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Getting off to a great start

  • Apricot Bread Pudding served at The Pullman Kitchen on Fifth Street in Santa Rosa, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Given the backgrounds of the guys who do the cooking at Santa Rosa's new hot spot, The Pullman Kitchen, it's hard to predict just what kind of cuisine might be delivered.

Executive Chef and owner Darren McRonald's resume, for instance, lists stints at Le Cirque in New York; Chez Panisse in Berkeley; Tinhorn in Millbrook, New York; Bellavitae in Greenwich Village (named one of the best new restaurants in the city by The New York Times in 2005), and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena.

Chef John Trunk worked with McRonald at Tinhorn and Bellavitae, was a private chef in the Hamptons, and took over as executive chef at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen when McRonald turned his attention to Cindy's Wood Fired Grill, also in St. Helena.

In the culinary world, this is some heavy hitting. Would their creations in Santa Rosa be wildly inventive? Outlandishly fancy? Retro or futuristic? None of the above, as it turns out. Their menu is simple and familiar, but perfectly executed, the way you always dreamed food could be.

For example, take the Fried Green Tomatoes ($12 ★★★★). Unripe tomatoes aren't as sweet as ripe ones and have a little more acid tang. Three slices are breaded and perfectly fried so they are crusty-crunchy as well as tangy. This makes them a fine partner for smooth, mild avocado. In case the tomatoes don't have enough acid snap, they and the avocado sit on a bed of piquant tartar sauce. If it still isn't sharp enough for you, a lemon wedge is provided. To drive home the point of this dish, leaves of very small, flat-bladed upland cress, similar in flavor to spicy watercress, have been fluttered on top. Fried green tomatoes is about as down-home a dish as there is, but McRonald and Trunk's massive know-how turn it into something very special.

Though seemingly simple, their food is loaded with pleasant surprises. When the meal begins, there's a basket of warm, slack-dough Italian bread and olive oil to snack on. The oil is fresh, pungent, and fruity, unlike much of the tired oil usually served with opening bread.

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