CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Redd State (Redd -- Yountville, CA)

Last weekend Jon and I decided to take our sorry asses up to Napa for a weekend of much needed relaxation and gluttony. Never mind the fact that it was hotter than balls, we were heading inland.

Thus it was that I found myself sitting on the patio of the glorious Redd. "Inside or outside?" the hostess inquired. As the dining room had been chilled to below freezing, I opted for outside. I figured we wouldn't roast too much. I mean, how long can you spend at lunch?

I seemed to have forgotten that I was dining with my husband, whose "the more the merrier" philosophy in all things culinary seemed to have slipped my mind. Upon seeing there were options for a four AND a seven course tasting menu, he promptly declared that we'd be having the seven course. Our dinner reservation at Bistro Jeanty was a whole seven hours away after all.

Our server, who I'll call Z, was personable, nice and relatively knowledgeable. He was a bit wet behind the ears (as most servers in the valley tend to be, I find) but was full of only good intentions and made our meal incredibly fun as well as pleasant. The sommelier tending to us was a gem and presented our tasty num nums half bottle of Bruno Paillard beautifully. Major brownie props (it's the new brownie points) for keeping that fucker chilled throughout our meal.

Jon also had a mai tai, which was a damn fine example of the mostly-relegated-to-tropical-isles drink. I had my fair share of it, and I'd be hard pressed to say that I've had a better MT than that.

What's that now? You want to know about the food? Hold your damn horses, bitch, I'm getting there.

The first thing you need to know about Redd is the menu will make everyone happy. EVERYONE. They have some innovative shit for all us gastronomic geeks, but they also have things like a Chinese chicken salad for their neighbors who maybe get sick of seeing menus where everything is fluffed. I might want a weekend of porn, but the regulars are just looking for a family film. Redd delivers on all counts.

I did not take a menu with me when I left, so I won't do a play by play, but I will give you some of the highlights.

The second most fucking rad thing about the tasting menu (the first I'll reveal later) is that Jon and I received different dishes for EACH course. I don't think I've ever seen that anywhere, except when we got a his/hers tasting menu at Acquerello on Valentine's Day years ago (back when we were still stupid enough to go to a restaurant on Valentine's Day). Now that is some labor intensive shit. I was crazy impressed. Stay tuned, because there is more where that came from.

Our first course was one of my favorites. We both received raw preparations, and I honestly could not decide which of those babies I liked better. Chef Richard Reddington is crazy gifted in this department. I received yellowfin tuna and hamachi tartare with avocado, chili oil and crispy fried rice while Jon received a sashimi of hamachi with sticky rice, cucumbers, edamame and a lime ginger sauce.

These people had no idea who we were but they gave us exactly what we each would have picked. We traded about halfway through anyway, though, because neither one of us wanted to miss out. The tartare had a nice balance of flavors and textures and was the kind of dish that bitch slapped you something fierce (in a good way). The sashimi was a little more sultry and smooth and provided the perfect complement to the tartare.

We're both big soup junkies. So hooray for the fact that our second course was soup. Jon's was a corn, mine a cold melon consomme. Mine was a miracle in that it had none of that cloying melon aftertaste. Jon's, however, was a revelation. Some diced veggies sat in the middle of the most perfectly creamy corn soup. It was almost like a foam, but not really. I can't even describe it. The kicker was that this is a totally vegan soup. How on earth can you get a soup that creamy with no, well, cream (duh) but also no butter??? Like most other things at Redd, they get it that way by a lot of fucking hard work. After removing the corn from the cob, they scrape the cob to get to the sweet nectar of the kernals. I honestly cannot believe how much work this kitchen puts into their food.

As the lunch progressed, our server started to get a kick out of our guessing game. We'd try to predict what we'd receive next based on our silverware (and yes we are big fucking dorks). We were dead on for both our dishes on only one course. Jon received a trio of foie gras preparations, while I got a ricotta, marscapone and herb ravioli.

Jon enjoyed his foie gras (the terrine and mouse more than the pistachio rimmed torchon), which was accompanied by some lovely brioche and variations on rhubarb. I was thrilled to receive the ravioli, because I often find that vegetarian dishes are the slacker dishes and I wanted to see if Redd took the easy way out. They did not. My pasta was perfectly cooked, the green garlic sauce a scrummy accompaniment. There was a dice of beautiful seasonal veggies in my dish as well (and again, a demonstration of and immense amount of work -- these were perfect vegetables...but hmmm...didn't I see these in the corn soup?).

Petrale sole, our patron saint of fishes here by the bay, often bores me. Not so at Redd. Anytime you put chorizo in something I'm game. Add some squid bits and saffron and I'm your girl. Not only was this a perfectly composed dish but my fish could not have been cooked better.

Another highlight of the meal was Jon's beef, which came in slices but also in the form of a braised shortrib. One bite of this shortrib and Jon's eyes went wide and rolled back into his head. Once I was sure he wasn't having a seizure, I asked him how the food was. He declared that, without a doubt, it was the best shortrib he's had anywhere, ever.

More fish, shellfish, pork belly, chicken -- you name it -- and we were ready to burst. We were thanking the good Lord above when they removed our bread plates (P.S. the bread was fab)because we thought it was our entry to dessert. Not so, the removal was a mistake and we had to power through one more entree. Not a problem in the desire/taste department, just in the belly department. We did it, though, and then opened our second stomachs for dessert.

If I had one complaint about Redd, it would be the redundancy factor. As I've mentioned, there are a lot of labor intensive dishes. Because of that, several ingredients get reused (that beautiful vegetable dice for example). I'd imagine this is only noticeable in the tasting menu, and I totally get why they need to do it but I did start to get ingredient fatigue with a couple of things.

Even though the menu says seven courses, you get eight. That's because before the dessert course, they let you choose to have a scoop of one of their sorbets of the day OR pick one of the cheeses from their list. We did one of each. The berry tea sorbet for me and the Largo from Andante for Jon (that Soyung can make herself some cheese, yo). The sorbet was almost effervescent and was an appropriate palate cleanser. Jon's cheese was great (but then we knew that already).

(Side note: on a trip to the loo, I forgot to latch the door. This lead to an awkward encounter between me and the woman from the table next to mine).

I was already pretty wowed at this point, but dessert really took the way dope factor to another level. Jon had a gorgeous looking strawberry shortcake with marscapone and all sorts of fine lovins, but I didn't much care because I was so enamored with my dessert. My confection involved a perfectly cold chocolate milkshake (really great considering I was a mite sweaty after sitting outside for 3 hours), a ice cream sandwich with delicious chocolate wafers and mint chocolate chip ice cream made with the freshest mint. There was a parallel to this in the form of thin pieces of chocolate sandwiched around some mint creme (think a delicate peppermint patty). Despite having already busted the elastic on my undies, I ate the whole entire plateful of sweetness. And licked the plate.

After lunch, we went to the kitchen to thank the extremely bitchin' Mr. Redd himself. "Chef," I said, "we owe you an apology for stealing from you." And that is the fucking truth, yo. Seven (eight) courses for....wait for it...$75. Seventy fucking five dollars (this would be the first most fucking rad thing about the menu that I referred to earlier). That is the most crazy ass bargain of the year if you ask me (and since you are reading this, I'm assuming that you are, indeed, asking me).

I left that meal with a full tummy, a lighter heart, a new favorite Napa destination and a sweet ass farmer's tan from sitting out on that there patio for more than three hours. What more could a girl ask for?


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Blogger NS said...

A great review of a great restaurant. I was thoroughly impressed by Redd on my first visit several months ago, and I can't wait to get back up there. Incidentally, if I'm not mistaken, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton also offers two distinct dishes for each course on the chef's tasting menu. Then again, the tasting menu at The Dining Room is a bit more than $75 per person!

7/28/2006 11:27 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

NS -- you are right! I can't believe I forgot that about The Dining Room! Had I ever gotten around to posting about it, that might not have been a problem.

7/28/2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

my mouth is watering! i cooked with the chef once in NYC a few years ago and he was just great to work with. i'm going to have to go there on my next trip back. thanks for the great review!

7/30/2006 2:51 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hedonist said...

Love the review. Great timing, because I'm going there for lunch on Saturday--can't wait.

8/01/2006 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your reviews. They are hilarious and so helpful. Did you end up dining at Bistro Jeanty? I hope you write that one up as well.

8/02/2006 3:52 PM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

Joy-- go girl! you have outdone yourself. What a gorgeous review. I'll have to go, even though it's pn that strange corner where the "#10 can" restaurant used to stand...

At TFL, when I worked there, if two + people ordered the same tasting we snt them out different things. But now that it costs more than it does to go to Bennington, I'm not sure what they do.

ps, Blogher for you next year!

8/02/2006 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your review so makes me want to make a reservation NOW.

8/04/2006 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I stumbled on Redd last fall on opening night. We never heard of the place and I no idea what we were getting outselves into. I had the smaller tasting menu, my wife ordered from the menu. The experience was nothing short of outstanding. We loved it so much we went back the next night for larger tasting menu. We both got different items and shared. Our night ended with Chef signing a menu for us which is now framed in our wine room.


8/31/2006 5:21 AM  

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