Cafe La Haye (long)
Had a great meal at Cafe La Haye on Napa Street, right off of the Sonoma Square. This was the first time I had been there. It had been on my list for such a long time as I kept hearing great things about it.
As we had indulged in a fat-laden picnic 4 hours prior, I wasn't super hungry. Though I was sorely tempted by the duck confit (sucker for it!), I resisted my urge to combine a duck app. with my pork tenderloin entree with morel-potato gratin. I just heard my arteries closing and after all the cheese I'd had earlier, I just couldn't do it. However, my friend decided to load it all on that day. He got the duck and the pork. I was glad he was willing to share his duck.
Boy, was I glad. This was easily the best duck confit I've had. It was served on a bed of savory salty lentils that had a wonderful soft texture to them, though they were not mushy. The confit was just so tender. I've had some confits where the duck has great flavor but is a little dry, or stringy, or just something. This confit was the definition of confit. Meltingly tender, fantastic flavor. It was the best appetizer of the ones ordered (all else looked like standard salads).
For entrees, most had ordered the pork tenderloin though there were a few pea/morel risottos and one chicken cooked under a brick. The pork was extremely juicy throughout. It was evenly cooked as well and the middle of the tenderloin was as juicy as the exterior. I'm not too sure how the chef was able to get this consistency but it was ultra-succulent, through and through. The morel-potato gratin showcased a great earthy, meaty morel flavor. It was "garnished" with one perfectly roasted asparagus spear.
I wasn't too excited by the risotto but the chicken looked excellent. I found this surprising as I normally avoid chicken like the plague at restaurants. THis dish looked wonderful however. The skin on this chicken alone looked super-crispy. It also was served with mashed potatoes and just looked like a great combo of crunchy skin and comfort potatoes. I was told that it was also very juicy, velvety.
A few capped dinner off with a strawberry rhubarb fruit crisp topped with vanilla gelato. I had the callebaut pot de creme. Now let me tell you about this pot de creme. When I've ordered this dessert elsewhere, I've typically gotten an espresso size cup of dessert. Given the richness, this is usually more than sufficient. What I received at Cafe La Haye was like a keg de creme. This thing was huge! I'm glad that I shared it with my husband. Of course we knocked it all out. It was very smooth. It wasn't quite as stiff as some that I've had. It reminded me more of cold, really thick pudding. It was delicious!
All in all, we ended up at $42 per person. THis was for 2 bottles of wine, 4 apps, 6 entrees, and 3 desserts. I was very happy and would love to go back. The restaurant had a comfortable, inviting, kick-back atmosphere that was just perfect after a day of wine tasting.
re: Melanie Wong
The night we were there the artist-in-residence's work was not up. I believe this is the wife of the chef/owner. Her work goes up every other month or so and they will rotate a different artist in between. What we saw were huge blown up digital photographs of subjects such as a steer, the steer's eyeball, a barn, a young girl in a bright checked dress, asparagus. It was all very funky and we were surprised that these reproductions were from digital photographs. It was a wonderful space, just a great place to eat in general!
Cousin Tida, I was hurtling past the plaza in Sonoma on my way to the local taco truck, Antojitos Tavo (parked on Hwy 12 a couple blocks south of Sonoma Mission Inn) for a quick bite for dinner tonight, when I changed my mind and made a U-ie that took me to Cafe La Haye. Some abstract paintings were up on the walls, so the showing has changed.
I thought I'd grab a quick appetizer and be on my way. However, when the server started into a detailed description of the day's catch, a light went off in my head and I asked "farmed or wild?" When she replied, "wild, from Half Moon Bay", the die was cast. This was my first taste of local salmon this season. The filet was expertly grilled. Not mucked up with extraneous sauces, only a brushing of red wine reduction that browned on the grill added a veneer of sweet earthy flavors to the firm flesh. Draped over a bed of lentils, the salmon was rimmed with braised fennel, a tiny turnip, a fat spear of asparagus, and a sweet slim carrot. Accompanied tonight by only ice water and some good local bread with sweet butter, the check was $21 including tax and tip. I was in and out in 35 minutes, one of the best fast food meals I've had in a while.
re: Melanie Wong
It sounds like you had a wonderful meal! I was in Alaska last year during the summer and would bring home pounds of sockeye or coho that had been caught that AM. Unbelievable stuff! I can't even eat farmed salmon anymore as it just tastes too fatty to me.
I think Cafe La Haye is my favorite restaurant of the year so far. I love that place! Glad you also had a good experience!