What's Amy Eating? Napa Valley Grille
Last month I was invited to lunch at the Westwood Village restaurant "Napa Valley Grille." It is a wine country-inspired restaurant that has been a staple of the city for the past 12 years. I had no idea what lay ahead for me and my plus one, but I had a feeling I would enjoy every bite.
Shortly after I was greeted by the hostess, I was introduced to Executive Chef Taylor Bordeaux. He proceeded to walk me to my table for two and seat me with menu in hand. We chatted for a few minutes as I gathered more background on him and the restaurant. I learned that he is a Wolfgang Puck Worldwide alum with over 17 years of culinary experience, and that his wife is a registered dietitian, which greatly influences his cooking. As I glanced over the menu, he let me know that his plan was to "throw stuff my way" for the meal.
PAUSE, let's recap. I was invited to review a restaurant where THE executive chef would be cooking specifically for ME? On the inside I was jumping up and down screaming with excitement. On the outside I played it cool. I felt like I was going to be the newest judge on Iron Chef. He returned to the kitchen and soon after my plus one (none other than my mom) arrived.
First on the agenda was bread. But not just any bread. Fresh, fantastic, bread of your dreams bread. It was warm and fluffy on the inside, with the perfect crunchy crust on the outside accompanied with an out of this world chimmichurri sauce. So many restaurants can't get something as simple as the bread right, and Napa Valley Grille nailed it. This was a promising glimpse of what was yet to come.
The first course presented to me was a Black fig and prosciutto appetizer with burrata cheese, micro basil, aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and grey salt. Prosciutto and burrata had previously never been in my diet. After eating this dish, they are both here to stay. This was the ultimate example of a perfectly balanced dish. The salty meatiness of the prosciutto with the silky creaminess of the burrata cheese was such an amazing match. I felt that the cheese was there for texture while the meat was there for taste. Digging deeper you discover the fruity essence of fig and your taste buds are pulled in another direction. All of these flavors are so different yet work so well together. I have always been a fan of sweet with savory, so this was truly a treat. To top it all off you have the fresh concentrated flavor of micro basil and a wonderfully potent aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. From first to last bite I was intrigued and left wanting more well after my plate was cleared. Each ingredient was equally important and had it's own starring moment. I have been craving this dish ever since I left and my taste buds cannot wait to return for a reunion.
Round two offered soft shell crab. It was presented with a home made tartar sauce and a lemon wedge. The presentation was enticing and the home made tartar sauce was excellent attention to detail. The crab was fresh and flavorful, and due to my mom's wheat sensitivity, Chef Taylor fried the crab with corn meal instead of traditional wheat flour. I really appreciate that he was able to cater to my mom's special needs while still making the dish taste great.
Time for my favorite dish of the whole meal. Sweet corn agnolotti. It is a house made pasta with black truffle and parmesan butter sauce. From the first bite, it became my new favorite pasta. Imagine if a sweet corn tamale and ravioli fell in love and came together to create one super dish. You would have a culinary masterpiece on your hands. Each bite was an explosion of sweet corn flavor and the fresh pasta was the perfect vessel to deliver it to my mouth. The black truffle was not overpowering and had just the right place in the dish. The parmesan butter sauce was light and creamy. Anytime I've eaten pasta in the past I've felt weighed down. This pasta had light flavors with a serious punch. Along with the prosciutto burrata plate, this has earned it's spot in my diet and I must return for an encore.
*DUN DUN DUN* I now present to you, Amy Castle's procession of pasta eating faces!
"Hey foodies, let's try a bite!"
"OHHH, it looks good."
"Mmm, that's pretty tasty."
"Oh my GOD this is amazing."
"I'm in pasta bliss."
(Giggles to self that she enjoys pasta this much.)
"Ok, you guys SERIOUSLY have to try this!"
"I could weep with joy due to how good this is."
"This pasta gets a big thumbs up!"
Accompanying my pasta were green beans in a sweet sesame soy sauce. The green beans were crispy and the sauce was addicting. The dish was topped with toasted sesame seeds which added great texture and flavor. I finished every last bean and will definitely order them again.
My mom was treated to the natural half roasted chicken with pan jus. We swapped bites of food and her chicken was one of the juiciest and most flavorful I've had in a long time. The skin was crispy perfection. The rosemary was very present and the pan jus was just the right sauce. I have to go back to fully appreciate this dish.
Accompanying my mom's chicken were baby artichokes sautéed with garlic and shallots. I only had one because my attention was turned to the green beans, but it was tender and full of deep garlic flavor.
For dessert, we were presented with a cappuccino pot de crème. A crème brulee type custard with fresh chantilly cream on top and garnished with a chocolate dipped spoon. Yes, you heard me correctly. Chocolate. Dipped. SPOON. The custard was smooth, with rich notes of cappuccino, yet not too sweet. Overly sweet desserts are a big pet peeve of mine, so I am happy to report that this dessert earns an A + on the sweetness level. The chantilly cream was so light, and tasted like it was freshly whipped on the spot. I rarely finish all of my dessert, but this really hit the spot and I couldn't help but devour the whole thing.
My new friend, the chocolate dipped spoon.
When lunch had finally come to an end, I thanked Chef Taylor and the manager Tracy and headed back to my car. All of the flavors were still swirling on my palette, the memories of an incredible meal still fresh on my mind. I headed home, straight for my computer, to share my wrap up review with you. My foodie friends, here it is.
Napa Valley Grille is perfection. Chef Taylor's attentiveness throughout lunch was such a pleasant surprise and an experience I will never forget. He introduced me to unexpected flavor combinations and opened my taste buds up to new culinary possibilities. Each dish was well thought out with attention to detail, and each ingredient within had a specific purpose. The emphasis on locally sourced produce is so important, and I greatly appreciate Chef Taylor's commitment to using only the freshest ingredients. From the beautiful decor, to the warm staff, to the out of this world dishes, Napa Valley Grille is a must try, and a new addition to my favorite restaurants.
For more information on Napa Valley Grille, check out http://www.napavalleygrille.com and don't forget the follow them on Twitter @NVGRestaurant.
Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Avenue, Suite 100
Los Angeles, CA 90024