To sample unique cuisine, opt for small plates – and a drink

To sample unique cuisine, opt for small plates – and a drink

To sample unique cuisine, opt for small plates – and a drink
Nate Bouse, general manager and co-owner of Residual Sugar displays his pork sliders. (Richard Eber photo)

Richard Eber, Taste and TellCONCORD, CA (May 24, 2023) — Local chefs like to be creative in putting out their signature dishes in smaller amounts.

Rather than providing a full meal, they are more a preview of coming attractions. These tapas are often intended to accompany alcoholic beverages.

Enter the premises of Residual Sugar wine bar, which offers an enticing scent for arriving guests. This unique business at Concord’s Veranda is ideally suited for those seeking a break or in transit to several nearby upscale restaurants.

Instead of offering the customary full menu, Residual Sugar serves small plates to accompany their wide selection of premium wines and draft beers. General manager and co-owner Nate Bouse pairs sliders, cheese platters and other delicacies with adult beverages.

Residual Sugar’s small plates are an ideal niche for shoppers. You can also enjoy the offerings in a picturesque patio setting.

As a registered wine sommelier, Bouse is more than qualified to assist in selecting wine pairings to match his customers’ tastes. He has come a long way since graduating from Clayton Valley High School, having entered the restaurant trade at age 14 working at Togo’s sandwich shop.


The small plate concept can be found throughout nearby communities, especially in restaurants that have bars connected to them. One such place is Molli Restaurant & Lounge in Concord, Located in the complex that houses the Brenden Theater, the same ownership previously operated the Agave Grill and Latino nightclub. The current, scaled-down restaurant is one of the many places to dine in the so-called “gourmet ghetto” surrounding Todos Santos Square.

As part of the culinary experience, Molli offers a wide selection of small plates geared toward those enjoying a margarita or one of their other tropical concoctions. Chef Peter Hernandez deftly executes the unique California-Latin fusion.

On a recent visit, I tried the Chicharrones de Pato (duck breast cracklings with pickled onion) and the Barriarron de Patio (the equivalent of a Mexican-style egg roll. Both dishes were delicious. I look forward to returning to Molli to experience their full menu.

Pleasant Hill options

Small plates are also very much in evidence at renowned Wence’s Restaurant on Oak Park Boulevard in Pleasant Hill. A smaller portion of their truffle mac and cheese is always a good choice while waiting for table service over the weekend.

As Wence’s specializes in fresh seafood, the scallops dipped in a mango-habanero sauce are an excellent choice for an appetizer. Also noteworthy are the Monterey calamari and Prince Edward Island mussels served in a rich peppery broth.

Kobe Japan restaurant can be found next door to Wence’s. Each time I’ve entered what is considered one of the best Japanese eateries in the area, I have gazed in wonderment at the chalkboard displaying daily specials offered in the bar between 4 and 6 p.m. each day. I wasn’t disappointed when I tried some prior to ordering my customary bento box.

Sipping a Sapporo draft beer while my friend enjoyed a virgin daiquiri, we eagerly consumed the spicy braised beef lettuce wrap. We followed it with stir-fried garlic edamame and Hamachi Kama (grilled yellowtail collar). At this point, we had to quit ordering small plates for fear of losing our appetites.

A similar predicament is especially true at Jack’s in Pleasant Hill. Their small plate of lamb meatballs served in a marinara sauce is difficult to resist. Along with an order of made from scratch onion rings, this can comprise a meal in itself.

At all of these restaurants, except for Residual Sugar, it’s a major advantage to order from Happy Hours menus at reduced prices. This allows folks to enjoy cuisine they might not always be able to afford. Sounds like a win-win situation for consumers on a quest to further their gourmet experiences.

Rich Eber is a local journalist and long time resident of Concord. Contact him at ­

Rich Eber
Rich Eber

Rich Eber is a local journalist and long time resident of Concord.  His diverse topics covered go from politics to gourmet food.  He can be reached at