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Atlas Social, Napa

Author: Alexandra Russell
June, 2016 Issue

Atlas Social
1124 First St.
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 258-2583
Small plates, global flavors
Noon to 9:00 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday) and 10:00 pm (Friday and Saturday)
Small plates $3-$18
Nice wine and beer list
The latest entry from Michael and Christina Gyetvan (who also own Norman Rose Tavern and Azzurro Pizzeria e Enoteca), Atlas Social is all clean lines and contemporary finishes—a refined take on a local watering hole. We’re greeted by GM Pat Jeffries and told to “Relax, sit back, have dinner and enjoy.” No need to tell us twice.
Chef Nick Ritchie collaborates with the Gyetvans to bring inspiring world flavors to the table. The menu is divided into three sections: For the Table, Cold and Hot. Easy enough. Smoked trout rillettes came in a small mason jar, topped with chive and served with caraway-rye crostini. It was silky smooth with a delicate, smoky flavor. The crunchy, buttery bread was a perfect complement, creating a definite “slow down and savor” moment.
The chef’s crispy fried farm egg was similar to a Scotch egg, but without the sausage layer. Breaded and baked to a beautiful golden brown, it was served on a small bed of bacon jam and topped with flaky salt and chives. Breaking through the crust revealed a rich, creamy soft-boiled egg; my husband immediately claimed “Mine” and stopped sharing.
The housemade charcuterie platter included generous portions of smoked ham, prosciutto, pork rillette and pork pate with grilled crostini. Each selected meat was distinctly seasoned, and a bit of fruited mustard chutney cut through the richness and left our tongues tingling.
A little gems salad was bright and fresh. The crunch of the lettuce was matched with small croutons and topped with fava beans, radishes, goat feta and creamy lemon tarragon dressing—like a taste of spring. It was followed by another deep, green dish: burrata over grilled asparagus with black olive oil. The asparagus was cooked perfectly, retaining a bit of al dente crunch, while the delicate cheese added just the right amount of creaminess. In combination, it was earthy, rich and satisfying.
An “angry” shrimp cocktail was a terrific balance of sweet meat and spicy chili sauce, with a garnish of roasted garlic chips, basil and orange rind grounding the dish. The perfect palate cooler came in the form of ricotta and smoked mozzarella dumplings served in slow-cooked tomato sauce and topped with pecorino cheese. The simplicity of ingredients put the spotlight squarely on the sauce, which was fresh, sweet and aromatic.
Barbecue lamb riblets were falling off the bone, dressed in a tamarind glaze and served with a creamy spring slaw. The tangy sauce matched the meat’s bold flavor, making for a finger-licking delight. Rabbit pot pie had peas, carrots and tender shreds of meat in a rich, flavorful broth, topped with a light, flaky biscuit—comfort food deluxe.
By now, it was clear we had bitten off more than we could chew (pardon the expression), but we didn’t regret a single choice. Small-but-overloaded pork belly tacos challenged us to keep going. Heaped on a handmade corn tortilla was citrus and achiote braised pork belly (smoky, rich), smooth blended avocado, grilled pineapple and Napa cabbage. The deep, bold red pepper sauce had a nice, building heat that didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.
For dessert, we tried the Meyer lemon pudding, which was served in a swing-top mason jar. Topped with fresh berry compote and accompanied with a shortbread cookie, it was perfectly tart, creamy, melty, buttery and sweet. To everyone at Atlas Social, my husband and I thank you…our waistlines, not so much.

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