Yountville, California: Bistro Jeanty

Bistro Jeanty, 6510 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

I can’t count the number of meals I’ve enjoyed at Bistro Jeanty over the years. Only the old, now defunct Tra Vigne (not the pale imitation that still survives under that name) etched so many meals on my memory. Bistro Jeanty’s pike quenelles in lobster sauce, fresh tomato sauce under puff pastry, warm lamb tongue salad, smelts with aïoli sauce, salad with lardons and poached egg are a few of the dishes I’ve eaten and remembered.

I went back recently for the first time in almost two years. Instead of reading it as a sign that the bistro was mired in history, I rejoiced to see on the menu many of the dishes I remembered. My friends and I ordered a variety of dishes to share. I confess the meal disappointed me. That  is not at all to say that it was bad. But the zip has gone out of the food.

For instance, we ordered risotto with grilled rabbit loin, morels, peas, and truffle oil. The rice was creamy, the truffle oil fragrant without dominating. The round cylinders of rabbit loin were pale. They may have been in the same kitchen as a grill, but that’s probably as close as they came to it. The seasoning was too subtle. In other words, the dish sagged. The flavor could have been much brighter. However, it was still a good dish. In contrast to the insipido risotto, the roasted bone marrow in sauce bordelaise with toasted bread was rich, bright, and savory. The quenelles in lobster sauce are still satisfyingly guilt-inducing. It’s a dish you allow yourself to have once a year so you don’t regret eating a dish as rich as that.

Bistro Jeanty will have to deteriorate much further before I give up on it. The servers treat you discreetly and with unobtrusive warmth. The ambiance may strike you a little like a French bistro theme park, but it’s extremely comfortable and the interior is bright and welcoming. All the place needs is a little goosing.

Yountville, California: Bottega

V Marketplace
6525 Washington Street, A9
Yountville, CA 94599

707.945.1050

Oh, how nice it is to have Michael Chiarello back in Napa Valley! Last year, he opened a new restaurant in Yountville called Bottega that reminds old stalwarts of his legendary tenure at Tra Vigne more than a decade ago (it still survives but is a shadow of its former self). Who does not remember his soulful rabbit pasta? My second visit to Bottega was with the same friends with whom I frequented the long-lamented Tra Vigne, I felt I had run into an old friend. The five of us at table held the menus like hymnals, each of us looking for our favorite psalms. The offerings did not disappoint. Nor did the service.

We each chose a dish — too much food. Here’s what we ate:

  • Pecorino cheese pudding with crispy soft-boiled egg & forno roasted rapini
  • Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad marcona almonds, sieved egg, pecorino, whole citrus vinaigrette
  • Bruschetta Trio Pepperonata, roasted rapini & salsa rossa, carrot & eggplant caponata with goat cheese
  • Polenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game sauce
  • Potato Gnocchi with duck, fall squash & chesnut ragu, parmigiano reggiano
  • Garlic & Calabrian Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab crab-saffron aïoli, bruschetta
  • Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs preserved-lemon spinach, smokey jus

Bottega’s food is rich, luscious, and — as Patrick expressed with feeling — voluptuous. Deep sauces, complex spices, perfect pasta, all served on warmed stoneware ceramic plates. For dessert, two small chocolate soufflés oozed a river of dark lava from their middle.

It’s nice to be excited again about a restaurant in Napa.