In Napa, especially Napa, restaurants linked to hotels/resorts are often overlooked for those more “visible” chow houses along the main arteries. I don’t have to name them. You know who they are. Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority are really good. But what about the others that’re a bit off the eaten path.
That’s why I wanted to check out The Restaurant at Meadowood. Yes, the resort is very nice. Beautiful grounds. Rooms. Immaculate croquet court. Tennis. Golf. Pools. But what about the restaurant.
It had been closed for years (it seemed) for renovation. I thought maybe forever.
Before the renovation I found the food good, but nothing special. I often wondered who, except for the Meadowood membership, ate at The Restaurant when you could get better food 10 minutes down the street. That’s cold, I know, but true.
Well, my friends, things have changed.
I must preface this review by stating that I have severe food allergies (to eggs and anything from a cow). I know I know, why send a guy that can’t eat half of the menu. But hey, remember, we’re the same magazine that assigned our vegan editor to review a book on Foie Gras, so…
Anyway. For me, it’s not just about the food, it’s about the total experience – the room, the service, the chef’s versatility, the sommelier’s creativity and, of course, the attractive bartenderess. After a drink at the bar: one down four to go.
Starting with the room… well, the slide show above gives you an idea. It’s beautifully done, quaint yet open and airy. The wood detail is exquisite and the tables are set just right. (I like to be just far enough away from my neighbor so they can’t hear my conversation yet close enough to see everything so I can make fun of them while I eat.)
I had a friend join me (so they could experience the menu unaltered for my allergies). We both agreed that each course (listed below), and I mean each one, was absolutely wonderful. Chef Joseph Humphrey created what I consider to be one of the best dinners I’ve had in Napa Valley. And I’ve eaten at every restaurant there (except the place where you clean your clothes). The flavors and textures of each dish were not only in balance, but in balance with the next course coming out. And they complemented each other so well that it was scary. Sometimes chefs try to add too many flavors thinking the more the better. Chef Humphrey knows exactly where to draw the line. Exactly.
What impressed me even more was the attentiveness of the wait staff. Now, I know what you’re thinking: A food/wine writer visits a restaurant, or course everything is going to be better for him/her. We’re spoiled that way. But when I visit a restaurant I watch the room very carefully to see if the same attentiveness is going on elsewhere. And the wait staff at The Restaurant, lead by manager Nathaniel Dorn, were in perfect sync, not only with our table but the whole room. Having waited tables myself, an experience that I only talk about in therapy, I know that there’s a fine line between too much attention and too little. And in order to get it just right you need to know how to read a table, its diners and the room in general. They got it just right.
(Side note: I think that before you’re allowed to dine out, you should have to wait tables for at least six months. Kinda like a drivers permit. For those who wait tables, you know what I’m talking about.)
I was also very impressed with sommelier Rom Toulon’s wine pairings. It’s easy to stick with the standard (read: boring) wine choices, especially when your in wine country. But the pairings (also listed below) were incredible. Especially the Gruner Veltliner from Austria. I think it’s one of the best white wines I’ve ever tasted. And I drink, er, taste a lot.
As far as prices go, not bad. Three courses start at $70 (add wine pairing for $45), and the go up to $120 (add wine pairing $90) for the “The Chef’s Tasting Menu,” which features six courses.
I highly recommend The Restaurant at Meadowood. It warrants XXX on our Wine X scale.