Charlie Palmer Steak Napa
Progressive American Cuisine
1260 1st Napa Street
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Nov.-Feb.)
3 p.m. to 10 p.m. (March-Oct.)
In November last year, the much-anticipated new luxury, boutique Archer Hotel, opened on First Street in downtown Napa. The five-story hotel features 183 well-appointed rooms, five-star service and a comfy rooftop lounge, offering panoramic views of the valley amidst a canopy of potted olive trees. Since opening, a daily happy hour has made it the new haute spot for locals and visitors to the valley. It’s also home to Charlie Palmer’s newest restaurant—Charlie Palmer Steak Napa.
A master chef and hospitality entrepreneur, Palmer is known for his signature progressive American cuisine—bold, dynamic flavors and unexpected combinations built on classical French technique. Years ago, I met Charlie at an after-party, following a high school football game and he was running the kitchen. I had no idea he was something of a celebrity chef. I introduced myself when I encountered him working. “I hear you’re a big time celebrity chef,” I said, or something not so ingenious like that. He smiled and shrugged it off. “Don’t believe everything you hear,” he said, which made me like him right away. In any case, best after-the-game food ever. Charlie Palmer knows food. And though he’s a celebrated personality in the culinary realm, word has it he’s a hands-on chef-owner and known to wash dishes and bus tables.
Alex and I arrive on a Thursday evening and are seated in a quiet corner. Our host for the evening is Ian Hoshino, general manager, who promises to lead the way with small starters for us to try. Our server is Zach Luman and we inquire about business. “We opened with a rush of business in November, then the holiday rush, and now we have the new, new rush,” says Luman.
Charlie Palmer Steak offers a modern take on the traditional steak house, showcasing artisanal American beef and local flavors. The wine list is extensive, and there’s a selection of specialty cocktails, too.
We begin with cocktails and a selection of appetizers, starting with the ahi tuna tartar, which is served with a soy-lime emulsion and crushed avocado. This is the freshest tuna you might ever experience, and a must for sushi lovers. The roasted baby beets with whipped ricotta are delicately plated, and though usually earthy, these beets offer an elegant brightness with Satsuma mandarin and aged balsamic. If you like carpaccio, try the American Wagyu beef, a signature dish. Topped with crisp shiitake, jalapeno and soy-lime, it’s served with kimchi tapioca puffs, which are light rice crisps made in house. Another signature dish there is the pig ear pad thai with spicy peanut, cilantro and fresh lime. Fresh and bursting with flavor, you’ll be tempted to make it a meal.
At Charlie Palmer Steak, plates are beautifully created and well executed with attention to detail, and the service is impeccable. Jeffrey Russell is the executive chef and a long-time Charlie Palmer disciple, following in Charlie's footsteps of modern American cooking and dedicated to the art of American food as well as a carefully-crafted menu.
The restaurant offers a thoughtful selection of steaks, including Wagyu beef (a Japanese beef cattle breed) and a 21-day dry aged porterhouse for two and a variety of sauces to accompany them. For the main course, Alex opted for the bone-on ribeye, which was cooked to perfection and the peppercorn cream sauce, which was bold in flavor. An 18-ounce cowboy cut, this is a classic and perfect for a hearty appetite. I went with the citrus basted Ora king salmon, which is sustainably raised in New Zealand. Seared with a beautiful crisp and served with baby artichoke, arugula and chanterelle mushrooms, this plate is phenomenal. Sides are served separately and there’s a wide selection. We shared the truffle and bacon twice baked potato, which is rich and decadent, a perfect side to split.
If you’ve ever been to a Charlie Palmer restaurant, then you know never to pass on dessert. There are no fussy confections lacking in taste on the menu. Palmer stays the course with elevated basics to bring out and delight your inner child. On this evening, Luman surprised us with the specialty of the night—a strawberry ice cream sandwich like one I’ve never experienced before. Delectable and memorable. Next time you’re in Napa, check out the new Archer Hotel and be sure to stay for dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak.
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