Touring Napa Valley and dining in Yountville, CA is something every foodie should do at least once in their life. The concentration of critically acclaimed and Michelin starred restaurants in such a small geographic location, Yountville, is almost unlike any other place in the world. Based on short notice table availability and also a recommendation we dined at Richard Reddington’s restaurant – Redd.
Redd is located on a main but quiet road. The restaurant is partially hidden by its lush floral garden, with its notable large windows facing the road soaking up the afternoon sun. There is both outdoor and indoor dining, with the outdoor being perfect on a warm spring evening – but the indoor dining area is much more intimate. The interior of the restaurant is minimally decorated with most of the beauty coming from the view and sunshine coming through its floor to ceiling windows. The opposing wall has three modern paintings, which are subtle and don’t deter from the open, yet cozy space.
The menu is ‘wine country’ cuisine with influences from various other countries and cultures. The proteins are diverse, ranging from Hamachi to lobster to squab to lamb – so most will easily hone in on a certain dish immediately that sparks their fancy. I really wanted to sample as much as I could, so as a table we choose to do the five course chef’s tasting menu ($85 or $130 with wine pairings). This allowed us to sample two seafood, two meats and one dessert course – with each course being progressively larger and bold than the last. The restaurant also cleverly brings different dishes to diners at the same table for each course, so for each course two diners had one dish while the other two had something different. This is great if you really want to try everything and don’t mind sharing.
The first course I received was a sashimi style Hamachi served over sticky rice with some seaweed salad, edamame and cucumber. The freshness and quality of the fish was just mind blowing, but the fish was ultimately dumbed down by the pedestrian seaweed salad, which you find at any sushi restaurant these days. The sticky rice played well with the dish, but for a menu of this caliber you really just expect something a bit more innovative. The dish was still clean and a good palette opener. Fellow diners received a tuna tartar with avocado, puffed rice and aromatics. Again with the rice, why… At least this preparation was more creative, but white rice doesn’t really have a place on a fine dining menu (for the most part). The tartar was good but nothing earth shattering.
The second round of seafood offerings were excellent. I received the seared scallops with a luscious velvet cauliflower puree, while others got the skate wing with clams and coconut curry sauce/foam. The scallops were minimally seasoned and seared until crispy and cooked to perfection. The rich puree really contrasted the naturally salty and crispy scallops, while the capers, almonds, and golden raisins were the perfect harmony of sweetness, saltiness and crunch. The skate wing may have been even better than the scallops. I’ve never had skate wing, but it’s a, delicate, meaty, and flat filet that stood up great to the flavorful yet subtle coconut curry sauce and foam. The clams were gently cooked and hit with finely chopped crispy bits of chorizo. This dish also unfortunately had rice, but here it actually worked because the rice soaked up the savory broth and balanced out the fatty chorizo pieces.
Earlier that day our wine guide at Robert Mondavi raved about Redd’s gnocchi dish and lobster risotto, so we requested one of our tasting dishes be the risotto. We also couldn’t resist the urge of fresh gnocchi with spring vegetables, so we ordered that off the a la carte menu. The lobster risotto was very delicious, but would have benefitted from more lobster, less Meyer lemon and a bit more salt. This seems like a lot of criticism for what I said was a great dish, and it was, the rice was lusciously rich from the cooking technique and the flavors all blended well – but aesthetically I would have liked to see the lobster presented like an iceberg in the middle of the plate and the salt would have opened up the dish a bit more. The gnocchi was stunning, just so pillow-y soft; it melted in your mouth. The minimalist preparation of the gorgeous early spring asparagus, mushrooms, and peas was so refreshing. The crunchy bits and shredded parmesan on top provided good saltiness and contrasting textures. The plate was just beautiful as well, with each component being laid randomly yet precisely on the plate, which made the dish look like artwork.
Next course was the first of the two meat courses. I got the roasted squab, while others got the pork belly. I love trying new things, so I was happy to receive the squab. The preparation included pan roasting the breast and also a deep fried leg, which sat atop braised endive and other waxy vegetables, all being finished with a pan sauce. The squab could have been cooked to a higher temperature for my liking, but was still delicious with the accompanying rich pan sauce. The vegetables played nicely with the dish and gave some freshness to a heavy dish. The pork belly was one of the better preparations of the protein I have ever had. Each piece of pork belly was perfectly butchered to omit any additional gristle that doesn’t cook away upon high heat and then glazed in sweet soy. The pork still maintained great crispness and was perfectly paired with a tart, sweet, and velvety texture apple puree. The richness was nicely cut with the frisee and thin strips of glazed vegetable and apple.
Our entire party was very full by the time the last savory course was about to arrive. One of the dishes in this course was a pan roasted prime New York steak with short rib, carrots, toasted barley, wild mushrooms and horseradish. The smaller (relative to the steak) piece of short rib was very good – it was fall apart tender, brimming with rich meaty flavor and had a parmesan crust on top for some sharpness. The accompanying barley and vegetables were also very tasty and made for a nice hearty dish; however, the NY steak was just way undercooked. I know chefs and culinary experts will tell you that medium rare is the only way to cook a steak – and to that I say BS. In my opinion, red meat is best cooked medium, not medium rare, not rare, not medium well – just medium. Sure, this steak was expertly cooked but it was so rare that it didn’t cut nice and the texture was just off since the center was so cold. The steak itself also lacked seasoning and would have been better broiled so that a crust would have formed.
The steak and short rib dish was still substantially better than the entrée I received, which was a lamb porterhouse served over stewed beans and vegetables with a tiny olive tapenade crisp on the side. First, the lamb was near tasteless and again undercooked, which rendered it too hard to cut. The stew on the bottom of the dish was good, but it reminded me of the rice in the Hamachi dish – it felt out of place in a fine dining restaurant and didn’t add anything to the dish. It was just there to take up space. I was already so full and just exhausted from a long day of wine tastings that I didn’t feel like sending anything back to get re-cooked, but I have no doubt the restaurant would have obliged and rectified the situation had I said something.
The final course, dessert, was the perfect finale to a really good meal (other than the last course). I received a deconstructed strawberry short cake, while others got deconstructed s’more with coffee ice cream. The shortcake had a small dense square of rich pound cake in the middle, with a rhubarb jam, crenel of strawberry sorbet, as well as fresh strawberries and some pie crust dust for texture. This dish screamed spring and was incredibly refreshing. The s’more was served in a wide glass with alternating layers of chocolate mousse, marshmallow fluff, and graham cracker powder, finally topped with fresh coffee ice cream. Although heavier than the strawberry dessert, this was still refreshing and just a stellar dessert.
A few other notes about the meal – the service was very good, constantly changing out silverware after each course and being attentive but not overbearing. As with most chefs tasting menus, the meal is intended to last several hours for the diners to really take in each dish, and what better setting than beautiful Napa Valley to do so. Our server could tell we really wanted to try the lobster risotto, so she ended up bringing us the full size portion of the dish with the restaurant compliments – a very nice gesture. Furthermore, while $85 per person for the five course tasting seems steep, it was much more reasonable than other chefs tasting menus in Yountville, and I really feel the price was justified given the wide array of dishes/proteins offered. Redd also has a Michelin star, so you’re paying a bit extra for the restaurant’s notoriety. Lastly, Redd does allow diners to bring in their own bottles of wine, with corking fees around $25 per bottle.
All in all, my meal at Redd was very memorable and really was the cherry on top to a great experience in Napa Valley. While some dishes were better than others, the experience as a whole left a very good taste in my mouth.