Restaurants & Bars 1

Napa Valley Trip Report

tarein | Dec 10, 2009 11:58 AM

I asked a lot of questions before our recent trip to Napa Valley, so wanted to report back on our experiences.

First night we had reservations at Ad Hoc, but were not crazy about the menu (lamb) so we walked in to Bottega. Even though it was a Friday night and they were booked solid, we got an immediate table on the patio. It was a chilly night, but we sat right near the fireplace and next to an outdoor heater, so were plenty warm. The service was a little rushed, but the food was great. Our table tried a number of the specialties, including the heavenly light ricotta gnocchi and the seasonal gnocchi with duck and butternut squash. The two types of gnocchi were very different, but each was very good. The ricotta gnocchi was melt-in-your mouth tender, with a light, fresh tomato basil sauce. The seasonal gnocchi was much hardier, but still had a great texture and the flavors of the duck and butternut squash went really well with the dish. We also tried the short ribs (an old favorite from when Chiarello was at Tra Vigne) and they were excellent as expected. Chiarello was walking around the restaurant talking to tables all night. I'd heard mixed reviews on the restaurant, but we would definitely go back.

The next night we ate a Redd. During our wine tasting that day two separate people had described the restaurant as very good but "sterile." I think that is a good description, with the plain white walls, unadorned tables and austere attitude of the servers. The food, however, made up for the lack of warmth in the surroundings. We started with the glazed pork belly, the tuna tartare and the calamari. The calamari were good, if not especially original. The tuna tartare was outstanding - the asian pears gave it a great level of sweetness balanced by the heat of the chili oil. The pork belly was very good as well, if a little too rich for my personal taste. For entrees we had the sole, the skate and the shortribs. When we first were seated, our waiter told us they were out of shortribs, but we he came to take our order told us the shortribs were again available because the chef was "over his snit" or something similar. Not sure what that was all about, but we found it very funny. The shortribs were at least as good if not a little better than Bottega's (and that's saying something). The sole was delicious as well - very light, perfectly cooked, with a nice sweetness from the coconut milk broth. The skate was a nice fall dish with butternut squash and brussel sprouts. All in all an excellent meal.

On our final night, we ate at Bistro Jeanty. I don't have a detailed memory of what we had, but the food was good, hearty French bistro fare. As I believe I've seen mentioned elsewhere, it was nothing really original, but it was well done and the restaurant was warm and cozy on a chilly evening.

We were sorry to miss Ad Hoc and will have to make another trip back to try it and the many other great restaurants in the area. I appreciate this board for helping us make some decisions as to where to eat - we would not have tried Redd without some of the recommendations here.

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