Restaurant Review - April 15, 2008 - Joanne

The Meadowood Restaurant, St. Helena, CA
The Restaurant
at Meadowood

Saint Helena, CA
Visited March 26th, 2008

The Meadowood resort, located at the eastern edge (Silverado Trail side) of Saint Helena, is tucked away in a forest of tall pine trees and has a secluded cottage feel to it. The restaurant is housed in a separate building adjacent to the reception building.

The Restaurant has a pleasant, relaxed décor which is still elegant. A sort of cottage-meets-Napa design. On our visit, which was in the company of Chuck, the small bar which you walk through to get to the dining room had the fireplace roaring, which made for a nice welcome. In the summer I could imagine having a delightful dinner on the patio outside.

As a winner of two Michelin stars and as a member of Relais & Chateaux, The Restaurant at Meadowood has a standard to set in Napa. Our dinner was lovely and we would happily return. The quality of the food and attention to detail was evident in every dish. Chef Christopher Kostow adds some playfulness to the cuisine while maintaining good balance. The dishes were presented simply and beautifully. The Meadowood Restaurant is easy to recommend as an expensive, but romantic choice in Wine Country.

We chose the Chef’s Tasting Menu:

Canapes at Meadowood St. HelenaCanapes:
Radish from the Meadowood Garden (with fleur de sel and olive oil?)

Nice third of a radish, but not the best radish ever. It was not a breakfast style.
Chickpea with Octopus
This tiny square had a jewel-like piece of octopus on top. It was just a touch spicy. A nice presentation.
Quail egg with Smoked Caviar
My favorite of the four. The quail egg was soft beneath the perky smokey caviar. Nicely done.
Fried oyster
A fried ball of oyster, like a popper, just a touch more greasy than I would have like. Good.
The canapes, to me, did not go together. I would have liked to have seen a common element or a theme. Regardless, I really enjoyed the quail egg/smoked caviar combo.

Morel Mushroom Tea with Pyrenees Brebis Crumpet
Amuse: Morel Mushroom Tea with Pyrenees Brebis Crumpet
The dry morel mushrooms were presented in a tea bag in a cup. Hot chicken broth was poured over the bag at tableside. The waiter requested we let the bag steep for a few minutes before removing it. The tiny crumpet was a little bit greasier than I would have liked and had a very mild flavor. The mushroom tea was nice, but a large quantity as an amuse – perhaps a smaller cup and tea bag would be better? I liked the idea a lot.

Cold Smoked Toro and Osetra Caviar with Crème Fraiche, Spring Onion, warm brioche
Cold Smoked Toro and Osetra Caviar
Crème Fraiche, Spring Onion, warm brioche

A lovely presentation with a large paper-thin rectangle of toro on which the caviar and crème fraiche were dotted along with the tiny spring onion greens garnish. The toro was wonderful and really didn’t need anything but the accompaniments were not distracting. Looking at the photo, makes me want to go back right nowand have it again. Meadowood usually pairs this dish with a Junmai sake.

Foie Gras and Apple - Seared Foie Gras and Foie Gras Custard
Foie Gras and Apple
Seared Foie Gras and Foie Gras Custard
Gala apple underneath the seared foie and, as a brûlée element atop the custard. The custard was light, and the slightly apple-y crunch of the brûlée a nice balance to it. The seared foie was very good.

Citrus Cured Spanish Mackerel, Olive Oil Ice Cream, Shaved Baguette, Legume Escabeche
Citrus Cured Spanish Mackerel
Olive Oil Ice Cream, shaved baguette, Legume Escabeche

It’s hard to sell me on cooked fish and despite a crispy skin and the nice remoulade sauce beneath the escabeche I wasn’t buying. The sauce reminded me too much of tartar sauce which, along with the
cure of the fish, was making me think of a much less rarified presentation. The fish was nicely firm but not dry. The escabeche requires a special note as it was a flower of finely shaved vegetables atop the ice cream. Beautiful presentation.

Lobster and Sweetbread, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Turnip, Biancetti Truffle
Lobster and Sweetbread
Hedgehog Mushrooms, Turnip, Biancetti Truffle

The sweetbreads were encased in small ravioli. A well-crafted pasta made the sweetbreads sing and was a nice pairing with the lobster. The lobster itself was a statement of “I want more!” Truffle just added depth to the dish, and was a nice enhancement. The hedgehog mushrooms were lost – I don’t recall if they were even there – but the dish did not suffer for it. The only concern would be the level of brine in the lobster jus which might be toned down a touch.

Crispy Confit of Suckling Pig
Crispy Confit of Suckling Pig
Caraway Scented Cabbage, Pickled Apple, Maple Syrup

This course was well crafted but seemed almost an add-on “meat” course to make the tasting menu have more weight. The dish really didn’t fit with the previous courses. That said, the crispy skin was nice and it was my first experience with Blis Maple Syrup, which I gather is bourbon barrel aged. A pleasant course but not a special one.

Poached and Roasted Squab
Poached and Roasted Squab
Candied Orange, Foie Gras, Dark Chocolate

The Chef’s menu comes with Poached Grass-fed Beef and, wanting something a little more exciting, we asked for the Squab to be substituted. It was a great choice. I find Squab is sometimes a risky dish to order in the US and here it was perfectly cooked, exceedingly tender and a joy to eat. The Scharffenberger 71% chocolate shaved over was enjoyable and was a nice pairing but also distracted from the squab itself. The squab jus and the shaved chocolate were added tableside, so the chocolate can be adjusted to taste which was a thoughtful addition. The foie gras was a little fried ball rolled in crushed pistachio nuts and was a nice treat.

Exterior of the Meadowood Restaurant, St. Helena, CA

Herve Mons Fourme d'Ambert, Dried Cherries, Arugula, Pecan Oil
The Cheese Course:
Herve Mons Fourme d’Ambert
Dried Cherries, Arugula, Pecan Oil

Wow. And, it was a greating pairing with our leftover Muller Catoir Riesling. I loved that it didn’t come with out-of-season fruit and fruit bread, etc. A beautiful cheese in great condition, and is a great blue choice for non-blue cheese eaters. The cherries, which were rehyrdrated, were a wonderful choice. I’d be happy to eat this course again soon!

Refresher: Carrot Sorbet atop Citrus Compote at Meadowood
Refresher: Carrot Sorbet atop Citrus compote.
I liked the Carrot Sorbet but the citrus was very concentrated and really a little too intense for the more subtle carrot flavor. It refreshed but lingered.

Milk Chocolate Souffle, Slow Cooked Banana
Milk Chocolate Custard Souffle, Slow Cooked Banana
It also came with crème fraiche ice cream. A well made soufflé with a crisp crust, spongy walls and custardy center. The banana and ice cream almost seemed out of place as a pairing to it as to mix the elements was a challenge. The banana itself was nice, a thin flat plank with the ice cream atop it.

Notes on the wine list
The wine list offers many choices by the glass, and the sharp sommelier, Rom Toulon, is happy to pair any of the menu dishes with wines by the glass. The wine list was recently 100% Californian, but they are now steadily adding excellent wines from all over the worldl. Importantly, there are some interesting choices. We were especially excited to see a very rare bottle of Massandra available; although it was a lone bottle, we understand they will be receiving a few more.

We ordered two whites to start: a 2004 Muller-Catoir Riesling a slightly sweeter and pleasant choice with the food - especially good with the Fourme d'Ambert and for a second white in a drier more minerally style we chose a wine from Austria.

2004 Baudry La Croix Boissee Chinon
2004 Baudry La Croix Boissée Chinon
Very dusty nose which hints at tart red cherry or currant. The center is like licking wet limestone – very mineraly and dusty but the subtle red currant and bright cherry underneath make it pleasant. It evolved in the glass to have more balanced fruit and mineral by the end of the meal. It was a very nice match for the squab.

1950 Massandra Collection South Coast Red Port
Notes of whole cumin on nose and palate. The wine is not too sweet (about 11% RS) and 17.4% alcohol. There is a definite tea element to the finish. Very enjoyable. More details here.

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