SONOITA — Greg LaPrad’s reputation preceded him months before he opened his much-anticipated restaurant here.
So it was no surprise when we walked into Overland Trout last Friday — less than a week after the restaurant officially opened — that the dining room was half-full well after the lunch rush.
There were wine touring folks at one table, sipping glasses of red vino and recounting their wine country adventures. A foursome of retirees compared notes over fat burgers and a salad that covered a dinner plate. Two ladies lunched on the patio, looking out onto an endless landscape of breeze-blown grasslands.
We soon discovered that the hype and excitement were warranted. There’s some tasty creativity happening in LaPrad’s open kitchen, right around the corner from where we were seated.
We had decided we were going to give ourselves a three-course-dinner-worthy experience at lunch, starting with the house special trout platter appetizer ($16). It casts the fish three ways — smoked and whipped into a cloud with speckles of roe atop two thin cucumber slices; prepared as a rich rillette (think paté) atop rustic crostini; and added inconspicuously to deviled eggs flecked with smoky bacon crumbs. The flavor of the fish is subtle, yet pronounced, adding shades of complexity to the deviled eggs and a smoky richness to the rillette. The mousse was an ethereal little bite punctuated with the generous canopy of fish eggs.
The menu changes nearly daily, our server told us at lunch. Each day, LaPrad will feature a daily hot lunch, which last Friday was slow-roasted pork served over a bed of whipped potatoes with a jicama, peanut and apple compote. Also on the menu that day was an open-faced sandwich called the oyster loaf ($15) — fat, juicy oysters tossed with a garlicky light cream sauce with fresh spinach. It was like eating a decadent, rich oyster soup on bread.
The bacon burger ($12) advertises bacon inside and outside the burger. We couldn’t detect it inside the beef, but that bacon on top was a bit of pig candy goodness, lightly glazed with a sugary topping and cooked crisp. You had smoky, salty and sweet all in one heavenly bite, and all of it was complemented by a savory roasted garlic and tomato aioli.
The only place where bacon didn’t have a starring role on the lunch menu was the desserts, which included a decadent flourless chocolate cake ($8) with a crispy, sugary almost creme-brulé-style glaze on top that yielded to a rich, dark center. It came with a subtle chocolate chile ice cream that had a quiet bite as the cold treat hit the back of your throat.
This is a white-tablecloth restaurant, but don’t let that intimidate you. Service here was relaxed and mostly informed, and no one turned up his or her nose at diners dressed in jeans and golf-course casual.