Story By: Elizabeth Smith // Photos By: Bob McClenahan
A Chinese Experience with a Napa Twist
In December 2020, under the leadership of restauranteur Margaret Wong, executive chef Peter Huang, and director of operations, Thomas Megna, Empress M opened its doors to bring “an immersive experience of China’s regional cuisines, teas, spirits, and beers, but with a Napa twist.” The restaurant is a favorite destination for local foodies, national and international guests, and the region’s Chinese-American population.
Wong and other tenacious women in Chinese history, like Empress Wu ZeTian, inspire the concept and the name, Empress M. Award-winning executive chef Peter Huang, founder of Yue Huang Dim Sum Restaurant in Sacramento, leads the culinary team of Asian chefs. Director of Operations Thomas Megna, who lived in China for six years, brings an extensive creative background as a culinary specialist, art designer, director, producer, and teacher.
Empress M is located in the city of Napa on the iconic Silverado Trail. The restaurant showcases an incomparable fusion of authentic Chinese flavors, art, culture, history, and music. It describes itself as a “feast for all senses.” The ambience at Empress M – which includes its beautifully designed indoor dining rooms and spacious outdoor courtyard – is authentic, elevated, and approachable, with a plethora of opportunities to enjoy world-class Chinese cuisine and Napa Valley’s vibrant social life.
Since its opening, Empress M has expanded its offerings to include a variety of culinary delights and opportunities for community engagement and enjoyment. New to Empress M is its Sunday Chef’s Tasting Menu, which includes an eight-course meal in the VIP Room. The restaurant recently launched its own private-label Empress Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, joining another one of their own wines on the menu, Castrucci Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a customer favorite. It has also changed its wine list and added new cocktails. In addition, Empress M offers prix fixe lunch and dinner specials Monday through Thursday. Napa Valley community leader, Dorothy Salmon, calls the restaurant’s lunch “the best deal in town.”
The restaurant’s bar program is an exciting way to cap off the day, with DJ and patio dancing on Mondays, 10% off Takeout Tuesday and industry professionals, Wednesday Karaoke, Thirsty Thursday, Friday live music, and Saturday and Sunday Sports Weekend on the restaurant’s big-screen television. Happy hour is daily from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Customer favorite dishes are the Peking Roast Duck, Chinese Broccoli with Vegetarian “Oyster” Sauce, Beef Chow Fun, Dan Dan Noodle, Emperor Baked Sea Bass, Sichuan Spicy Fish, and all of the dim sum. Empress M is the only restaurant in Napa to offer dim sum all day. The staff especially enjoy the Sautéed String Beans, Chengdu Eggplant, Thin Rice Noodles in Clay Pot, and Xi’an Short Ribs. Desserts include Sesame Balls, Egg Custard Tarts, and Banana Cream Pie. In addition, Empress M has gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.
Empress M is open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. From spring until fall, Friday and Saturday hours will be extended until 11:00 p.m. “Late night at Empress M” will offer Chinese street food, barbecue, live music, and dancing.
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