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May 3, 2009 03:56 PM

Ubuntu, Napa Ca

A week of visiting Sonoma and Napa is always fun and relaxing. We had a series of excellent dinners, Bistro des Copains, Barndiva, Jole and finally Ubuntu.

We had heard a lot of hype about Ubuntu but we had not actually looked at a menu until we arrived.
First, I had no idea the place was as attractive as it is. A sleek, modern look and feel. The lighting for the large room is perfect and the tables well spaced to allow for normal conversation even when full.

For those who don't know, the menu is set up with smaller dishes. Similar to Jole in that you devise your own "tasting menu".
Three of us ordered six dishes which turned out to be plenty. We were very impressed with the flavors, presentation and creativity of the chef and staff.
We all shared the following:

English peas and gold shoots in a consomme of the shells with white chocolate, chocolate mint, macadamia, purple snaps. This was so light and refreshing, cited as a favorite by one of the diners
Carta da musica, homemade crispy sardinian flatbread with truffled pecorino, two arugulas, trumpet chips. This was very savory in flavor, nice presentation.
Carrot gnocchetti with tarragon and mimolette with roast oxheart, tiny raw purple haze, spiced pulp crumble. Herbs and spices went really well with the carrots.
Organic grits from arbuckle, a "62.5" egg and parmesan, roscoe's asparagus roasted in sage butter, agretti, black trumpet caviar. Wow, a lot of flavors here with a nice mix of sweet, salty and savory. Very flavorful. My favorite.
Mushroom pizza bianco with homemade goat's milk ricotta. Royal trumpet confit with a puree of the trimmings, three thymes. Mushroom pizza on steroids. A favorite of the third diner.
Cauliflower in a cast iron pot. Roast-puree, vadouvan spices, cilantro, toasts.
Our server told us this was a "signature" dish. Scooping out the tasty mixture on toasts was delicious. Another savory type dish.

All of the above dishes had complex but great flavor and were beautifully crafted and presented. We eached picked favorites but all were excellent. Service was attentive and informative.

We were pretty full but split one dessert between us. Gently roasted strawberries, meyer lemon, lavender meringue, yogurt parfait. This dessert continued the trend of combining distinct individual flavors to make the finished flavor even better.
A press pot of Blue Bottle coffee and some mighty leaf tea finished the evening.

If you have not been, I highly recommend Ubuntu. The range of flavors and creativity is quite amazing. A 2007 August West chard was terrific with dinner.

We have been coming out to Sonoma and Napa for the past 10 years and our choices this visit were all excellent.

I have a couple of lunches in Sonoma and Anderson Valley to report on but for now I need to catch up on things here at home :)

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  1. "2007 August West chard"
    They now have vintage chard. I would think by now it would be beyond wilted.

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Not sure what you mean by "vintage chard". August West chardonnay and pinot noir are excellent representatives of Ca.
      In fact had an great 2006 August West Graham Family pinot with an awesome seafood pizza (shrimp, scallops, calamari) tonight but you would need to be in NJ to enjoy the pizza. Nothing like it out in Ca :)

      1. re: tom246

        I believe wolfe was poking fun at your abbreviation. You know. Chard. vs chard.

        It does seem that with all the focus on terroir and sourcing, we will, one day, have vintage veggies.

        1. re: bbulkow

          In a way we do with XYZ farms heritage tomatoes and this sort of chard availability:

          There is , of course, the preserving freshness year to year.

    2. Lovely reports. I hope the rest of your trip turned out as well as your dinner selection

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

      1. I was there Friday night and hope to post a full report soon, but just wanted to add that we had the pea dish and it was wonderful. Will be a top taste of the year for me, I am fairly certain. Hubby is still raving about it!

        I loved the idea of roasted strawberries but steered away from the dessert you had because of the lavender. I am generally of the opinion that lavender doesn't belong in food. Was it a pronounced flavor in the dish?

        1 Reply
        1. re: susancinsf

          Susan, you should have tried the strawberries. The lavender was totally as an accent only, not pronounced or sticking out in any way.
          That pea dish was great!

        2. We went back to Ubuntu to sample the late summer menu. While we preferred the menu from April the flavors and creativity this visit was equally good.
          Three of us shared the following.
          Two "snacks" ale battered chickpeas and Padrons with lime and smoked salt. Both very good, especially the chickpeas.
          Carta da Musica with the entire summer garden, lightly dressed round pond olive oil-sea salt, truffled pecorino.
          Kohlrabi and Black Fif Ravioli, brown butter emulsion, sage, macadamia, bitter greens.
          Zucchini Bread, Roast Squashes and Homemade Goat Ricotta piquillo pepper, olive caramel, basil "sylvetta" arugula.
          "Polka" Corn and "Poblano" Pepper Veloute, poached farm egg, three amaranths, Deanie's brioche
          Homemade Gnocchetti In a Smokey Tomato Broth, confit tomato, spinach, Midnight Moon.
          Organic Grits from Arbuckle finished with "polka" corn Pudding, smoked royal trumpet "bacon", purslane green tomato jam.

          All of the above were excellent, the standouts being the Organic Grits and Corn and Pepper Veloute.

          For dessert we shared two desserts. Vanilla Bean Cheesecake in a jar with dark fall fruits, teeccino nut crumble.
          Brioche Pain Perdu with Blackberries, froh hollow peaches and honey ice cream, kettle corn.
          Both were enjoyed with some coffee.
          A lot of creativity coming from this kitchen. Would visit often if we lived in the area.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tom246

            Yeah, I'm a huge fan too.

            Was the tasting menu on offer that evening, and what evening did you go?

            1. re: bbulkow

              No tasting menu, we went Wednesday evening at 8:00PM

              1. re: tom246

                Still a killer menu. Thanks for writing it up...

          2. We're in Sonoma for the week but walked by Ubuntu the other day while in Napa. Your descriptions are tempting us very much :) Great write-ups.

            1 Reply