Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dinner and a Movie in St. Helena: Cameo Cinema and Go Fish

I love going to the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena. It is such a charming little theater with a healthy dose of character. Being so quaint, it fits right in on St. Helena Highway (the main street through St. Helena), and I appreciate their efforts to mix up the movies a bit, considering they only have one screen. They tend to choose dramas and Oscar-buzz-worthy films, sometimes a few weeks or a month after they come out in other theaters. It's hit or miss whether you want to see what they happen to be playing any given week, but when you find one you like you have to go quick because they rotate the movie out each week. They also occasionally play some special indie and art films, or broadcast performances like opera and ballet, plus occasionally they work in an extra children's movie on the weekends.

It's possible that my appreciation for this theater is because it is really the only one in Napa Valley. There is actually a larger, multi-screen one in Napa (the Napa Cinedome) but its quality is so awful and atmosphere so dismal, that you're really better off not even going at all. The only other large, multi-plex theaters are located in Fairfield and Santa Rosa.

However, even if there were other theaters around, I think I would have a soft-spot for the Cameo... It is small, cozy -- not too many seats, they all have a good view (no stadium seating though), and there are nice love-seat style two-seaters in the back, perfect for a date. Plus they have good snacks and refreshments. My gf had been wanting to see Black Swan -- and we are both fans of Darren Aronofsky -- and it happens to be playing this week at the Cameo, so it seemed like an opportune time for a date! (to be honest, I would have preferred seeing True Grit, but it was playing last week when she was in NYC).

I won't say much about the film here... I don't even know what there is to say. I can say it's definitely not Aronofsky's best work. I guess I was sort of left scratching my head. But not for long, because we had also made a dinner reservation at Go Fish, just down the street on the southern outskirts of St. Helena.

Go Fish is a seafood restaurant owned by Cindy Pawlcyn, who is best known for her Mustards Grill restaurant right off of 29 in the Oakville area, although she also runs "Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen" right behind the Cameo theater. I've never tried Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, but my gf (and her family) and I have been big fans of Mustards for a long time, and we had never tried Go Fish. Add to that that she likes sushi -- which is what Go Fish is known for -- and it seemed like a good fit [not as much for me -- I don't like sushi because I can't stand the seaweed. But they also have hot fish dishes, which I'm a fan of]

This restaurant does not hold a candle to Pawlcyn's Mustards restaurant. Whereas Mustards has a very cozy, casual vibe, the atmosphere at Go Fish is rather sterile. We liked the little cushioned alcove we got to sit at, it was very comfortable and was a nice setup. But the open spaciousness, uninteresting decor, and stark white lighting just feel too corporate and impersonal.

The waiter was a friendly enough guy, and was attentive without being overbearing. The food was hit or miss -- we had gone there because my girlfriend is a big fan of sushi (I am not because I can't stand the seaweed, so I appreciated that there were other options on the menu including hot fish dishes which were the main draw for me). My girlfriend ordered the "lobster roll" sushi roll, a special for the evening with tempura shrimp, crab salad, tobiko, avocado, and meat from half a lobster tail on top (not cheap at $33, though). I ordered the crispy duck salad followed by a Sole Almondine (sole in brown butter with toasted almonds.)

The crispy duck salad (with frisee, toasted pistachios, currants, and a generous portion of duck) was delicious and my gf enjoyed her sushi roll well enough (I took a bite and didn't really like it because I couldn't discern any of the different flavors). However, my sole almondine was awful. The freshness seemed okay, and the cooking/texture was fine, but it was WAY too salty. So salty that I couldn't even eat it. I ended up sending it back to the kitchen (this is the first time in my entire life that I've ever done this at a restaurant) and getting some fried calamari instead, which was good -- definitely fresh and tender and cooked right, but the inclusion of fried olives plus pine nuts, currants, and toasted garlic slivers which just sort of sat under the calamari was strange, it just didn't really work. I think I've been spoiled by the calamari just up the street at Market, which is much better.

We considered wine but the list was way too pricey and they charge $15 corkage (unlike Market up the street) so we didn't bother.

I'm glad we gave it a try, and I appreciate the accommodating service and the no-problems fix of the dish I sent back, but I probably won't return here... unless I have a guest who is really craving sushi (although there are still 2 Japanese/Sushi places I need to try in downtown Napa)

No comments:

Post a Comment