Am I being to harsh? Perhaps. I almost never write negative reviews but given all the positive press this place receives (not just on CH but in Unterman, Zagat, Michelin, etc) I'm going do my worst. Without question, this was the worst meal I had during my weekend in Napa, the worst meal I had this year, and the worst meal I've had at the $100 price point since my "infamous" visit to Pisces.
Yet it started so well. The tomato soup in puff pastry deserves all the praise it gets. Magnificent, flaky pastry. Piping hot, creamy soup. I was pleased that the soup didn't have a tinny flavor. I would consider returning, just to order this, but it was all downhill from there.
Pork belly with foie gras and lentil ragout. OK, so it contained pork belly and foie gras, so of course I liked it. But I ONLY liked it. I just didn't *get* what the lentils were there for. They didn't contrast with the foie's flavor, they didn't contribute to it, they were just there. I guess I prefer hot foie with something that will contribute to the the foie - a fruit compote to bring out the fruitiness, a salad of bitter greens to contrast the richness and cleanse the palate (cold foie is a different story). All in all, it was the least impressive preparation of foie I've had, and I eat a lot of foie.
Salad of escarole, bacon and eggs. They used WAY too much vinegar and it killed all of the lovely flavors. All I could taste was vinegar. There was absolutely no balance. I love bacon and egg salads but this was just poorly executed.
Now we get into the dorm food realm...
Coq au Vin. Huh? This is their signature dish? Overcooked chicken was tasteless and rubbery. They used those awful white cap mushrooms that have absolutely no flavor in huge chunks. The bacon was too salty. The broth was rich, but one dimensional and boring. Look, I adore stews, order them all the time, and this really did strike me as something I'd get at a high end buffet or a cafeteria in France. I couldn't finish it because I was so bored.
Beef stew. I repeat, huh? The beef was undercooked and tough. The peas and carrots lacked a deep vegetable flavor and I couldn't help but wonder where they're sourcing the ingredients. The mashed potatoes were good, that's one dish it's hard to screw up. But the beef was a travesty. Again, I love braised beef, order it out and cook it at home all the time, and this was just plain amateurish execution. Inexcusable at a restaurant of this calibre.
At this point I was stuffed, bored and depressed. Got the lemon sorbet as a light, refreshing dessert. It had big hunks of ice in it. I wasn't surprised.
I guess they have a few possible excuses: the Michelin guide overwhelmed them and they were swamped, maybe they just lost a key chef, maybe the guy doing the braising was drunk, I dunno. Whatever. A Friday night after prime time (restaurant was half full) during press? A restaurant should be on its a-game. Bottom line: the menu showed so little promise and such shoddy execution overall that I would not return except for a bowl of that lovely tomato soup.
Total bill came to $125. I was a grumpy man.
I'm very lucky to eat great food most days. Sometimes I need to eat cheap so it's merely passable, but I enjoy a lot of deliciousness in my life. So when I hit such a solid clunker, such a dreadful mess at such a high price point, it pisses me of. The Bay Area is home to so many incredible restaurants, many of which struggle, that it irritates me to see such hack work get such high praise and huge crowds.