rate rigatoni sugo dressed with braised pork cheek, San Marzano tomatoes, basil, Parmesan and breadcrumbs ($22). Or you can splurge, with a monster-size Tomahawk steak that feeds several people ($95), embellished with a whole lobster for a surf and turf ($58).

Some items are classics, such as the ahi tartare on a round bed of smashed avocado with cucumber, spicy aioli and big, puffy rice chips that melt in the mouth ($18). Yet an Asian pear coulis adds modern brightness to the dish, crispy quinoa adds crunch and a cute bouquet of daikon sprouts peeking out of the tartare’s middle adds peppery bite.

Another classic, the “raw platter” (daily market price), brings two tiers of iced seafood: a whole Maine lobster tail, sumac-spiced jumbo prawns, ceviche, oysters, horseradish cocktail sauce, smoky apple mignonette and a scoop of refreshing Meyer lemon hibiscus granita. Arranged with sea greens, edible flowers and lemon

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A Burmese Kitchen That Combines Fidelity and Freedom

Rangoon, a Burmese restaurant that opened in Brooklyn this year just in time for the pandemic, is not precisely the place that its owners, Myo Moe and Daniel Bendjy, envisioned. Still, you should go.

Ms. Moe, the chef, would build her plates with more contrast and complexity if the world weren’t upside down. The rice noodles she serves in a spicy, salty, dark sauce of fermented black beans should be fatter, she says, but supply disruptions have forced her to settle for a narrower gauge. Try them anyway, along with the tea-leaf salad, even though the lotus root it should contain isn’t always available.

Takeout and delivery have kept Rangoon afloat since March, when the restaurant had to close its dining room while it was still in soft-opening mode. A number of dishes have been stripped down, made simpler and sturdier so they can be packed in disposable containers. Order them nevertheless.

For those whose mind wanders during Zoom meetings to thoughts of getting lost in the scent of lemongrass rising from the steam on a bowl of mohinga, the city can be a frustrating place, seemingly incapable of sustaining more than one or two Burmese restaurants at a time. The scarcity of the cuisine alone should make Rangoon a compelling destination, but it would be an exciting one even if tea-leaf salad were as common here as Jamaican beef patties.

Ms. Moe, who grew up in Myanmar, interprets the country’s cuisine with a blend of fidelity and freedom that seems new to the city. She doesn’t turn the knobs all the way up on fermented flavors, chile heat, pork fat and other intensifiers in an effort to to be heard over New York’s background noise, the way some chefs do. Instead she emphasizes the subtlety and freshness that Burmese cooks prize. Her ingredients demand attention — the rich, marbled pork shoulder she stews with tamarind pulp is one of the nicest pieces of meat I’ve had in a restaurant this year — and her seasonings repay it.

Ms. Moe and Mr. Bendjy, working with a Brooklyn architecture firm called Outpost, spent months transforming the dark shell of a defunct bodega into a minimalist white dining room. Early in the evening, pink light sifts in through a facade of hinged white metal panels perforated with a design taken from Victorian wallpaper. On the walls are old tinted photographs of Ms. Moe’s family in Myanmar, taken long before she and her parents emigrated from Yangon in 1992. Tables and counters are notched into corners and nooks of the compact space.

You won’t sit there. Even after Sept. 30, when they will be allowed to open their dining room again, Ms. Moe and Mr. Bendjy are going to keep seating everybody who comes to Rangoon in the back garden or out front, where a small street-dining platform built under the arching canopy of trees on a wide, stately block of Prospect Heights tries gamely to mirror the design of the interior: It’s

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