Story By: Laura Larson // Cover Photo: Bear at Stanly Ranch by: Eric Wolfinger Photography
To think the pandemic crippled the restaurant business just one short year ago is hard to imagine as Napa Valley’s culinary scene comes alive with vibrant new dining experiences.
Whether an alfresco bistro in one of the area’s new hotels or a reimagined local favorite haunt, area foodies are feasting upon an eclectic array of exciting new restaurants with provocative menus, intriguing wine lists, and some of wine country’s most breathtaking views.
Nestled in the center of the new Stanly Ranch Resort among acres of vineyards with stunning views of Napa’s rolling hills is the resort’s signature restaurant, Bear. Headed up by Executive Chef Garrison Price, the 200-seat restaurant features a rustic design concept with an open ranch-style layout that seamlessly transitions indoors and out.
The dinner menu offers a careful selection of appetizers, sides, and main courses, prepared with locally sourced ingredients from the resort property gardens or area purveyors. The Farm Vegetables crudité starter is a colorful selection of raw and preserved vegetables served with a cashew-miso dip, and the Sourdough bread is not to be missed. Made with the Pastry Chef, Harry Flaglers’ personal starter, it is served warm with homemade butter, which is churned daily. The veggie-centric list of appetizers includes the Persian Cucumbers, crushed and served with Asian pears, fermented black beans, and a tangy gochugaru dressing, and a staff favorite, the Crispy Rice, tender cooked rice pressed into squares, deep-fried to be crispy on the outside and sticky on the inside, served with Thai bird chile, shitake pickles & chips and coconut.
The entrees include elements of seafood, poultry, or beef, but the standouts are the Short Rib, brined and cured with peppercorns for two days, slow-roasted and served with lettuce wraps, kimchee, and chile sauce, and the 16-ounce Ribeye, dry-aged onsite for 28 days and grilled to order. The half chicken is a celebration of the restaurant’s extensive fermentation program, featuring harissa made in-house with 27 ingredients.
Highlights from the dessert menu include the decadent Chocolate dessert, a generous layering of chocolate textures and temperatures made with chocolate mochi cake, a chocolate shell, candied cacao nibs, dark chocolate ice cream, and dark chocolate mousse, and the Strawberry dessert, which combines three preparations of the fruit with anise cobbler and a smoky crème anglaise.
Bear’s wine list leans heavily toward local California and Pacific Northwest producers and is approachable to serious oenophiles and casual drinkers. The whimsical selection of handcrafted cocktails offers a perfect start to the evening.
200 Stanly Crossroad, Napa // www.aubergeresorts.com/stanlyranch
Napa Valley’s favorite Mexican taqueria kicks things up with their new restaurant expansion in the Oxbow Market. The modern Hacienda design is appointed with custom-made Mexican furniture and artwork that complement seating areas indoors and out. The elevated menu, prepared in an open kitchen by Chef Ignacio Beltran and team, offers an innovative approach to Mexican cuisine with delectable and artfully constructed layers of global flavors, all gluten-free. The list of starters includes traditional favorites with a twist, such as guacamole and chips mixed with charred sweet corn, avocados, and Fresno peppers, Nachos Not! and Frito Mixto, a mix of calamari, prawns, olives, and fresh vegetables, lightly breaded in tempura batter and served with citrus aioli. The Tortizzas, C Casa’s version of flatbread pizzas, are made with 12” tortillas baked in the wood oven and donned with farm-to-table toppings. The evocative entrée selection makes it hard to choose, with choices like Duck Confit Enchiladas, a Bison Chile Relleno, Mole Pipian Lamb Shank, and Vegan Chile Verde Tofu (wood-grilled tofu, rice, Shitake and Oyster mushrooms, sweet peppers, caramelized onions, roasted poblano, and tomatillo sauce). In addition, the cantina boasts a wide variety of tequilas and handcrafted cocktails, local and Mexican beer, and a locally curated wine list, including C Casa’s own label, C VINO, made by Caldwell Vineyards.
For a more casual dining experience, the C Casa Taqueria counter is re-opened at the new location for patio dining or take-out.
610 1st St. # 24, Oxbow Public Market // www.mycasa.com
After a year of hiatus, Kitchen Door reopened its new location on First Street in downtown Napa. The restaurant, a locals’ and visitors’ favorite since Co-Founders Chef Todd Humphries and Richard Miyashiro opened its original Oxbow location in 2011, offers seasonally inspired dishes with global flavors served in a family-friendly atmosphere. The new space also features the addition of a cocktail program with both indoor and outdoor seating. Along with the glass-enclosed kitchen, the beautifully designed bar with 21 seats is the restaurant’s focal point, welcoming guests to gather and share spirits-based craft cocktails, local wines from an expanded menu, and beer selections as part of a highly curated beverage list. For loyalists, the original menu from the Oxbow location has remained intact, including the beloved Kitchen Door Mushroom Soup, the Bahn Mi Sandwich made with duck confit, bean sprouts, and pickled vegetables, and the Korean Style Short Ribs with mushroom fried rice, as well as the wood-fired pizzas (baked in a new Mugnaini pizza oven.) According to General Manager Tim Seberson, the new menu is still evolving, but standouts include the Vietnamese ‘Bun Chay’ Lettuce Cups with bean thread noodles, a daily fresh catch a la Plancha, and an Akaushi NY Strip Steak served with shallot tarragon relish and a wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon. For dessert, The Candy Cap Mushroom Bread Pudding is still a crowd-pleaser, as is the local House Made Straus Family Creamery Ice Cream and Churros dipped in spiced chocolate sauce.
1300 First St., Napa // www.kitchendoornapa.com
San Francisco-based Osha Thai launched its newest location in downtown Napa in early Spring. The much anticipated restaurant, located in the prior Mango on Main site on Main Street, is led by Executive Chef Lalita Souksamlane and touts an authentic “Easts Meets West” dining experience. The menu includes favorites from Osha San Francisco, such as the Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls stuffed with glass noodles, shitake mushrooms, and cabbage served with spicy peanut sauce or the Mussamun Kurobuta Pork, slow-braised with peanut, Kabocha pumpkin, and Mussamun coconut curry and some new dishes prepared exclusively for the Napa location, such as the Tamarind King Salmon, Thai Boat Noodle Soup with thin-sliced beef, meatballs and spinach with rice stick noodles, and Deconstructed Shrimp Paste Fried Rice, complemented with a selection of local and imported wines. The small restaurant is always vibrant with activity and elegantly adorned with elaborate gold and blue tiling, colorful floral garlands, fresh flower arrangements, and modern Thai-style décor. Reservations recommended.
1142 Main St., Napa // www.oshathai.com/napa
The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, which opened this past Fall, also launched its marquee restaurant, Truss. The indoor-outdoor restaurant is strategically perched at an elevation that overlooks the sprawling Calistoga resort with breathtaking views of the Palisades mountains and onsite Elusa winery and vineyards, an added bonus for resort guests seeking an immersive grape-to-glass experience as part of their stay. The kitchen is overseen by newly appointed Chef Rogelio Garcia, who manages three dining spaces – the main restaurant, called the Living Room, divided into two seating areas indoors and out, and the new fine dining restaurant, scheduled to open this summer. The Living Room is casually elegant in design with a handsome bar, an open kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling infinity glass doors which expand to the patio. While the restaurant stays busy serving resort guests breakfast, lunch, dinner, and room service, it also serves as a welcome new bistro for locals and visitors. Like the restaurant’s design, the menu is simple yet elegant, showcasing a selection of snacks, such as the popular whipped onion dip with house-made potato chips and small plates to share. Showstoppers include the imported caviar offering and house-made duck ham “prosciutto,” paper-thin slices of house-cured duck ham, daintily layered and dusted with candied orange peel. The main courses run the gambit, from seasonal pizzas served on a cracker-thin crust, a juicy cheese Smashburger served with parmesan truffle fries to an Ora King Salmon or Snake River Farms Strip Steak served with anchovy butter and onion syrup. The elegant desserts include a cheese course and three artfully presented confections that rotate by season.
The service at Truss is impeccable, with an onsite sommelier on hand to help navigate the expansive wine list that boasts over 200 labels of predominantly local wines or present an elevated pairing experience. An invitation to explore the property’s vineyards is also on the table for those interested in an after-meal stroll.
400 Silverado Trail., Calistoga // www.trussrestaurantandbar.com
WATERFRONT SEAFOOD GRILL
Matt Cordeiro’s new downtown restaurant has breathed new life into the dining scene on Napa’s riverfront. The seafood-centric restaurant focuses on fresh, classic seafood dishes under the direction of Executive Chef Jesus Mendez (known for his 21-year tenure working under Greg Cole/Coles Chophouse.) The airy design includes inside dining and outdoor patio seating, a formidable bar serving the full restaurant menu, including an ingenious pass-through section with six outdoor seats for primo riverfront views. Specialties include a raw bar menu with caviar, oysters, crab, and shrimp, a bountiful selection of appetizers, such as the Spicy Ahi Poke or fresh Steamed Mussels, and popular main courses such as Grilled King Salmon served with Picholine Salsa Verde, melt-in-your-mouth Pan-Roasted Main Scallops with Cabernet Demi-Glace and Chardonnay Cream Sauce, or Waterfront Cioppino, a seafood stew of prawns, clams, mussels, crab and salmon served in a spicy tomato sauce. For the undecided, the Mixed Seafood Platter is always a winner, with a generous sampling of fresh grilled lobster, scallops, and prawns. In addition, to a daily fresh catch, pasta, steaks, and chops are also available, with a generous selection of sides. Reserve ahead. The riverfront tables are a coveted score.
720 Main St., Napa // www.waterfrontseafoodgrill.com
WORTH NOTING: ANIMO
Located just a short drive from downtown Napa, Animo Chef/Owner Joshua Smookler and his wife, Heidy He, invite patrons to join them on an epicurean adventure with their Basque-inspired cooking. Tucked into an alleyway off Sonoma Highway, the heart of the restaurant centers around a wood-burning hearth where guests watch Smookler and a small team of chefs expertly prepare and grill dry-aged steaks, herb-crusted lamb, acorn-fed Iberico pork, and fresh turbot which is flown in every week from Galicia Spain and aged for over a week to intensify its flavor and texture. The Amino Feast, a popular menu choice, is served family-style and includes a selection of a 46-ounce, dried-aged Porterhouse steak or a four-pound whole turbot, both served with kimchee rice and a Little Gem Salad. The starter menu holds treasures of its own with an eclectic selection of salads, grilled vegetables, Boquerones Toast (white anchovies, roasted grape tomatoes, and basil), a fresh daily Crudo or oyster selection, Gambas al ajillo (prawns in roasted garlic and olive oil) or the Lobster XO, an exquisite presentation of poached lobster, shitake mushrooms, XO sauce, and edible flowers. The wine list has something for everyone, including Txakolina, an effervescent white wine made from Hondarrabi Zuri grapes, native to Northern Spain. Save room for dessert. The Basque Cheesecake is not to be missed.