Yountville, CA Visited: Sunday, January 21, 2007 – Dinner
(Reservations: 944-2487 - the answering machine doesn’t kick in until after eight rings. You can also phone to learn this week's menu.)
We were expecting a middle-of-the-road style dinner with almost perfect attention-to-detail on our recent visit to Thomas Keller's new casual restaurant in Yountville, CA. Our expectations were much too high.
The concept is great. A daily changing prix-fixe menu of salad, main course, cheese and dessert, all served family-style for $45.
It sounds promising but by the end of dinner it's still a somewhat-pricey meal in wine country and we found on this visit that the price did not warrant a quick return, or perhaps a return at all. The problems with our main dish and the questionable cheese and flat dessert resulted in a rather poor experience and combined with somewhat spotty service it's hard for us to recommend it.
What we had: Water: Perrier or Evian
Bread are Bouchon Bakery Breads - we especially liked the miche, which has malty notes to it and would seek it out.
The Wine arrived after the salad was served. White wine served in water glasses. The Red wine arrived with fresh water glasses and we asked for stemware before it was poured. They said they don’t usually serve stemware because the dinner is served family style and they worry about glasses tipping. They brought us crystal white wine glasses for our red Burgundy.
The Service was generally good. It was a bit bumbling with the food problems being handled by asking the kitchen rather than by the waiter making an immediate stand. Drink refills were offered and forgotten. The wine came late although the restaurant had just opened and waitstaff were standing around. In the end, management comped the drinks and wine as their apology for the problems with the main dish.
Endive & Frisee Saladwith granny smith apples, d'anjou pears, medjool dates and garden herbs-buttermilk dressing
Lettuces were generally fresh and crisp, although the endive had some limp edges. The salad was oversalted. It was strange the salad had a dressing and was served with an additional dressing. The additional Buttermilk dressing was thin and had a hard time standing up to the salt. The dates and apples were lost in the salad, although both were good on their own.
Mari i Muntanya: Roasted Poussin and Shrimp over Spanish pardina lentils with young carrots and baby leeks
The shrimp were so salty that you couldn't taste the shrimp, although the dish as a whole was seasoned normally. It was if the shrimp had been brined for too long, absorbing way too much salt. We complained to our waiter and sent an offending shrimp to the kitchen for tasting. We were subsequently told that a few new shrimp would be made for us right away. A few minutes later (for a reason I won't go into - call it bad luck) we again had to call the waiter over. He returned to the kitchen for a discussion and a few moments later returned and whisked away all of our plates (which were half-full now) and the chicken & shrimp dish.
New silver and plates were delivered as was a new entrée. The shrimp on top of the new entrée were perfect. Not too much salt. The ones on the bottom were the same as the first batch – making me wonder if the few replacement shrimp were on top and the bottom was from the old batch, as the waiter assured us that he saw the old entrée thrown out. The mostly boneless chicken was lovely. It was well-cooked with a crisp skin and nicely seasoned; dark meat had some bones. Carrots and baby leeks were also perfectly cooked and delicious. The lentils were hard to scoop out in their broth and hard to eat with a fork but worth the work.
Zingerman Creamery’s Aged Chelsea
IMHO, the cheese had seen a bit of heat damage in its travels. The layer just inside the rind was almost completely liquid, while the center remained firm and chalky. Usually when a cheese ages so unevenly the rind shows it, but this was not the case with this cheese. The bloomy rind was firm and not acrid. The cheese tasted fine. The Aged Chelsea was served with red flame grapes (Chilean(?), as they are obviously not in season here, but sweet and seedless) and nicely toasted pecans.
Almond Cake, chocolate ganache with apricots and bing cherries in red wine
An odd affair of an individual almond cake with a “surprise” of chocolate which we were told was in the center but actually had sunk almost to the bottom. I didn’t think that the chocolate did anything for the cake. The cake was heavy on butter and not very almond-y. The poached fruit was very sweet and I thought good with the cake – others really didn’t like the fruit with the cake at all.
Coffee - Equator Ad Hoc Blend
Served in a mini-French press was a bit on the bitter side.
Non-wine drink choices were good for such a small wine list.
Wines we ordered:
2005 Zillikin Butterfly Riesling (by the glass)
2004 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc (by the glass) – very stemmy nose but pleasant to drink.
2002 Pernot Beaune 1er Cru Reversées – Fresh and bright cherry with an elegance to it. Light and nice with the chicken. Pleasant.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.