Photos: Nicolette Skidmore

First Look: Canon East Sacramento

There’s a common idiom that says “you can’t go home again” because those who do risk coming across as regressing, boastful, or out-of-touch. Although this is considered common wisdom, there are some who are capable of busting the myth. And we think that Chef Brad Cecchi and his partner Clay Nutting are doing just that.

This duo of Sacramento natives is returning to open Canon, a restaurant that dictates a wisdom that is anything but common. In it, there’s no air of “I’m here to show Sacramento how to eat” or “I’m bringing back something revolutionary” whatsoever. Rather, their wisdom manifests itself in everything from the tangibles of the food and decor, to the intangibles of the menu concept and the thoughtful team of artisans who have brought the space to fruition.

Sure, the notion that a restaurant should feel like a chef’s home has become rather trite, but when you walk into Canon, you can’t help but notice how inviting the space feels. The pine-lined ceilings and the three sets of double doors that look out on the generous patio create the same seamless, sunlight-rich vibe that many homeowners try to achieve when adding on an outdoor living room. And when that sunlight hits the otherwise cool, muted-navy walls, it exudes a warmth that is only intensified by the wainscoting-framed sconces, frosted-glass brass chandeliers, marble-topped bar, and bustling open kitchen.

The simplicity of the design also makes room for the complexity of the menu, which boasts dishes and ingredient combinations that challenge traditional techniques. But don’t worry; no one’s going to foam or gelée your plate with puny, unrecognizable versions of your favorite meals in dry-ice form. They’re just not going to play the lowest common denominator either.

Take the humble burger, for example—which, in this case, is anything but. This double cheeseburger is made with a custom grind of meats (in collaboration with Eric Miller of East Sac’s V. Miller Meats) and served on a potato bun topped with just-edgy-enough Raclette cheese, charred onions, shredded iceberg, an Alabama-style white BBQ sauce, and everything-bagel spice. Whew!

Scout tip: while the cheeseburger is on the all-day bar menu, you won’t see it on the brunch or dinner menus. But…it’s still available; you just have to ask! Secret menu? Yes, please!

Another example of pushing boundaries comes in the form of the ribs. Among the interplay of tamarind, espresso, and black pepper, Chile Picante Corn Nuts make an appearance as a crust. Skeptical? “They’re on there with intention. They play. Trust me,” says Cecchi, smiling. The common gas-station find coupled with the sophistication of flavors and masterful fall-off-the-bone technique exemplifies the playful bending of rules that is sure to make Canon a hit.

Much like the Corn Nuts-crusted ribs, the mole tater tots put a fresh spin on a comfort-food standby. Rather than ketchup, take your tots to new heights with the complex chorus of spices in mole, lime-pickled onions, pepitas, cilantro, and Cotija cheese.

A trip around the world on a plate, the octopus dish brings together Spanish octopus, German butterball potatoes, and Harissa mayo, along with salsa verde and pickled apricots. While charred octopus might overwhelm elsewhere, here, the confluence of flavors and unique preparation creates a truly balanced bite. The octopus itself is not massaged (Jiro Dreams of Sushi, anyone?), but it is practically pickled. After being boiled in a brine with chiles and oranges for one hour, it’s then cooled in the brine, marinated in sherry vinegar, grilled, and charred. It’s this dance of texture, comfort, and flavor that is emblematic of Canon’s menu and mission.

The diverse staff of front-of-the-house veterans will also play host to our oohs and aahs with grace, especially if they follow through on a promise of Cecchi: “Servers are key because a core concept is that the food is designed to be shared. They’re creating a guest experience.” Given the menu labels of “Everything is designed to be shared” and “Heartier plates. Still Shareable,” shareability is an obvious value—perfect for those who are indecisive and love ordering dishes to sample. But if sharing makes you nervous because of lifestyle or health reasons, the menu’s legend of V for Vegetarian, VG for Vegan, and GF for Gluten-Free will help you navigate your experience and keep you in the sharing game—especially because most of the dishes fall under at least one of these categories.

While the team behind Canon hopes to endear itself to Sacramentans with what it is, perhaps what’s most refreshing about Canon is what it isn’t. Though there’s certainly nothing wrong with being a restaurant that embraces the farm-to-fork ethos, Canon seems to emerge in a post-labeling debut (i.e. you won’t see anyone waving a farm-to-fork flag or calling out each and every farm that’s represented on the menu). Of course, the kitchen uses locally and responsibly-sourced ingredients, but that commitment goes unsaid because they believe the diner should be able to assume just that. Likewise, although most everything is made in-house, they don’t state it everywhere on the menu. Instead, there’s an understood trust that care and intention are inherent.

In that spirit of trust, we trust that Canon will join the canon (sorry, I had to do it) of beloved restaurants here—at home—in Sacramento.