A couple weeks ago friends from Tokyo and New York joined me to pop the corks on some special bottles of Bordeaux - 1990 Lynch Bages and 1990 La Conseillante followed by 1983 Ch. Rieussec. This called for a serious red meat dinner and I suggested Coles in downtown Napa, a place Id been wanting to try.
While we waited near the entrance to be seated, a man in a chefs coat emerging from the back saw us and asked to help. As he checked our reservation on the screen, my thought was that this must be Greg Cole, owner/chef---what other chef would work the front of the house too? Indeed he was, as I introduced him to the out-of-town visitors. We were happy to be seated at a round table, perfect for encouraging dinner conversation.
Greg admired our bottles and explained the restaurants corkage policy. Its $15 per bottle and will be waived one-for-one for each bottle purchased from the wine list. This is carefully spelled out on the wine list and menu. This is fair as the glassware is Spiegelau crystal and decanting service is provided. We started off with a bottle of biscuity and honeyed 1993 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée bubbly from the list for an initial round of toasts.
The steaks are served bare with family-style sides and sauces ordered separately. Our group of six ordered two apps/salads, and was surprised when our server appeared with additional plates of the classic wedge of iceberg lettuce and blue cheese dressing compliments of the house so that everyone would have something to start. The blue cheese dressing had a great tang (buttermilk?) that made it especially vivid and refreshing with the ultra-crisp iceberg. The giant grilled Mexican prawns in the cocktail had nice charry flavors yet stayed sweet and juicy --- we also liked the spicy relish in the bottom of the cocktail glass.
The steer of choice here is certified Angus prime, dry-aged 21 days from Chicago. Yukari and I split a 20-ounce Porterhouse, striking a compromise between my black and blue and her medium-rare preference to order rare. This worked out just fine as we divvied up the wider and thinner parts of each side for her and the thicker ones for me, and was also the perfect serving size for two women to share. Once again I was convinced that Porterhouse is the ideal cut of beef, even though I only seem to have one every four or five years. Nicely charred outside, red inside, juicy, complex, flavorful and with that wonderful aged texture. The béarnaise was great as well, not too soft or stiff, with a good dose of tarragon. Hayato offered me a taste of his superb 10-ounce filet mignon that was a whole different spin on flavor and tenderness. Across the table Sheri and Pamela were oohing over the rack of lamb theyd split and contemplated ordering another one --- from the small taste I coaxed out of them, I agreed. Jennifer was happy with her special fish of the day too, but I didnt sample it.
For sides we had two orders of creamed spinach and one of potato hash browns without onions. The creamed spinach was made from fresh whole leaves and the milky sauce had a subtle note of nutmeg. However, the mix was overly goopy from too much sauce and I didnt like the appearance of that much white sauce. [I couldnt help but think of the gag reaction that a friend who cant eat white foods would have had and hoped I was not slipping into her phobia.] The hash browns were a thick cake as popped out of a skillet with a golden brown crust, and unfortunately were lukewarm when served.
For dessert we had bread pudding, bananas Foster, pecan pie, and ice cream sundaes. The bananas were flamingly alcoholic and presented with much flair. We enjoyed these rich and heavy American sweets very much --- once youve devoured this much red meat, why skimp at the end?
I had recognized our server from my pre-opening lunch at Julias Kitchen at Copia. She was knowledgeable about this menu and accommodating of dietary requests and shared plates. She also carefully decanted the two Bordeaux wines over a candle, which Im sure was even more nerve-wracking after Greg told her we were Master of Wine Candidates. My one criticism of the nights service would be that our potato order sat too long before being brought to the table. I had to ask for it, which had also happened with our dessert order at the Copia lunch I reported here. She does a good job otherwise, but if were at her table again, well know to stay on top of our order ourselves.
When the bill was presented, we were informed that our desserts were also on the house! In addition to the waived corkage on one bottle because we purchased from the wine list, the other corkage fees had been comped too. In combination with our complimentary salads, something on the order of $120 had been deducted from our tab. Our final cost with nearly a 30% tip was $300 for six people.
Many thanks to Greg Cole for his hospitality, fine food and generosity! All our carnivorous dreams were amply fulfilled.
Cole's Chop House
1122 Main Street
Dinner Served Nightly: Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:00pm
Sun-Thu 5:00pm- 9:00pm