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Napa Valley Grille

April 14, 2014

The beginning of the year means tax season for my husband.  My husband works as an accountant at a small CPA firm and tax season means one of the busiest times of the year.  For me, this means my husband works late every night and every weekend, so finding quality time together during this time of year can be difficult.  Finding time to spend with others is nearly impossible.  However, sometimes exceptions need to be made.  For instance, my husband’s aunt and uncle called us up one weekend while they were passing through LA during a West Coast-getaway-from-the-brutal-Minnesota-winter-trip.  Luckily, they were in town on a Sunday, the one day of the week my husband has off of work, so the timing worked out so that we could all get together and catch up over dinner.  As we live in LA and they were just visiting, they told us to choose the restaurant.  Being a couple who enjoys a good glass of wine, and were in fact, on their way up to California’s wine country and some winery tours, my husband decided to choose a restaurant that I’d never been to, but that would satisfy his aunt and uncle, Napa Valley Grille.

Located in Westwood, California, I remember passing by this restaurant numerous times while I was a student at UCLA.  In fact, I’ve eaten at so many of the restaurants in the neighborhood, but I’ve never actually dined at Napa Valley Grille.  Owing to its name, the décor of the restaurant feels like you’ve been transported to a nice wine bar and restaurant that you’d find in Napa Valley.  There’s a terrific bar with an extensive wine list, a small, but intimate dining room with plenty of private nooks and crannies, and a beautiful outdoor porch with intimate lighting and vines running all through the area creating a perfect setting for outdoor dining during a warm summer evening.

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To start off our meal, we were treated to a plate of the restaurant’s house bread.  In this case, it was gorgeous focaccia bread baked with some type of cheese, a few chili flakes, some fresh herbs, and thinly sliced tomatoes and served along side a dipping sauce made of extra virgin olive oil and some sort of tapenade.  My husband’s uncle, who it’s been told has never met bread he never liked, really enjoyed this focaccia.  I admit that when I first saw the chili flakes on the focaccia bread, I was a bit off put and disappointed fearing that the bread would be too spicy for my taste buds.  But, I was quite surprised by how tasty the bread actually was.  Dipping it in the great olive oil and tapenade mixture, it was perfect.  After we devoured the first plate of bread brought to the table, we couldn’t resist when they asked us if we’d like more bread, so we took a second helping!

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As an appetizer, the braised pear and prosciutto dish really caught my eye.  I’m a huge lover of prosciutto so that’s what I generally tend to lean towards, but I was really intrigued by the braised pear.  It sounded like such a terrific combination.  The braised pear and prosciutto was served with fresh burrata cheese, a balsamic reduction, extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with grey salt.  Now, who could say no to fresh burrata cheese?  If’ you’ve never tried it before, it’s amazing.  It’s fresh mozzarella that is pulled and stuffed in the center with a mixture of cream and more mozzarella.  It creates such a creamy and luscious cheese and it’s sweetness from the cream goes so well with the prosciutto.  The braised pears were perfectly sweet and soft.  Taking a forkful of some of the pear with a bit of prosciutto and some burrata and swirling it on the plate to get in a bit of the balsamic and extra virgin olive oil was just fantastic.  What a terrific forkful of food full of texture and richness and sweet and a bit of acidic bite.  And finishing off the dish with a sprinkling of grey salt was ingenious.  Just enough grey salt to cut through some of the sweetness of the dish.  A beautiful start to the meal.

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My husband and my aunt opted to start their meal with a salad that the waiter said the restaurant was known for, their kale chopped salad.  The salad came with quinoa, toasted almonds, parmesan, plump raisins and a lemon-parmesan vinaigrette.  Admittedly, this picture is a poor representation of how superb the salad tasted.  The greens were a mix of chopped fresh kale and romaine lettuce.  One bite of the salad and my husband’s uncle said this was the best kale he’d ever eaten.  In fact, he mentioned that if he all kale tasted like this, he probably wouldn’t have a dislike for kale.  I had to agree.  The kale was spectacular without the bitter notes that are often associated with kale.  The lemon-parmesan vinaigrette was perfect, the salty and the acidic from the lemon and the parmesan was a perfect balance for the kale and romaine.  This was also the first time I’d ever had quinoa and my husband and I agreed that it wasn’t so bad.  The toasted almonds provided for a nice crunch and texture to the salad.  I can definitely see why the waiter strongly recommended we try this salad.

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For his entrée, my husband’s uncle chose the simply grilled pacific swordfish with ginger port reduction.  My husband’s uncle had mentioned that of all the different varieties of fish, swordfish was his favorite, and the simply grilled version here at Napa Valley Grille didn’t disappoint him at all.  He said it was perfectly cooked and the ginger port reduction went really well with the white meat of the swordfish.  My husband’s aunt had to agree that the swordfish was pretty darn tasty.  This was exactly what he was looking for when he ordered swordfish.

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My husband also went the seafood route and ordered the restaurant’s simply grilled 14 oz branzino cooked in a ponzu sauce.  The waiter had described the fish as having been marinated and roasted in the ponzu sauce so that the flaky white fish meat would absorb the wonderful acidic ponzu sauce, then the fish was simply grilled on the outside so that the skin was crispy but the meat inside was tender and juice from head to tail.  And it literally was head to tail as my husband received an entire branzino, not just a filet, but the whole fish (minus the head).  Squeeze a little lemon juice over the fish and my husband was in love.  Perfectly grilled fish with a nice crispy skin on the outside and perfectly juicy and tender flaky, white fish meat on the inside.  He said it was perfectly cooked and done simply, the way he preferred.

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My husband’s aunt ordered another recommended dish from the waiter and one I seriously debated ordering, the natural grilled pork chop served with whole grain mustard rub, fall squash gratin, caramelized pears and bourbon jus.  Wow, just reading that description is making my mouth water!  The pork chop that came to the table was huge!  Absolutely the biggest pork chop I’ve ever seen before.  My husband’s aunt said that the pork chop was perfectly cooked and tasted phenomenal.  She loved the flavors of the caramelized pears and really liked the fall squash gratin.  The bourbon jus is what sent this dish over the top.  I think perhaps my husband’s aunt surprised herself by finishing off her pork chop.  It was that good.

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For my entrée, I ordered the beer braised short rib.  I was a bit unsure at first of the dish because I wasn’t sure how much of the beer and alcohol I would be able to taste in the dish, but my husband said I should expand my horizons and try something new.  So, I went with this dish and I’m so glad that I did.  The short rib was served over creamy parmesan polenta, roasted tomatoes, spinach and braising jus.  I couldn’t believe the size of the short rib when it came out to the table.  I thought it would be a few small short ribs, not one huge short rib.  The rib meat was so tender, it just fell apart.  The flavor of the meat was spectacular and you shouldn’t taste the alcohol at all.  The combination of the braising jus and the creamy parmesan polenta was spectacular.  I’m glad the restaurant went with polenta rather than the traditional mashed potatoes you might expect.  The flavor of the char of the roasted tomatoes and the spinach was fantastic and the acidity really helped to cut through sweetness of the jus and the polenta.  This dish was fresh and fantastic and I’d order it again in a heartbeat.

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Dessert was a no-brainer for me, and since my husband and I were both stuffed, we actually decided to share a dessert.  Turns out, my husband’s aunt and uncle had the same idea and they also decided to share a dessert.  Guess what?  We both decided on the same dessert, a piece of tiramisu!  It’s hard for me to pass up tiramisu as I love the flavor of the espresso and the lady fingers and the mascarpone cheese!  At Napa Valley Grille, their tiramisu is homemade and served with fresh berries and an espresso crème anglaise.  Now that was interesting as I’d really only ever seen a vanilla crème anglaise before.  I’m not sure if I’d exactly call what was served a crème anglaise as much as an espresso syrup, but whatever it was, it was delicious.  The tiramisu here was light and fluffy and airy and not thick and heavy as sometimes tiramisu can be with all of its ingredients.  It was almost like eating a whipped mousse cake rather than a tiramisu, except that it had all of the flavors of a tiramisu.  It was a terrific ending to our wonderful meal.

It was great that my husband was able to get away from the demands of the working world for a bit and take a night out to spend with his aunt and uncle.  It was great seeing them as we don’t get to spend much time together seeing as we live on the other side of the country from one another.  Napa Valley Grille turned out to be a great restaurant choice for the four of us.  The food was superb, of that we could all agree.  The service was great, and we were even greeted by the Executive Chef at the end of the night.  We all walked out of the restaurant having filled our stomachs with good food, a few laughs, lots of smiles and terrific company.  All in all, I think I’m going to have to come back to Napa Valley Grille in the future.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2014 7:45 am

    It sounds like it was a nice time.

  2. April 23, 2014 11:33 am

    It sounds like a great restaurant and it was nice that you could enjoy an evening together with your husband’s aunt and uncle.

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