Friday, July 29, 2011

LWF&D goes to Napa and chills with Michael (Chiarello) (not really)

Our last dinner in Napa was at Bottega, famous chef/food personality Michael Chiarello's Yountville restaurant. It's a palatial complex, a huge house-style restaurant with a lovely semi-wraparound patio for dining outdoors, and it was crowded in the way Cheesecake Factories are crowded... that is, it was enormous, and it was packed with people. Fortunately, we had a reservation, and we were seated at a large table set for four, which meant we had plenty of space for the two of us.

Wine comes in quartinos here, so I chose a quartino of grechetto, a light Italian white, to complement my food. Unfortunately (especially since this was our last dinner in Napa), I really didn't enjoy this wine... it was somewhat insipid and the flavor was flat and harsh. Oh well.

A half-loaf of crusty, flaky bread with a dish of some sort of cheesy spread landed on our table (literally on our table, too; there was no plate for the bread, which sat directly on the butcher paper covering our tablecloth). But there was barely time to eat it, since our shared appetizer arrived barely a second or two after the bread. This was a delicious salad of fresh ricotta, arugula, stewed peaches, pecorino, and some sort of peach gel. There's usually coppa as well, but I ordered it vegetarian-style for the two of us. And while the portion was pretty small, this was a very tasty dish; while the smear of ricotta on the side of the plate wasn't especially tasty, the rest of the ingredients were fresh and vibrant.

Bread on table

Greens on ricotta smear

For entree, Mom ordered the fish of the day, which was a white fish similar to red snapper whose name we both missed. The server came and finished filleting the fish at the table, a service note that is probably better in theory than in practice. But nonetheless, Mom enjoyed the fish.

Without head and tail, too

My choice for entree was the insalata del bosco, which was mixed greens, sliced pear, candied hazelnuts, and pecorino. While the pear wasn't much of a presence in this salad, the hazelnuts especially were quite flavorful. Again, the portion was on the small side, but otherwise this was delicious.

Pretty greens

We also shared a side of asparagus, which was both pretty and tasty, although I ate a little too much of it. But that's my own fault.

Too much asparagus. Hoooooboy.

Finally, we decided to have dessert at the restaurant. Mom chose a simple scoop of salted caramel gelato, which was really tasty. It also came with this slice of peanut-butter feuilletine-fudge-like confection, which I really enjoyed (but Mom, not so much).

Plain, unadorned

My dessert was the tiramisu profiteroles, three puff pastries split and stuffed with tiramisu & sponge cake gelato, all drowned in chocolate sauce (the menu also listed "cocoa puff," but I'm not sure what that is and don't think I had it on my plate). This was a well-executed rendition of profiteroles, although the gelato-- chock full of chunks of espresso-soaked lady fingers-- was too strongly coffee-y with me, especially with the bitterness of the chocolate sauce as well. I definitely would have preferred vanilla gelato, but I'm glad I tried the dish as is. And it was very, very rich; I only downed two of the three profiteroles before having to stop.

Pretty, no?

On balance, we did enjoy the food at Bottega, and the service was friendly and professional. It's worth a stop if you're in Napa. But-- how to put this-- it wasn't the most personal of our dining experiences. For better or for worse, Bottega is so successful that it's perennially packed and feels sort of like, well, a factory, churning diners out in a fast and efficient, albeit tasty, fashion. That said, you can get a great meal there, and if you don't necessarily want to linger or aren't out for a romantic, personalized atmosphere, it'll fit the bill.

6525 Washington Street, Yountville, Napa

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