Thursday, January 13, 2011

Angèle - Napa Riverfront French Restaurant

So today is my birthday... I am officially old. I say that every year, but today I am 33 years old, and that really does sort of feel like "the beginning of the end" or, at the very least, the last vestiges of my youth.

We were originally thinking of celebrating by heading to San Francisco to try a Thursday night "NightLife" at the Academy of Science, but seeing as I had to work all day and have to get up early again tomorrow, that just didn't feel so feasible. So instead I looked into eating at a nice restaurant -- fortunately, that's one thing we are lucky to have plenty of in Napa Valley!
I decided I would like to try Angele, a French-style restaurant at the "Napa Riverfront", a renovated portion of downtown Napa right on the Napa river, by the old Napa Mill. We had seen this restaurant and perused the menu previously, but had never actually visited.

We showed up and the restaurant was a little more lively than I would have expected on a Thursday in the middle of winter -- it was not packed, but only got more filled as the evening went on. The interior decor was just right: a warm blend of rustic woodword and contemporary styles and lighting, cozy but not crowded. The volume level was quiet enough for conversation but noisy enough to feel alive. Looking at the menu, I was intrigued by several things (one of which they were out of -- the pappardalle bolognese. It is a common theme in my life for restaurants to be out of the one dish I have my heart set on, so these days I make sure to only visit restaurants that have more than one enticing item on the menu for me!)

The wine list didn't seem great, so we decided to have some wine at home before going to dinner, and didn't get any at the restaurant. However, we still wanted something to drink and their specialty cocktails sounded interesting, so Sarah got "My Name is Earl", a cocktail involving cachaca and Earl Grey tea -- pretty light and refreshing. I decided to get one of my favorites, an old-fashioned, but this one was made with bacon-infused bourbon and mixed with maple syrup (sadly, I can say that I tasted not a hint of bacon or maple in it).

For meals, we ordered a sturgeon dish and the roti au veau, consisting of veal loin slices along with braised veal cheek. Both dishes were excellent, but we felt we needed a little more food, so we flagged the server down and ordered a side of brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, the waitress came out with our dessert menus without ever bringing our side before the meals were finished. When another lady (the door hostess/manager?) came by to see how things were going, we told her of the situation and she was clearly perturbed by it and set out to immediately rectify the problem. I could see her chewing out our server girl, which made me feel bad -- it's not like I had ordered everything all at the same time, so it was a simple mistake. On the other hand, it's good to see management taking top-notch service seriously. They ended up bringing out the brussels sprouts and did not charge us for them... and I'm glad we managed to have these, because they were amazing, broiled up perfectly with pieces of pancetta and meyer lemon confit. I hope it didn't ruin the server's night and everything was okay after that.

All in all, a very fine meal... nothing to fault, and they have a great-sounding brunch menu as well, so I think I will come back and try a brunch there at the outdoor seating when the weather warms up a little bit.

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