Monday, September 16, 2013

Food is a Luxury: The Restaurant at the Meadowood, Napa

When El Bulli permanently closed its doors, other top restaurants didn't hesitate to take over its top Michelin spot. One of them is the famed (although less talked about than the French Laundry) Meadowood - tucked away in the woods, literally, in Napa Valley. The journey to the 'woods' was an adventure itself. I didn't see the small street sign leading to this hotel/golf course and had to make an illegal U-turn on a narrow street in order to track my way back.

The low-key, somewhat creepy entrance.
Into the Woods
The Restaurant at the Meadowood surprised me with a low key entrance, but the usherette took me to two sitting rooms before the main dining room- the first to an incandescently lit lounge with fireplace and then to a brightly lit bar/cocktail area with cushioned furniture. Due to my eye sensitivity, the change from outdoor mid-afternoon sun to dark, low lights then back to indoor bright lights was a little bothersome. Rest assured, if I came here when the sun was down, I would not have the same problem. 

Airy interiors in the main dining room

When my dining group was finally seated, a wait staff was quick to ask our meal preferences. Although he mentioned squab on the menu for that day, I was quite taken aback when a piece of lamb landed in front of me (see below). I am not a big fan of lamb, you see. I should have just told him that I don't eat four-legged animals rather than say no to pork and beef. My mistake.

Although not as precise or military-styled, the service for this Michelin 3-star establishment is impeccable. When I left in the middle of a 12-meal course walking back out to the bar area, the usherette instantly knew I was looking for the restroom and immediately escorted me in front of the women's. We even got a kitchen tour at the end of our meal as an added bonus!

I was dumbfounded that a cheat sheet was not given before the start of the meal, but I braced myself for the surprise, starting with savory amuse bouche, featuring the pillowcase, crispy Meadowood greens and the deep fried cheese dough. The delightful mix of savory appetizers and fresh vegetables from their garden set a high note for the entire meal although I was later disappointed with some hits and misses, especially the Asian influenced squab tea, abalone, lamb and somewhat lackluster desserts.

Get ready to feast your eyes on:

Served on a fluffy throw pillow with creamy gruyere (if my memory serves me right) cheese inside.


A vegetarian version of chicharon (deep fried pork skin).

With the foodie meetup group snapping food photos away.

Cheesy cheese stick that looks like the Spanish churros sprinkled with confectioner's sugar.

Whipped yogurt black sesame pickled plum shiso- didn't feel the shiso in this dish. I appreciate the stones on the side for presentation, but I was taught that everything on a dish must be edible, including dirt such as this from another top restaurant, Manresa, in the Bay Area.

Green tomato clam lovage sea lettuce.Interesting texture of smooth clam and "grounded" lettuce.

Potatoes cooked in beeswax assorted sorrels.I never had beeswax but later found out it is synonymous to the tast of honey.

Abalone buckwheat smoked pepper- I'd rather get the real abalone from an authentic Chinese restaurant.

Black cod hazelnut sunchoke minutina. One of the entrees I like most because I'm a sucker for panseared seafood!

Squab "tea" was also something I'd rather have in an authentic Chinese restaurant. It tastes like my grandma's soup concoction for the sick and weary.

The view



Aged squab Napa potpourri wild berry radish - the males in the table got all feet parts, while the females were served with no bones. Was that a coincidence?

Lamb sunflower tripe pickled lime. Not a big fan of lamb and still not a big fan of this particular lamb. Too bloody for my no-red-meat-diet or, as my friend calls it, no four-legged-animals diet.

Brie set in flax elderberry honey. The flax seed stuck to my upper gumline. Help! It also looked a bit lonely on the large circular plate.

First apples toasted rice pandan. Cleanser palette after the 'sticky' flax seed brie.


White chocolate carrot malt lime. I appreciate the tedious preparation for this dessert. It reminded me of eating white chocolate poki sticks.

"Plate of local fruit". Fun to look at although some were not enjoyable to chew on.

Thank you for the exclusive kitchen tour!

Wormwood, anyone?


The chef's table inside the bustling kitchen that can be had by calling the restaurant. A good idea for a very special foodie celebration.
Overall, Meadowood's meal lacked the 'wow' effect that I usually look for in a restaurant with the same stature, but its excellent service compensated for the food. On another note though, my pet peeve kicked in when an unknown bug flew in front of me after an employee opened a window slightly- somehow ruining my dining experience at Meadowood. The internal ventilation was sufficient (no one was perspiring profusely) so why open a window, especially when a golf course where insects abound is right outside? Perplexed. 

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