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St. Helena: Terra or Martini House?

We are going to Calistoga for a couple of days in early August. Already have reservations at Cyrus and at Ad Hoc for our last night on the way back to the airport. Been to TFL and would never want to possibly mar the once in a lifetime experience by trying it again! We want a Sun. reservation in St. Helena and both Terra and Martini House look great. Help!

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  1. Terra. Period. End of sentence...

    1. I agree with going to Terra as well. I've been to both and found Terra memorable after many years. I didn't care for Martini House and felt rushed during dinner.

      1. I'm going to dissent, just to be contrary. I was underwhelmed by my dinner at Terra and have enjoyed Martini House. But really, they're both good restaurants with somewhat different styles, and I'd say that which one to choose really depends on what kind of food and atmosphere you prefer.

        1. Both are wonderful. Terra is my favorite in the Napa Valley. They just won the James Beard Award for Service.

          But I love Martini House, and in the summer, dining on the patio is very special.

          I'm sorry that Ruth Lafler had an inferior meal at Terra. I just wonder if it was an off night.

          2 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            Maybe. My dinner at Terra was quite a while ago (longer ago than even I remembered! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/19192... ), so I'm not going to say my experience reflects anything more than my experience at the time. As I said, I have no doubt that it's a good restaurant and I'm sure most people will have a great time there, but I'm also not going to go along with the idea that "Terra [is the best]. Period. End of sentence."

            As Madge laid out below, Terra and Martini House are different enough that the decision should be based not so much on one being better than the other in some kind of absolute sense, but on what kind of dining experience better suits the individual's tastes.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Yes. Which of the two restaurants is best for the individual's tastes is...the best for that individual.

              Both of the restaurants have strengths. In the summer, the patio at Martini House is rather enchanting. The food is very smart, and Todd Humphries does wonderful things with tomatoes and mushrooms. Last August, I believe, I was there for the excellent heirloom tomato tasting menu, so, tlubow, you may wish to check into this. I've had excellent food there many times. One other thing deserves mention: the wine list is really quite unusual -- the work of Rob Renteria. It's well-organized into various categories that include some whimsy -- one category is Women Winemakers We Love. Martini House doesn't feel like a Pat Kuleto restaurant, by the way. Meaning, it doesn't feel overblown or overdecorated or overly concept-driven. Just solid food and wine in an old stucco "house."

              Terra is my personal favorite. I love the old stone building with the white mullioned windows, and all my dining experiences there have been exquisite. Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani do a wonderful job. The seafood preparations with Asian touches are brilliant, IMO, and I've been greatly impressed with the other food many, many times. The wine service is top-notch and the sommelier/manager (Tim Mosher) dials in pairings appropriate for any budget and taste.

              IIRC, both restaurants have their menu and wine lists online.

          2. I have to second Maria Lorraine.
            Martini House has the patio, a full bar, and the food is heavier than Terra.
            Terra's cuisine is a sort of Italian/Japanese fusion and cooking unlike anywhere else in the wine country.
            Both have excellent wine lists. And both would be a compliment to your dinners at Cyrus and Ad Hoc.
            Martini House does lunch on weekends, so perhaps you could go to both?

            1. Martini House is a Napa institution -- and a great one at that. I'd go there and then, the next time you make your way to SF, hit up Ame (same ownes as Terra) -- which I LOVE and which everyone I know who has been to both agrees is better than Terra.

              1 Reply
              1. re: whiner

                For what it's worth (really only an indication that the food's good enough to sustain the restaurant for a long time), Terra is the decades old St. Helena institution, and Martini House is a Pat Kuletto creation that's only a few years old. It replaced an institution called Spring Street restaurant, which was a great local favorite in its time.

              2. Without question Terra is the better of the two. A trip to the Napa Valley is never complete without a visit to Terra. The Alaskan Black Cod dish is amazing and is one of the most memorable entrees I've ever had.

                6 Replies
                1. re: jpazzano

                  Thanks everyone. I currently have reservations at Terra. I'll let you know how I like it.

                  1. re: tlubow

                    My husband just had what he said was a lovely meal there last night - including a pasta with tripe dish that he loved. I'll try to get more details out of him, but one dish he thought wasn't so great was a filled pasta with foie gras - he said it really didn't show case the foie gras, but tasted like ordinary liver.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Good to know since that foie gras pasta sounded intriguing to me.

                      1. re: tlubow

                        I generally hesitate to proffer opinions other than my own, but since he's my husband, I trust his! He is a huge foie gras afficionado in all forms, so based on his comment, I'd probably try something else.


                        Appetizer - pig's feet - like a small patty with lobster on the side - very good, another guest had a tuna tartare - and liked it very much, as well as his main course a steak of some sort. My husband said that the wine was excellent and the sommelier was very helpful - he ordered wines in the $100 range.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Here's a thought....go to Martini House for a cocktail from their extensive bar Bible (make sure you go downstairs...) and maybe a nibble. Then, on to your fab dinner at Terra. Two birds, one stone.

                          1. re: adamshoe

                            About a 2-block walk between them too!