HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Ubuntu: One of top 10 new restos in country

  • j

Today, Frank Bruni (love him or hate him) food critic for the New York Times has picked Ubuntu as one of the top 10 new restaurants in the U.S.A.!

I'm heading out to Napa next week and thanks to my fellow chowhounders recommendations I reserved a table last week.

Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Is Ubuntu ok for lunch? I am staying in San Francisco, and it seems it would be a nice way to spend a day to drive to Napa, and go there for lunch... Thoughts?

    10 Replies
    1. re: jwurz

      Here's a recent review for lunch at this vegetarian restaurant.

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/488197

      1. re: ceekskat

        Thanks. It seems lunch would be nice... do you think Friday or Saturday would be the better day to go to Napa from San Fran, and what other recommendations, do you guys have for a great day in Napa.

        1. re: jwurz

          Either day would be good, though the traffic will be worse on Saturday. The Ferry Building Farmer's Market is a great way to spend your Saturday morning or lunchtime, so I'd suggest Friday in Napa and Saturday in SF.

          1. re: JasmineG

            Ubuntu was one of our favorite spots during our December trip to the area. We don't normally make our way as far South as downtown Napa during our tasting visits, but it was so well-reviewed and so highly-recommended that we couldn't resist. Plus, I'm down with any restaurant that celebrates vegetables, a concept that is seemingly becoming more popular in the United States.

            Our meal was flawless and we were sent extra courses from the kitchen. Highlights of the menu included the barbecue brussels sprouts with smoked grits and the cauliflower in the cast iron pot with curry and vadouvan. Brilliant. I can't wait to head back on our next trip.

            R. Jason Coulston

            1. re: JasmineG

              Interesting.... I would have thought traffic is worse on Friday. I will take your advice though and head to Napa on friday and spend the day there. Any suggestions for things to do in Napa before or after lunch.

              1. re: jwurz

                You will be within a few blocks of several tasting rooms, including the Vintner's Collective, Rocca, the newly opened Ceja tasting room and Robert Craig, which requires an appointment. Across Soscol there's the new Oxbow Market, with Taste (the tasting room for Mahoney & Waterstone) and Mason Cellars just across the street.

                1. re: jwurz

                  As long as you avoid commute times on Friday (before 9:30 or 10 am, between 4-7 pm) the traffic will be fine. And you'll be going in the non commute direction, anyway. Definitely do some tastings in the area, and check out the new Oxbow Market.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Traffic heading into San Francisco can get pretty backed up on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I went to Ubuntu last night with a party of 7. We were all stunned. It's a particularly beautiful space at night with its high ceilings and rustic white stone walls uplit from behind the banquettes. Service was excellent and the atmosphere was festive, including a lively bar scene with an excellent wine list.

                      The food was amazing, especially for all the surprised carnivores (like me) in the group. I started with artichoke hearts with burrata and followed with the grits/brussell sprouts described above. Others had truffle pizza, pecorrino w/truffle oil flat bread, cauliflower in the pot, beet salad, etc. etc. The sunchoke with romanesco sauce was a great appetizer to begin.

                      One of our guests owns a Michelin 1 star restaurant -- he loved it and personally congratulated the owner and chef upon our exit. A fabulous evening. We will definitely go back.

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            Excellent. Coi and Ubuntu are both in the same creative culinary orbit. It's great to see them earning well deserved accolades

          2. Bizarre. We ate there last year and while the food was good the service left a lot to be desired. Top 10 new restaurant in U.S.? What was he thinking? Hmm.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rightstar

              He was rightly thinking it is one of the top ten restaurants in the country.

              It is too bad you had some service issues. If you ate there last year then it was newly opened. I had wonderful service and amazing food. Not at all bizarre to me ... every now and then even the professional food critics get it right.

              1. re: rworange

                Bruni's list isn't his top ten restaurants in the country. It's his top 10 restaurants opened in 2006 or 2007 excluding New York, Portland, and some places he already wrote about in Los Angeles.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Makes sense. Now I know what he was thinking. Thanks.

            2. Well, Unbuntu is one of the top TWO new restaurants in the country outside of NYC, as #s 3 through 10 have been announced.

              http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20...

              4 Replies
              1. re: Paul H

                Frank Bruni's pick as one of the top two of a group of ten he chose from a list of only 15 recommended and well-reviewed candidates outside of New York, Portland, and Los Angeles.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  LA seems to be included - Fraiche from LA is on the top 10 list.

                  1. re: gemster

                    "I bypassed Portland — where, for example, Le Pigeon might have lured me — because readers were introduced to new restaurants there in an article by Eric Asimov last fall. In the Los Angeles area, I edited out Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse, because I’d already written about it, and Osteria Mozza because I’d devoted an article to its conjoined sibling, Pizzeria Mozza."

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/din...

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      "The two remaining contenders in my Top 10 Countdown of new restaurants around the country (excepting New York) are O Ya in Boston and Ubuntu in Napa, Calif. In Wednesday’s paper, I’ll rank them in reverse order, Numbers 2 and 1. And when I do, I’ll talk about food, service, ambience."
                      http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                      Given the above wording, and since Fraiche is included, the clear implication is that his list is of the "Top 10 New Restaurats outside of NYC" _excepting_ those particular ones already reviewed by Asimov or Bruni in earlier articles.

              2. Ubuntu ends up at #2

                "Ubuntu is where virtue meets naughty sensuality. It’s the Angelina Jolie of restaurants."

                http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/din...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Paul H

                  The preceeding sentence was great too

                  "It’s also proof that you can do away with all flesh and hold onto hedonism, at least if you keep enough butter, cream, cheese and wine at hand."

                  ... and that really was creamy, dreamy burrata

                  Thanks for the link ... great pictures and incredibly the food does taste better than it looks.

                2. When my friend first told me we were going all the way to Napa to eat at a vegetarian restaurant... I was afraid I wouldn't like it! When I eat out, I like my steak and meat, especially because day-by-day I eat nothing but veggies and tofu. So I was surprised that I very much enjoyed Ubuntu. I must say, I was biased by the pumpkins!

                  1. Have to put my 2 cents in - loved, loved Ubuntu. We shared 4 dishes - watercress/pecorino on flatbread, bean soup, cauliflower pot, and cornflakes dessert (the one disappointment - we should have gone with the cheescake reco of the waiter - i had dessert envy of the next table!). Anyway, I can't wait to go back and try another four plates! To any skeptical carnivores - I promise you'll never miss the meat! Oh, and the restaurant itself is beautiful.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nancyhudson

                      Thanks for the update. That bean soup is high on my to-try list

                      -----
                      Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                      1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                    2. Time for an Ubuntu dissent. This restaurant has become a family joke, our shorthand for a ridiculous meal at a ridiculous price. We drove up for a special birthday dinner and were very disappointed. Our mistake was, perhaps, ordering the tasting menu, which turned out to be a series of finicky, tiny, strange little dishes. Some were good enough—lovely little radishes, a tasty candied squash—but most were utterly unmemorable. I do remember, unpleasantly, a gooey paste with something crunchy—nuts, seeds, who knows?—mixed in, the whole thing wrapped in a nasty black leaf or piece of seaweed or fungus or something. The plate also held a piece of some sort of twiggy decoration that looked like a grape stem after you’ve picked the grapes off. We felt that we were eating someone’s leftovers. The room is very pleasant; the server was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and healthy-looking (although he urged us very actively to have the tasting menu, and that was a big mistake); and the whole thing was sort of amusing, except that the bill was well over $500 for three of us (we had the wine pairings with the prix fixe dinner) and we felt that we had hardly eaten anything! We longed for some carbohydrates, some dairy, something with a little heft. Perhaps Ubuntu is a restaurant that rewards careful ordering, but we won’t be going back to find out.