Julia's Kitchen Napa, to eat there or not to eat there!
Tasty, tasty! My fiance and I took an impromptu visit to Copia this weekend, first time for me, second time for him. The first time my fiance went, he had a very disappointing lunch at Julia's Kitchen. But I had heard such good things from my sister (here we go with the inconsistency!) that I was eager to try it. The presence of a tempura watermelon salad on their posted menu only fanned my curiosity. Verdict? Surely one of the best French California meals I've had this year. We started with the aforementioned, watermelon salad on a bed of arugula and watercress. The greens were well seasoned and the bizarre/inspired combination was genuinely tasty. Ever had hot watermelon before? The cooking reduces the sweetness while retaining the fresh flavor. A plus for creative use of seasonal ingredients!
The follow up was the Tuna and Tomatoes three ways, a tartare nicoise, a seared ahi with clear gazpacho and a seared ahi with blistered tomato and foie gras. The nicoise was delicious but quite meek compared to the other two. The ahi with gazpacho: incredibly well seasoned, perfectly seared high quality fish with a cool, refreshing yet gently spicy cucumber based broth flecked with tasty red and yellow tomatoes. Pretty and satisfying. Similarly, I thought the combination of tuna and foie in one bite seemed a little off putting but the foie torchon was gentle in flavor, creamy in texture. Perfect.
Next up was the seared foie with grilled peaches plucked fresh from the gardens at Copia and watercress on housemade brioche. Now, there is a delicious house made brioche-foie-apple dish I love at the Richmond. This version basically spanked the crap out of it. The peaches were tender and sweet, the foie perfectly seared and served in the perfect amount (complain about portion size if you will but one doesn't need more than a few ounces of foie at a time). The spice of the watercress and the crispness of the brioche rescued the dish from being potentially cloying (I love sweet and fatty but tempering it slightly is the key). Perhaps the highest quality foie I have had in three years (since my last Gary Danko excursion).
Stuffed from our appetizers, we proceeded to order one entree to share: The Liberty Duck Duo from the section of the menu where they pay homage to Ms. Childs herself. A confit leg, and a grilled breast served with forbidden rice, mixed veg, stone fruit jam, roast plums and some sort of lovely jus. Very tasty. The veg was from their garden and it seemed sort of like a hodge podge of squashes, but was tasty enough. The duck preparation was great but no better than I've had at Jardiniere. Still, it was a pretty plate and I was glad I had ordered it...
Dessert was a fromage blanc mousse shaped into a graceful white dome. The inside contained a layer of hazelnut dacquoise with a blackberry pate de fruit in the center. Served atop a blackberry soup. It was the kind of great meal that warranted a great dessert and the mousse delivered narrowly. It was creamy and sweet and elegant in appearance and execution. If I had to do it again though, I probably would have ordered the cherry ale sorbet instead of following the server's suggestion.
A word on the service--perfection. I do love it when there's a silent dance being performed all around me and I can just lean back and enjoy my date's company. The food, service and presentation at Julia's Kitchen made me feel as though I was aboard one of the elegant old ocean-liners. But at the same time there was a certain casualness (the attire and demeanor of the other diners) that made me feel as though I was in the home of an old friend. I would unequivocally recommend the restaurant based on my experience.
Nice description and good to hear that quality is still high. From my recollection, some of their besty dishes were the multi preparations such as the tuna you described. Much like your description also, I remember their small plates as being stronger than their main dishes. Will definitely have to give another try soon.
I too would like to know. It used to be very good. They lost their exec. chef a few months back or more, but I've heard that his replacement trained under him and is competent. Copia in general has undergone major changes over the past year which have effected the overall visitor experience, I just wonder how it's effected Julia's. I hope your experience is a good one and I may just have to see for myself sooon.