At the beginning of 2010, the vegetarians and foodies in the Bay Area panicked when the news spread that the "king of vegetables" Jeremy Fox was about to leave the yoga-studio annex restaurant Ubuntu. It seemed that the magic in Napa was gone. But happily, life is always full of surprises and Fox's continuator Aaron London, was under a lot of pressure when taking over this kitchen.
Despite all of the pressure, it seems as if he manages to live up to the high expectations. Perhaps it has to do with the owner of Ubuntu, Sandy Lawrence. She wanted to start a restaurant with a special concept, the concept of harmony between the land and the people who work that land. In this light it is no surprise that the name Ubuntu means "humanity toward others" in the Zulu language. Therefore, she works intensively with local artisans (like cheese makers) and gardeners, supplying her with the best vegetables of the region. Ubuntu is a joyful restaurant with a stylish atmosphere. Upon entering the building, it is hard to not see the large oven as centerpiece. Ceramic sculptures decorate the inside, whose centre-piece is a giant wooden communal table. But the most interesting aspect by far is the yoga-studio located above the kitchen. How many fine-dining restaurants in the world have a yoga studio above the dining room?
Unlike most of the dishes, the melon gazpacho is easy digestible and stands out in terms of elegance. The quality of the melon is superb, having a great firm structure and being full of flavor. The acidity of the gazpacho is highly complex and well-dosed, making this a very refined dish. A salad of (unripe) tomatoes is reminds you of an iconic Alain Passard dish. The tomatoes are concentrated in taste and seem to burst with flavor. Their acidity is balanced beautifully by a creamy dill sauce, which adds a little something special to the dish. A delicious and intelligent dish, which is again in perfect balance, and harmony if one links it to the yoga studio. The restaurant works with local artisanal cheese makers, which is shown by a steamed bun stuffed with Burrata. The bun is of a perfect structure and the creamy Burrata cheese is very delicate. In combination with the figs, the flavors are lifted up nicely, making this is an interesting composition of different textures and flavours.
It is easy to continue with the long list of dishes that can be eaten here. Be it a squash dish, or one of the several dishes based on beans or even a dish composed with potatoes, everything is delicious and intellectually interesting. Chef Aaron London has the privilege to work with the best vegetables and cooks very confidently with them. He is showing technique skills as all his dishes are seasoned perfectly. The price of experiencing this wonderful kitchen is surprisingly cheap (around $50 per menu) making this restaurant very enjoyable and relaxing to visit. Ubuntu might be the States' leading vegetable-based restaurant.
Hopefully you think this review is helpfull. For pictures you can take a look at qliweb.com
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558