Another winner in Napa
Spur of the minute dinner at Basalt, on the corner of 3rd and Main in Napa last Saturday night. The Rip called us; we don’t seem to know how to say no to an adventure, any adventure.
Basalt is a beautiful new facility in an old stone building right on the river. Main Street in Napa is already home to a number of world class places to eat–Morimoto, Torq, 1315, Angele and Cole’s Chop House. How one mostly agricultural town became such a force in the culinary arts is a mystery, but we’re awfully lucky to have all this magnificent food so close by.
At first we were told there were no tables except in the bar, where the player piano was blaring, but then a table miraculously opened up in the loggia, a covered area open to the outdoors and the river view. Indeed, there were a goodly number of open tables, which made the entire exercise seem bizarre. There is a very long table inside, which seats 22. No restaurant needs a dedicated table for 22; it’s a huge waste of space. These places really should ask me first.
I started with the heirloom tomatoes and burrata, accompanied by fried squash blossoms stuffed with mascarpone cheese. It was excellent, fresh and simple yet complex. A wonderful starter.
Gail tried the ox tail tamal, which she felt was small, dry and overcooked. She seemed to be a fan of the king trumpet mushrooms that accompanied the dish.
Although I have no photo of it, I must mention the Chilled Corn Soup, which was spectacular. I’m a sucker for all chilled soups, and this one was superb. The spiced créme fraîche made it seem like the soup was made with buttermilk. This is a brilliant invention, don’t miss it.
For my main course I chose Achiote-Cocoa marinated Black Cod, with baby carrots and green basil vinaigrette.
The fish was cooked perfectly. Those strips of carrot on top were roasted, or fried, or something that made them crisp without turning them brown or losing their flavor. The green mushy stuff is, I think, the pureéd green garlic. Cod is pretty bland, so the chef has to work to infuse all sorts of different flavors into the dish, and he succeeded admirably.
Service was first rate. The runners who brought out the plates described each one, my iced tea was always full, the staff were well trained and attentive. For some idiotic reason, they do not have any sweetener other than Sweet-n-low, which is just a crummy way to save a few cents. Gail thinks I shouldn’t object to this, but how would she feel if the only chardonnay they carried was Carlo Rossi, sold by the gallon at Rite-Aid for $5.47? It’s the little things that make excellence.
There were people sitting two tables over, outside in the lovely evening air. I was quite taken by the color of their drinks–I see both red and black, but they aren’t mixing. Is the black a trick of the light? What can they have been drinking?
Basalt is new, having opened just a few months ago. I think they will regret the inclusion of that silly 22 seat table, but otherwise this is a gorgeous restaurant in a great location. Prices ran around $80/person, which is normal for this level of food and service. We had an excellent meal in a beautiful location. Now we have one more place to choose from on what is becoming the finest street in the world for dinner.