ST. HELENA, Calif.
I’ve never dined at a three Michelin-star restaurant, which is the highest honor bestowed by the annual Michelin Guide to dining from France. So I figured there’s no better time than now.

Everyone knows The French Laundry in Napa Valley, which is why it’s still one of the hardest reservations to come by. But luckily, there’s another 3-star restaurant, also in Napa Valley, at The Restaurant by Meadowood.

The restaurant is part of the Meadowood resort nestled up a forest-like hill, away from the vineyards in the valley. Approaching it at night is like approaching a fairytale lodge.

A refined and luxurious setting, the service is professional albeit sometimes too rehearsed (everyone seems to have a speech ready when it’s their turn). The kitchen is headed by the talented Chef Christopher Kostow, who serves up a 9- to 10-course tasting menu for $225 or an expanded chef’s counter menu for $500 where you actually sit inside the kitchen in a little high table and bar stools.

Tasting Menu
I opted for the regular tasting menu and enjoyed a serene evening of beautiful plates from Chef Kostow, with many of the dishes featuring greens from the restaurant’s own garden. Some of the early bites and plates were the most creative to me, starting with a tiny pillow bite of a biscuit filled with crème fraiche, brought to the table on an actual pillow.

Chef Christopher Kostow, right, working in the kitchen.

Chef Christopher Kostow, right, working in the kitchen.

The evening featured some offal, such as the grilled duck heart (not pictured), which tastes like how it sounds – small tiny hearts that were barely cooked. But it reminded me too much that I was chewing on heart.

Chef Kostow comes out at one point (he came and sauced the abalone dish) to interact with guests, and you see him again later when you go for a quick tour of the kitchen after dinner.

The Last Bite
The dishes were all beautiful to photograph, but some of the flavors may have leaned on the salty side. With influences of France, Japan, and California, the plates work hard to be perfect. And while there were times when they did come close to that, I felt some needed a bit more innovation in flavor.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 camera snaps
3.5snaps

 

The Restaurant at Meadowood, 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, Calif. PH: 707.967.1205. Open Monday to Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Website

The Restaurant at Meadowood on Urbanspoon

One of the amuse bouche was this traditional Korean cracker with konbu served on a log

One of the amuse bouche was this traditional Korean cracker with konbu served on a log

One of the most creative presentations was these small starters of carrot cake and savory kale chip brought to the table on a book that featured photos from the garden

One of the most creative presentations was these small starters of carrot cake and savory kale chip brought to the table on a book that featured photos from the garden

Whipped yogurt with black sesame, pickled plum and shiso looked like a zen garden. The black sesame candy bits added sweetness to the yogurt, but I couldn't detect the subtle shiso scent

Whipped yogurt with black sesame, pickled plum and shiso looked like a zen garden. The black sesame candy bits added sweetness to the yogurt, but I couldn’t detect the subtle shiso scent

Lettuce with asparagus, clams, and caviar was a perfect spring dish

Lettuce with asparagus, clams, and caviar was a perfect spring dish

A lovely potato dish cooked in bees wax with assorted sorrels. I felt the dish was slightly salty despite potatoes generally being bland

A lovely potato dish cooked in bees wax with assorted sorrels. I felt the dish was slightly salty despite potatoes generally being bland

Salt baked rutabaga almost looked like a slice of cantaloupe when it came out. Served with goat milk and maple.

Salt baked rutabaga almost looked like a slice of cantaloupe when it came out. Served with goat milk and maple.

The dining room is tastefully decorated, adding to the resort environment

The dining room is tastefully decorated, adding to the resort environment

Abalone with liver, succulents, and chicken bonito stock. This was one of my favorite dishes. The abalone from Monterey was perfectly cooked, tender yet firm.

Abalone with liver, succulents, and chicken bonito stock. This was one of my favorite dishes. The abalone from Monterey was perfectly cooked, tender yet firm.

Perfectly cooked sturgeon with fermented onion fat

Perfectly cooked sturgeon with fermented onion fat

A breather comes with this soothing bowl of bouillon

A breather comes with this soothing bowl of bouillon

Cote de boeuf with morels in kasu cress and dried oyster

Cote de boeuf with morels in kasu cress and dried oyster

Sophisticated cheese course of brillat and apple, wild pecan, truffle

Sophisticated cheese course of brillat and apple, wild pecan, truffle

Sorbet of verjus gjetost and celery

Sorbet of verjus gjetost and celery

Main dessert course was this pea white chocolate "salad"

Main dessert course was this pea white chocolate “salad”

Final presentation was a creative "candy dish" of edible paper and such

Final presentation was a creative “candy dish” of edible paper and such. While it was fun, not every piece was fun to eat.

Guests are given the opportunity to stroll through the kitchen after the meal.

Guests are given the opportunity to stroll through the kitchen after the meal.

The recently expanded Restaurant at Meadowood has a fairytale setting in the forest-like hills of St. Helena

The recently expanded Restaurant at Meadowood has a fairytale setting in the forest-like hills of St. Helena

2 Responses to Tasting Christopher Kostow’s Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I loved that yogurt dish when I had it. I thought, “Why can’t my yogurt at home taste like THIS???” LOL Well, of course, because a Michelin three-star chef isn’t making it for me in my house. ;)

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