When we couldn’t get a reservation at the French Laundry, we decided to give the other three Michelin restaurant in Napa Valley a try. I wasn’t too sure what’s to expect going into The Restaurant with their vegetable-focused menu at the wooded, sprawling Meadowood resort. With an open mind, we headed through the heavy wooden doors into the naturally lit dining room to begin with an entire series of amuse bouches.
Amuse bouche 1: Pillow on a pillow – a pastry filled with formage blanc topped with microgreens
This was served on a silk pillow, and biting into it was like taking a bite out of the best cream filled pastry you’ve ever had.
Amuse bouche #2: Board sprouts with horseradish vinegar
I think this is the only time I’ve actually enjoyed horseradish. The taste was so light with a tinge of acidity that I literally gobbled up these sprouts like a rabbit (perhaps a bit more elegantly)
Amuse Bouche #3: Turnips, radishes and rainbow carrots soaked in champagne overnight
Now I know the trick to enjoying raw turnips, radishes and carrots: soak them in champagne, or better yet, eat them with a bottle of champagne!
Amuse Bouche #4: Carrot cake and savory kale chips on a book with photos from the garden
As we carefully picked up these intricate, fluffy carrot cakes, we were able to flip through the book and see the gorgeous garden Meadowood keeps. What a creative idea to serve an amuse bouche!
Amuse Bouche #5: Pumpernickel, radish and creme fraiche macarons
I really wasn’t sure what to expect biting into these, but they were delightful (not to mention semi-healthy) with a slight crunch!
Amuse Bouche #5: Peapods
These came with the macarons, which seemed like a guilty pleasure, and these peapods were placed opposite to the macarons to appease the guilt.
Even on the side was a touch of nature with unique blooms from the garden that calls for attention between courses.
Scabiosa pods, yarrow flowers and Veronica plant
These were placed on the table for decoration, and they were picked straight from the garden
Instead of wine pairings (since we had been wine tasting all day), we opted for The Restaurant’s notorious cocktails. Each sip was a burst of sweet berries – like biting into ripe fruit with a kick at the end.
Blueberry cocktail (left) and strawberry cocktail (right)
Then the actual courses began, each stunning us with intricacy and blooming flavors that I had not expected at all from vegetables.
Course #1: House-made whipped yogurt with black sesame, pickled plum and shiso
This is nothing like any yogurt you’ve ever had. Topped with Japanese inspired ingredients, this airy starter provides a complex flavor profile that will leave you with a palate craving for more.
Course #2: Green tomato, clams and lovage
This didn’t look as nice as it could have (especially since it started melting a bit when I photographed it), but it was a necessary chilled dish that got my saliva going
Course #2: Sea lettuce chip to dip into the cooled green tomato mix
Loved the texture contrasts!
Believe it or not, The Restaurant has a position called the forager, someone who goes around in the mornings to collect costal grasses from around the Bay Area. And these grasses get sprinkled on some of the dishes.
Course #3: Our server clipping the coastal grasses picked by the forager
Course #3: Pickled cucumber and dill, braised borage, creme fraiche, zucchini and coastal grasses
The only problem with this was that they didn’t put a ton of it into a bowl for me to eat.
Course #3: Onion seed crackers
Course #4: Carolla potato cooked in beeswax with potato puree, potato skin crisped in brown sugar syrup and assorted sorrels
For something that tasted so rich, I would never have thought it was put together using natural, organic and health-conscious ingredients!
Normally at three Michelin star restaurants, the ambience gets a bit more stuffy than intended, with men in suits and ties while women are practically exhibits themselves in cocktail dresses or gowns. At The Restaurant, though, the ambience and attire is more relaxed, allowing customers to focus on enjoying themselves rather than worrying about appearances. But remember, t-shirts, shorts and ripped jeans are just never going to be appropriate in these settings.
Course #5: Sterling caviar from San Francisco and day lilies stuffed with spot prawns
Wow. Never have I ever had caviar pair so nicely with other ingredients. I guess lilies and prawns really do the trick!
Course #6: Black cod with hazelnut, sunchoke, minutina and truffle
This single dish pretty much trumped our entire seafood meal at Farallon the night before. The cod just fell apart in my mouth, and every bit of it had soaked up the flavors of the other ingredients.
Course #7: Roasted guinea hen broth with chives
Course #7: Roasted guinea hen broth with chives
This broth was saturated with savory flavors and would have been perfect for a giant bowl of ramen. Even without the noodles, I sipped up the very last drop.
The sprawling garden in the Meadowood resort that grows most of the vegetables and fruits served at The Restaurant is really augments the dining experience. It’s a pleasure to have such a meal with most ingredients sourced straight from the Napa Valley community.
Course #8: Rabbit “en verre”, preserved lemon, whole bean and dumplings
Perfectly cooked, tender rabbit really goes well with some acidic and doughy ingredients
I think they just decided to give us some bread that was straight out of the oven. It didn’t pair with anything, but gosh was it amazing!
Course #9: Lamb, sunflower “tripe”, sunflower petals and pickled lime
After eating this, I really don’t think sunflower goes well with anything. In fact, no part of the sunflower should end up in your mouth unless it’s sunflower seeds. At least the lamb was cooked superbly, but even that couldn’t save the sunflower parts it was paired with.
Course #10: Whipped and ribboned Abbaye de belloc (sheeps milk cheese from the Pyrenees), candied wild pecans, celery and marigold
This cheese was slightly sweet and the perfect starter into the desserts.
Course #11: Spicebush bubble tea
I wasn’t quite sure how to take a photo of this, and it turned out to look a bit like backwash, but I attest to the fact that this was the ideal palate cleanser.
Course #11: Chocolate cherry tart (cherry dippin’ dots)
Is there a way to make this magically appear??? I’ve never enjoyed the cherry and chocolate combination as much as this! Plus, the chocolate was the consistency of a Kit Kat bar.
“Plate of local fruit”
These were mostly of a gelatin and texture, and I sort of wish that they weren’t served because I was not very impressed. But the fresh figs were a nice ending, and the strawberry-looking piece in front literally tasted like a strawberry shortcake!
Everything served was the essence of fine dining; yet, each dish had an earthy feel to it that connected us with the nature that surrounded us. The meal really was a beautiful display of the region, the handiwork and the flavor profiling that goes on behind the scenes.
The Kitchen at The Restaurant
- Make reservations early, but the reservations are not as difficult to get as French Laundry’s.
- If you are interested, ask to take a look in their state of the art kitchen! We even got to chat with Sous Chef John Hong!
- There is free parking on the premise.
- If you arrive early, take a walk around the resort – it is gorgeous!