Ignore the fact that it’s surrounded by the wildly famous restaurants of Napa Valley. Ignore that it shares a name with a Linux operating system. (Ubuntu is the word for an African humanist philosophy, so it’s not actually named after the operating system.) If the fact that it’s a combined yoga studio and restaurant bugs you, ignore it. (Although, if you care, you can take in a yoga class before your meal, and some serious yogis seem to think Ubuntu runs a good studio.) Ignore everything else, and just focus on the fact that the food is stupendously, wildly, earth-shakingly good.
It may be vegetarian, but it’s not hippie-drippy, stereotypically vegetarian, says the wary Duane. “Despite the yoga and the vaguely New Age–y name, the menu offers truly first-rate California French-Italian that simply doesn’t have any animal flesh. It’s a curious effect, because nothing else about the cooking calls out vegetarian. Literally nothing. No tofu, no portobellos, not even any tabbouleh. In fact, everything about the food demonstrates a chef absolutely committed to his craft, paying very close attention to the way that that craft is being practiced, and keeping pace with the best in the game.”
There are amazing sea-salt-and-lavender-flavored Marconi almonds to munch on while you peruse the menu. There are flavorful, hearty sunchokes with romesco sauce. There are perfectly sweet beets and Asian pears, with fresh greens and whipped Point Reyes blue cheese. There is the much-beloved cauliflower in a cast iron pot—a hearty cauliflower mélange, held together in custard, and smelling beautifully of curry. There are roast root vegetables with squash purée and farro—the flavor is a complex layering of vegetables. The other standard: potatoes with fennel.
The cooks are masters of the Brussels sprout, too. Various preparations of this vegetable—like roasted Brussels sprouts over grits, with mustard—have been winning over hounds.
Salsa verde is fantastic. Salads are light and delicious. Stuffed bok choy in French pumpkin soup, with lemongrass and basil, is “amazing. Lightly spiced, delicate, truly outstanding in every way,” says hi standards. And pizza with wild nettle and garden kale and an egg on top is the best pizza she has ever had in a restaurant, ever. “We inhaled it!”
Great beverages, too: There are perfectly pulled shots of Blue Bottle coffee, and Racer 5 IPA on the menu, says Doodleboomer.
We have heard only three complaints. First, some folks find the servers are a little inexperienced, though definitely friendly. Second, rightstar thinks it’s terrible that they serve butter with the bread. “Not what you would expect at a place that specializes in healthy vegetable dishes,” he says. And lintygmom walked out of the restaurant before eating anything because of the prices. “I don’t love vegetables enough to spend $9 for cauliflower or $14 for a small, not-the-best vegetarian pizza. Not for lunch.” (Remember that these prices are for tapas-size dishes—you’ll need two or three such dishes to make a meal.) rfneid, though, notes that he and his wife had dinner at Ubuntu and left stuffed, for $68. “Quite reasonable for the quality of the food, which was superb.”
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio [Napa Valley]
1140 Main Street, Napa