CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Continued (page 3 of 13)
EL DORADO KITCHEN
405 1st St. West
Chef Ryan Fancher's El Dorado Kitchen is fast turning into Sonoma Plaza's anchor restaurant, a place that pulls in even the cooler-than-thou Napa Valley crowd. The first things you see upon entering the dining area are a big open kitchen and a 21-foot-long communal table made from a Vermont bridge. The effect is rustic yet modern, and Fancher, whose résumé includes the French Laundry and the Santa Barbara area's San Ysidro Ranch, mirrors the setting with blissfully simple and farm-fresh dishes. Surprising flavors pop up—the steak comes with truffle frites, for example, and the fritto misto has curry in it. The bar is known for its unusual house drinks, including a prickly-pear margarita. In fine weather, sit outdoors.
THE FRENCH LAUNDRY
6640 Washington St.
We include this hard-to-get-into iconic restaurant only because those who should know (chefs like Anthony Bourdain) agree that it's a place one should visit before one dies. But you must plan ahead. Here are the four best strategies for getting a reservation: 1) know someone who works or has worked there who can grease the way; 2) call two months to the day before you want to dine and actually get through; 3) get lucky on Open Table (opentable.com); 4) book a private dinner for 10 (for $3,600) and buy a less expensive wedding dress. If you still can’t get it, at least walk around the garden across the street and bond with the ingredients you’ll never get to taste.
641 Main St.
Go Fish's owner, Cindy Pawlcyn, is a Napa Valley pioneer. A native of Minnesota, she studied in France before heading to the Wine Country, where in 1983 she opened Mustards, still a regional favorite. Then came Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena and in 2006 this large and airy space with a long, curved Italian-marble sushi bar. The mood is casual and fun at this hangout beloved by locals. Order noodles with tempura prawns, fish and chips or traditional rolls and maki as well as sushi chef Ken Tominaga’s special sashimi plates. Steak and a pasta dish are also on the menu, in case someone needs them. The wine list is heavy on whites and sake.
6480 Washington St.
Chef-owner Richard Reddington's résumé includes stints at topline San Francisco restaurants Masa’s, La Folie, Jardinière and Postrio, as well as at New York’s Daniel, Alain Passard's L'Arpège in Paris and Napa Valley's own Auberge du Soleil. In 2005 he struck out on his own in the gastro center of the Wine Country, Yountville, fashioning a delightfully eclectic seasonal menu. Caramelized scallops with cauliflower and almond balsamic reduction and prime New York steak with braised short ribs are among the signature dishes. The snappy bar menu includes fish tacos and a prosciutto pizza. One of the attractions of Redd is its clean, bright, minimalist interior. The white walls, shiny hardwood floors and modernist tables and chairs provide a sense of calm, and the large windows let the natural scenery hold center stage.