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Restaurants & Bars 5

Napa Trip Report

shelbyk | Sep 1, 2009 07:00 PM

My husband and I had the joy of spending last Wednesday through Sunday in Yountville, and as much as we were excited about the wine, we were more than highly anticipating the food. After MUCH consideration we chose Terra, Bottega and Redd for what would hoped would be 3 truly elevated meals.

Terra: Very much liked the simple interior and warm room. We started with a kampachi 3 ways (sashimi, tartare, ceviche) that was straightforward, fresh and gently cooling. From there I moved on to a burrata while my husband had lobster/corn chowder. The burrata was beautifully creamy with fresh greens, locally grown heirloom tomatoes and nicely done croutons, while my husbands chowder had nice pieces of lobster and was well seasoned. For entrees I chose the lamb special which was slow braised lamb off the bone served atop sweet corn and green onion blinis drizzled with a lamb reduction with shaved green onion and pea leaves...SPLENDID!!! My husband had a tagliata served with fingerling potatoes and a baby arugula salad with shaved parmesan, lemon and olive oil...generally very good, but not exciting or great compared to others, not much flavor. The complaint: our sommelier was an integral part of the meal...very helpful, attentive and excited about the wine. Our waitress was, for lack of a better term, somewhat absent. Never rude, just not really around, and seemed to be giving much greater attention to two tables of older couples. Due to her absence we skipped dessert and a beerenauslese that I very much wanted to try.

Bottega: Beautiful room, but less personal and intimate than Terra. We started with a sugar snap pea and raw sweet corn salad with pecorino, marcona almonds and whole citrus vinaigrette. Truly a tasty, summery and refreshing dish. The peas were paper thin and still crisp! From there we split a bolognese with housemade pappardelle, procini mushrooms, veal and sausage...the house made pasta made the dish truly special. The ragu was beautifully seasoned and fortified by the mushrooms and wine, but was lighter than a typical bolognese...we left a pile of ground meat that didn't attach itself to anything very well. I chose the short ribs that were braised to a melting, rich succulence while also being caramelized to a deep red brown...they shredded perfectly. Some of the best I've had. My husband had the lamb chops served with polenta. The were a rare to the point of marginally undercooked, but were very well seasoned and exceedingly fresh, so the temp obviously wasn't a huge issue as they were devoured with a smack of the lips and unbuttoning of the jeans.

But then came dessert. We wanted 2 glasses of donnafugata and some strawberry semifreddo (which was part of a strawberry tiramisu). Upon delivering the wine, our waitress spilled much of mine on my lap. She laughed a little, said "oh, it could have been much worse!", left 1 full glass and one dripping half glass on the table, and ran off to get another glass of wine. This took her awhile. She then brought a HALF glass of donnafugata and didn't mention the incident again...she also didn't comp the wine or dessert. I thought about saying something, but at that point I was a little tipsy and a little amazed. Also, the meal felt rushed, as though they were pumping us through the bottega factory...

Bistro Jeanty: the beautiful, unexpected and leisurely lunch. We had enjoyed dollar oysters on Thursday and liked the atmosphere enough to go back. We ordered their signature creme de tomate en croute which was well worth the praise, creamy, delicious with flaky pastry. We then had a pear and endive salad that was refreshing and cool, and ended with a satisfying cassoulet...aaahhh cassoulet: duck legs, pork sausage, bacon and perfectly prepared white cassoulet homey. We enjoyed a great bottle of wine recommended by our very attentive, very pleasant waiter. I off-handedly mentioned fear of dehydration at the beginning of the meal and he kept our water (and wine) glasses fully for almost 2 hours. Without a doubt the best service we had while in Napa.

Redd: the hostess had soul, the kitchen definitely had soul, the waiter sucked. It was a beautiful night and we were happy to be seated outside. It took our waiter about 10 minutes to approach us, at which point our water glasses were empty and we wanted wine. After perusing the menu we placed our food order, and as I was about to ask for the somm or about wine, he scurried off only to return about 5 minutes later. Our squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese arrived about 7 minutes before our first half bottle of wine...I waited to dig in, I waited a little more, then dug in at which point they had cooled considerably. Finally the wine arrived... yay. As we were enjoying our blossoms, the lobster risotto my husband ordered arrived and was pushed onto the table next to the blossoms...huh? Serve them at the same time or make them separate courses...I don't care, just don't feed me like I'm at Chili's. The lobster risotto was a perfect al dente and creamy, but soured by the service. For entrees I had the duck confit with foie gras meatballs served over black lentils...perfection! My husband had the NY strip which was a perfect medium rare served over chantrelles, green beans and bacon in a chianti reduction c braised short rib cannelloni. The steak was one of the most perfectly prepared pieces of beef I've ever tasted...perfectly carmelized, stunning color and melt in your mouth decadence. Bravo for the food! Once again, the waiter seemed a little bored and was definitely absentee. The kitchen made up for it.

Overall we were gluttons, and it was worth every bite. What amazed me was the general lethargy in service. To have the privilege of working with such fine kitchens should be exciting and engaging, but most of our servers seemed slightly disinterested and detached...such a pity. I do have to say, however, that my parents (who are in their late 60's) enjoy Napa and were amazed by our sad stories about service since they've been to all the same restaurants and received "fabulous" service. Who knows? What I do know is that we plan on returning often and dining well!

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