The first thing we noticed when we entered Rubix--in the remodeled former Fourth Street home of Cafe des Croissants--was that it smelled of dishwater. Where once was a round, chipper woman hawking buttery crescents stuffed with blueberries, roast beef or almond paste, is now a dish pit. Many restaurants have open kitchens where chefs grandly slice and sauté in full view of the customers; Rubix has dishwashers slinging soapy water and frying pans.
Nonetheless, the service was friendly and the room attractive, and we ordered several plates to share at lunch from the long menu, the first page of which is taken over by "Starter's & Appetizers" and "Soup & Salads," and the rear of which is covered with "Entrée's" and "Pasta's." (I tried to overlook the apostrophic misuse, but it rankled the back of my mind.) The crab cakes ($7.95) were crusted with a thick coating of coarse cornmeal, and the meat inside was a little stringy for my taste, but extremely fresh. The spicy aioli was appealing, and the very lemony component of the dish was a note that continued throughout the meal.
Rubix's caesar salad ($5.95) is not something I would ever order again. Overly dressed yet bland and sprinkled with what appeared to be croutons out of a box, no more space need be wasted on this salad.
Our wines were infinitely more appealing. A glass of the Pepperwood Grove Viognier was everything one looks for in a Viognier, the perfect balance of fruity apricot and creamy goodness, a great match to the crab cake and a dangerously easy-drinkin' white. The Rueda Alvarinho (also known as "Albariño") was exactly what we wanted; its bright grapefruit notes contrasted nicely with the creamy, crunchy crab cake, and I thanked the server for his well-informed recommendation. Both wines were between $6 and $7 a glass.
A pasta course followed. The fusilli ($11.95), featuring a creamy sun-dried tomato pesto, grilled asparagus, roasted garlic and toasted pine nuts, was served on a nice warm plate (our share plates were warm too, thank you very much). The flavors worked well together, despite the marked lemoniness of it, but I found the dish to be overly soft; I like my pasta cooked a little al dente.
Dessert was an ice cream sandwich ($5.95) made from a chocolate chip cookie on top and a peanut butter cookie on the bottom, filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream. Everything tasted store-bought (the whipped cream certainly was), but c'mon, who can resist chocolate-chip cookies and vanilla ice cream all smushed in one bowl?
Rubix bills itself as an "affordable restaurant," yet we were disappointed to have spent $50 on lunch for not very much food. The restaurant seems to be in competition with the downtown spot Flavor (the menu was certainly styled the same, including typos), but I found the whole experience to be rather Flavor-less.
Rubix Restaurant, 1226 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Lunch and dinner during the week; breakfast and dinner on weekends. 707.569.8222.