In late September, my wife Jun and I had our wedding in Napa Valley (I feel both fortunate and sad to have avoided the wildfire that is currently ravaging the area). When we had visited Napa Valley back in May to check out our wedding venue, we had one of the best meals of the year at the highly acclaimed Restaurant at Meadowood helmed by chef Christopher Kostow. When I heard during that time that chef Kostow’s team is close to opening up his second, more casual project, I knew this has to be the place for our wedding rehearsal dinner with our family the night before the big day. As soon as the restaurant opened, I inquired about availability for a large family dinner, and the hostess graciously agreed to put our table at the quieter backyard for more intimacy. When our family actually showed up at the restaurant and was led to the backyard, the absolutely gorgeous venue already enchanted us. The meal at the Charter Oak also turned out to be quite outstanding.
In order to save headache for a party of nine, I suggested to our family that we go for family style at $85 per person, which turned out to be a smart decision as we were able to sample a lot of different dishes. The Charter Oak doesn’t showcase the creative ingenuity that Jun and I had seen at Meadowood, yet the same principle and spirit of Meadowood’ kitchen focusing on freshness of ingredients and consistency of execution were still very much there during our dinner. Melon and shiso combination offered refreshing starts to the meal, and the gently touched yellowtail crudo was also quite fresh and tender in texture. Grilled okra could be the next big thing in terms of bar snack-type bites, and the salad of beans, avocado and squid was not ordinary either, as everyone enjoyed the subtle elegance behind the simplicity of preparation.
My favorite savory dish of the night was clearly the wonderfully cooked chicken with grape leaves and fresh and dried grapes. The smoky feel of the poultry dish was quite memorable and there was no sign of overdoing things in terms of maintaining a very delicate balance of flavor. I wouldn’t be surprised if I designate this dish one of the vey top chickens I’ve had this year when I go through the annual restaurant reviews. Add some silky smooth creamed corn polenta, and you have one heck of a satisfying meal. After the savory courses followed cheese dish, which was delicious, and then the absolutely decadent apple upside down cake that tasted just as delicious as it looked with its rich flavor and the fresh texture of the apple on top of the cake.
The Chartered Oak is one of the hottest openings in the Bay Area, so I highly suggest booking as early in advance as possible. The dining space, especially, the backyard, was mostly packed during our Thursday dinner. There is full bar with some of the most renowned Napa and Sonoma wines out there; a lot of them are quite pricey, but there are also definitely bottles you can get for less than $100. As mentioned above, if you end up securing a table, by all means try to get seated at the backyard; it will add a ton of extra charm to your experience, especially during dinner. Our family had an awesome time at the Chartered Oak thanks to the simple yet beautifully and thoughtfully prepared food and the inviting atmosphere of the dining space. I strongly suggest you check this place out next time you are out in Napa.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 1050 Charter Oak Avenue, St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 302-6996