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Basalt, Napa

Author: Alexandra Russell
October, 2016 Issue

Basalt

790 Main St.
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 927-5265
www.basaltnapa.com
Seasonal California Cuisine
5 p.m.-10 p.m. (Monday-Thursday), 5 p.m.-10 p.m. (Friday), 
11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (Saturday), 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (Sunday)
Entrees $16-$35 
Nice wine and beer list, craft cocktails

Basalt is situated on a bustling corner in downtown Napa, with a patio section that overlooks the riverfront. On the night we visited, live music was playing at the park across the street and the restaurant filled up as the concert wound down. It’s clearly a place to meet with friends, see and be seen. It’s big and bustling, with a steady flow of servers taking efficient care of their guests.

We started with cocktails. A mint julep was served in a vintage mug and looked like a grown-up’s snowcone. Made with Amador Napa wine barrel aged bourbon, it was a refreshing take on a classic. My hotel nacional, named after “Cuba’s grandest prohibition-era cocktail haunt,” was a beautiful glass of summer—Dutch rum, pineapple, lime and apricot—that went down easy and delivered instant relaxation.

For appetizers, we followed the advice of our server, Pranab, who made terrific suggestions throughout the evening. Blistered snap peas were bright and fresh, served warm with a chili-garlic glaze that added a perfect kick. Fried okra was lightly battered, tender (not slimy) and served with a roasted tomato aioli that was rich and just a bit spicy. It was a real treat, since okra isn’t so common in these parts. Melt-in-your-mouth chicarrón (fried pork rinds), dressed in lime salt and honey were sweet, tangy and delicately crunchy. So good.

We shared two small plates and were delighted with both. A shareable portion of lamb sirloin was beautifully cooked, topped with fresh figs and lightly dressed greens, accompanied with a blue cheese-laden sauce. The deep, savory lamb, sweet figs and tangy cheese and greens were perfect together in all their combinations. In contrast, burrata with heirloom tomatoes squash blossoms (stuffed with marscapone) and peach vinaigrette presented layers of delicacy enhanced by the lightest sprinkle of finely ground black pepper.

We were also impressed with the wine pairings chosen by Assistant General Manager Parvati Ananda. Basalt has a large list of local and international wines—by the bottle, glass or on-tap, so we let the expert decide. For the lamb, we had a 2013 Spellbound Petite Sirah, which stood up well to the dish’s bold flavors. The burrata paired nicely with a bright, strawberry-scented 2014 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé from France. Both wines were from the restaurant’s Free Flow Wines on-tap program.

When it came to entrées, there would be no sharing—not that I wasn’t tempted, but since I ordered fish and my husband’s allergic, it just didn’t seem fair. Me first: A lovely white sea bass fillet, cooked golden and flaky, sat atop a bowl of some of the most flavorful broth I’ve ever had, probably thanks to the magic of saffron. The dish also included broccoli di Ciccio, cranberry beans, sweet peppers and mussels. The buttery fish was balanced by the bright, slightly bitter greens, which cut through the sweet, creamy broth and made my mouth very happy. It was wonderfully paired with a light, crisp (ripe apple and pear) 2013 Villa Locatelli Friulano Friuli (Italy).

My husband’s roasted quail was perfectly spiced and served with Chanterelle mushrooms, slices of pluot and a green bean ragu that was heightened with smoky, spicy chorizo. He thoroughly enjoyed the dish, especially with a glass of 2013 Lichen Estate Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley), which enhanced all the rich, savory goodness.

We concluded our meal with wildly divergent desserts. A nitro cold brew coffee cocktail (vodka, vanilla, Varnelli Caffe Moka, condensed milk) was a decadent wake-up shot for the drive home, while my coconut rice pudding was just plain yummy. The small bowl was capped with a coconut nougatine (a light, crispy caramel similar to a praline) and topped with tropical fruit and lime curd. Sometimes, you have to stop taking notes and just enjoy. This was one of those times.

 

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