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.
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.
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.
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
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