Michelin stars, of course. In addition to the multitude of rock and roll hall of fame vineyards, the Napa Valley boasts a stellar line up of Michelin starred restaurants (14 stars to be exact), making this a superstar destination for both oenophiles and foodies. Not all are easy to get reservations for (no prizes for guessing which one that is), but you might just get lucky on a cold winter’s night at some of the fine establishments in the valley – I did, with Ubuntu (1 star) and The Restaurant at Meadowood (3 star).
Ubuntu – the vegetable restaurant
1140 Main St, Napa | 707.251.5656
Come with an open mind and allow the very charming executive chef Aaron London take you on a multi-sensorial journey to nirvana and back with his clever interpretation of nouvelle vegetarian cuisine.
Ubuntu is a Zulu term South Africans translate as “humanity toward others,” but its deeper meaning addresses the concept of harmony between the land and the people who share that land.
Each dish is lovingly prepared and presented in an elegant way that focuses on the unique looks, tastes, and textures of the particular vegetable – grown on the restaurants’ own bio-dynamic garden (northeast of Napa).
Reading the menu is nothing short of interpreting hieroglyphics because of the cryptic formulas like “hakurei” and “forono”. If understanding the menu is beyond you, don’t despair. Order anything and I promise, it will be good.
On my visit, the first dish to arrive was a shot of winter citrus squash soup; a gift from the chef. The robust and rich flavours of squash, jazzed up with twist of yuzu and Japanese chili powder spread on the rims was delicious.
Another nice surprise from the charming chef was a dish of vadouvan spiced roasted almonds (Vaudouvan is a French spice that is derivative of Indian curry). These roasted almonds were beautifully roasted and extremely addictive!
The 3 dishes I ordered were all very good and beautifully prepared and plated in a way that honored each Vegetable in its simplest, purest form.
the garden SNAKE; LEAVES, FLOWERS, ROOTS……
lightly dressed with LEMONGRASS OIL, HERBS, SOIL, truffled pecorino
a simple plate of BLACKBERRY LEAF and TOPI pillows with “midnight moon”
“rainbow” CHARD, loopy SUNCHOKES, goat’s crème fraiche
‘white satin’ CARROTS and matsutakes, roasted with PINE NEEDLES
QUINCE soffrito, fermented APPLE, ‘sheep’s’ SORREL, raw ‘purple haze’ CARROTS
Chef Aaron London (center) and his super talented team at Ubuntu
The Restaurant at Meadowood
The full-list of Michelin Starred restaurants in the Napa Valley, 2011:
THREE STARS (exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey)
The French Laundry (Yountville)
The Restaurant at Meadowood (St Helena)
ONE STAR (a very good restaurant in its category)
Auberge de Soleil (Rutherford)
La Toque (Napa)
Terra (St Helena)
And Michelin’s 2011 “Bib Gourmand” picks
A Bib Gourmand rating means the restaurant is an inspector’s favorite for good value. For $40 or less, you can enjoy two courses and a glass of wine or dessert (not including tax and gratuity):
C Casa (Napa, in the Oxbow)
Bistro Jeanty (Yountville)
Cook St Helena (St Helena)
Market (St Helena)