On our trip to Napa Valley to visit the venue for our fall wedding, I wanted to surprise my wife Jun with a trip to one of the fine dining destinations in the area. I was debating between French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood and decided on the latter after listening to a friend rave about his experience there a couple of years ago. The day we visited the Meadowood resort property was absolutely gorgeous and we were very happy coming from the visit to our wedding venue after seeing that the venue was absolutely magnificent and perfect for the small wedding that we were planning. A little bit of wine tasting in the afternoon also helped. I’ve always been a fan of the Bay Area’s “California cuisine” that focuses on freshness of ingredients. Some of the best dining experiences I’ve had came from this area and that’s why I’ve been trying to visit San Francisco as often as I can despite the 6-hour flight from NYC. Where does Meadowood stand in the rankings of Bay Area restaurants? It is damn near the very top!
The tasting menu at Meadowood, which runs at $275 per person (with another more expensive option of $500 per person sitting at the chef’s kitchen counter, although I would just stick with dining at the dining room), proceeded like one magical journey. I was deeply impressed with the thoughtfulness of the kitchen in putting together ingredients of the freshest quality while at the same time not relying on over-the-top cooking to dazzle the crowd and yet still maintaining a level of underrated sophistication seldom seen in fine dining restaurants. After some delicious bites (Jun certainly appreciated the awesome oyster with kohlrabi) came a number of savory dishes that I know that I won’t forget in a long time.
Daylily soup with caviar and radish was an absolutely stunner both in display and in flavor, while the assortment of corn, prawn and roasted sea beans was memorable for the harmony of different elements that worked together so beautiful. Avocado toast has recently taken a hit for being an over-hyped locavore dish, but if every restaurant served one like Meadowood does with a playful take on foie gras in the middle, I’m positive no one would complain. The texture of the “foievacado” on toast was simply magical. I didn’t expect buckwheat sprinkled on top of lightly touched trout would add much, but I was dead wrong. How about some crunchy abalone that was so fresh that I wondered where the kitchen sourced that delicacy?
One of my favorite dishes of the night was black cod with fresh peas. The cod was gently cooked for an impeccable texture, and I was very appreciative of the fact that the kitchen wasn’t overdoing it in the seasoning area; the balance of flavor for the cod combined with the peas was marvelous. The staff brought some lamb-based dishes afterwards; Jun and I both savored the soothing lamb broth, and while the raw spring lamb “tartare” buried underneath artichoke was slightly salty, the mini-Egyptian bread that came along neutralized that salty sensation to make for a wonderful combination. As if all of this series of savory dishes already didn’t provide enough bliss, our server brought a wonderful piece of wagyu beef smoked in dry onion tops. Yes, wagyu beefs are supposed to taste wonderfully juicy and tender, but if there is a contest among restaurants on how to cook wagyu beefs right, I am very confident that Meadowood will do very well. The astounding texture of the meat was something that Jun and I will cherish for a long time.
The desserts were just as sensational. Once Jun got a dip of the rhubarb custard in a little cup with a delightful almond cookie, she exclaimed, “I wish I could just dip a straw into this cup and absorb everything in one gulp!” I happily agreed and lamented that there wasn’t more of that wonderful custard; if I were to dip any cookie in it, it would be magical nonetheless. The other dessert made of date was also quite wonderful without being overpoweringly sweet. Once the petit fours plus one based on preserved fruit was served, we finally awoke from the dream. Jun eagerly declared that this was the best meal she’s had in a while and feels totally comfortable with giving 9.5 KenScale. Trust me, Jun tends to be a more discerning restaurant critic than I am, and she hasn’t given 9.5 before!
Meadowood is not surprisingly a restaurant with stellar reputation around the world so booking in advance through the Tock online reservation system is a must. There is full bar with a ton of excellent (but mostly prohibitively expensive) wine selections from Napa Valley. I wished there were a bit more affordable options but for a restaurant like Meadowood, I wasn’t surprised they mostly carry the bottles that I wouldn’t normally break the bank for. The staff’s service was also exceptional (I still wonder how, but they left a thank you note with Jun’s name on it even though I don’t recall ever telling the restaurant my wife’s name) and I felt very welcomed inside the beautiful and minimalist dining room. When you are in Napa and want to have a truly mesmerizing dining experience there, Meadowood will show you the way. It was easily one of the, if not the best, restaurant trip of the year!
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.5/10
- Ingredients: 10/10
- Flavor: 10/10
- Texture: 9.5/10
- Value: 9.0/10
Address: 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, California 94574
Telephone: (707) 967-1205