Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ubuntu: Napa, CA (Roaming Napa, Part 6)

Last post from my Napa trip finally! LH had been hearing good things about this place for quite some time and wanted to go. Since we had to pass through Napa to head back to the City to catch our flights, why not stop by for lunch? To be honest, I was a little hesitant about a vegetarian place. I'm not a carnivore in the sense that I need a giant slab of meat to call it a meal but I do like a little meat in a meal.

We told Kathleen at the Oleander House that we'd be paying a visit here on our way back and she told us we'd be in for a treat. She said everybody thinks they'll miss the meat but the flavors and textures are so inventive that you won't even notice missing meat. I've always had fears that vegetarian food meant food that's just missing meat. Hopefully Kathleen is right...

An Ubuntu Steam Bun Stuffed w/ Burrata and Coated with Sunchoke Dirt
Sunchoke tostones, roasted and raw fuyu persimmon, smoked green tomato

The waitress that helped us told us that patrons normally order 2 dishes per person at the table.  That just sounded like so much food so we decided to go with 1 each and see how we felt after that. The one thing that caught our attention was the Ubuntu steam bun stuffed with burrata. Looks like such a pretty dish right? Oh it was as good to eat as it was to look at. I really enjoyed tasting the bun stuffed with cheese. It reminds me of the steamed buns I grew up eating like bbq pork bun or custard bun... only stuffed with burrata. What an awesome idea! The bread offered to us at the beginning of our meal provided a wonderful vessel for delivering the purees and raw persimmon. So far Kathleen is right... love the dish and haven't missed meat yet.

Alubia Bianco Bean and Fermented Green Fig Ribollita, Parmesan Cracklings
ruby streaks mustard, cavolo nero, smokey dried pears

Another lovely dish arrived. The beans provided a hearty element to this dish but the star was the Parmesan cracklings. I hadn't had Parmesan prepared this way like chips before. I felt like a kid discovering something new, happily crunching away.

Organic Arbuckle Grits, Whipped Chicken Egg and Crispy "Skin"
Goat's milk ricotta, hong vit, chanterelle and green tomato chow-chow

This was my pick for our table. What got my attention was the "skin". I totally forgot to ask what the skin was and how its made. This ended up being a really rich dish. Thank goodness there was picked vegetables hidden in the grits like little treasures as it helped to cut some of the richness. I really liked dipping pieces of "skin" into the whipped egg and grits. Smooth, buttery, rich, crispy, sour, crunchy all in one bite. I alway enjoy a bite that hits so many tastes and textures at one time.

A Simple Plate of Blackberry Leaf and Potato Pillows
Rainbow chard, loopy sunchokes, midnight moon goat's gouda

EHK picked our ending dish. Potato pillows sounded so inviting. This dish was so perfectly named. Gnocchi-like but definitely more fluffier and pillow-like than any gnocchi dish I've tasted. The light broth that the pillows and other components rested on was so flavorful and inviting for some more bread sopping.

The dishes we had here were so pretty to look at and equally a delight to consume. It just shows that presentation is as important as taste. Not to say that I wouldn't eat a dish clumsily put together. Presentation can make a great dish that much more special.  The presentation and flavors were definitely strong enough to stand on there on and wow me. I'd definitely recommend a visit to Ubuntu if you are like me... likes meat but looking for a place that will surprise you with dishes that don't need it at all.

1140 Main St.
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-5656

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