Napa Valley Wine Tasting / Wineries

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n.v. – Napa, CA

Redd Restaurant

A Diner's Journal

By Stacey Bressler

Sometimes you don't know what you're lacking until the need is filled. This is a happy occasion and one that occurs when you visit n.v. When I first heard that Peter Halikas, the talented and personable chef who formerly headed up the catering arm of Dean and Deluca's in St. Helena, was opening a “California Cuisine” restaurant in Napa, I wondered if he would be able to make a go of it. But now that I've been to n.v. on several occasions, I cannot imagine how I existed before it was there. It seems like the kind of fine dining and lounge combination that naturally belongs in close proximity to the Opera House.

The dinner menu at n.v. consists of a lot of familiar dishes – but with a definite twist. Sometimes it's in the preparation, as with the mussels three ways, and sometimes it's in the presentation, as with the tuna carpaccio. Many restaurants in the area offer mussels as an appetizer, but at n.v. you get a trio of combinations; steamed in the traditional style, baked, and rolled in pancetta ($8 for the trio). It's a nice change. However, the tuna carpaccio ($12) is a true show-stopper. Arranged on the plate like rose petals, this dish is almost too pretty to eat. Notice I said almost – the tuna with soy demi, Tobiko caviar and fragrant rice is truly delicious. My husband's vote for best appetizer goes to the house cured gravlax served on a crispy potato cake and garnished with crème fraiche and caviar ($9). It's enough to make even a dedicated carb-watcher forsake the diet. I'm also very fond of the beautiful roasted beet and goat cheese Napoleon ($7) which is another gorgeous presentation with many tiny layers of red and white served on a plate that has been “painted” with beet juice.

The entreé selections are equally appealing. Seared scallops with a delicate saffron sauce ($20) are done to perfection. My husband loves the beef tenderloin ($24), but it's really the accompanying horseradish croquettes that keep him coming back to this dish. These incredible little delights are made of potato and horseradish and fried into crispy rings. Chef Peter Halikas has been experimenting with getting just enough spiciness and now seems to have reached his goal. As a lover of game, I can also recommend the venison ($28) which was tender and rich and perfect with the Burgundy wine we were drinking.

Desserts were lovely to look at, but we were full enough to resist – except once. There was a daily special foie gras with chocolate sauce ($18) which was exceptional. I probably would have preferred to have this as an appetizer, but I can never pass up an opportunity for seared foie gras, and Peter does an excellent job with its preparation.

With all these kudos for the dining room, it's time to move on to praise for the lounge. Why has it taken so long for such a place to open? This is a sophisticated lounge with well-made cocktails, interesting bar food, and a dress code that precludes baseball caps and sloppy jeans (nice jeans are fine). On weekends when there is a large enough crowd, the lounge will stay open until 2 AM. The bar menu contains such intriguing offerings as foie gras sliders and sweetbread poppers. As of this writing, I have not sampled these delicacies, but I can attest to the n.v. lounge's bartender's prowess at making a really good Cosmopolitan. I can certainly imagine stopping by the n.v. lounge after attending a movie or a performance at the Opera House. When summer comes, the outdoor area will be open for service and I'm really looking forward to that.

n.v., 1106 First St., Napa, CA 94558 - 707/265.6400

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