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Dec 19, 2010 09:21 AM

Rotisserie and Wine

Happenstance brought a handful of old friends to Napa and unexpectedly, the four of us found ourselves at Rotisserie and Wine, the newly-opened restaurant in downtown Napa by television darling, Tyler Florence. Of more interest to me however, is that Jeremy Fox, a favorite chef of yours truly, has been hired by Tyler to head up the kitchen in this meat-centric, waterfront establishment with a decidedly Southern bent. They have only been open two weeks and already it is jam-packed, but with a full capacity of barely a hundred diners, it is not surprising that without a reservation, there is a bit of a wait. While waiting, the service staff, thematically clad in jeans in plaid, work hard to ensure comfort with drinks and a menu for early perusal. It is the costume of the waiters and overalls and plaid donned by Jeremy which gives the restaurant an almost hick feel to it. The bulk of the space is taken up with the open service area where diners can see Tyler directing the staff. My friends noticed that Nancy Silverton was also waiting for a table with her friends, so even the famous don't necessarily get preferential treatment.

After almost a half-hour wait, the four of us were given a counter spot. While this was not necessarily conducive to sharing the food, it did give a great opportunity to witness the action in the kitchen. While perusing the menu, some corn sticks arrived. I have a feeling these were comped; I didn't see them on the menu and I'm not sure they were offered to everyone. About four inches long, these warm fingers of goodness provided a fantastic start. A crisp, crunchy exterior gave way to a sweet, tender crumb so light and delectable. Sighs were heard as one friend immediately commented, "I could eat these for breakfast every day of the week." This was also my first glimpse at another aspect of the restaurant which charmed me, the place settings. Classic and elegant with a Victorian aesthetic, it is the sort of thing my Grandmother would have swiped to keep and I personally covet.

The menu is broken up into Snacks, items To Share, Fixins, and The Rotisserie. Separate from all these categories was a highlighted offering of something called The Meat Board. Snacks include a handful of individually-priced bites that can be ordered including Kale Chips, Olives, Scrapple, and the two snacks we ordered, Cheese Puffs (gougère) stuffed with bacon Mornay, aged Vella jack cheese, and chives and Deviled Jidori Chicken Egg, a deviled egg made with maple, sherry, celery, and candied bacon bits. The gougères, large with a delicate crust, oozed with rich and creamy bacon Mornay sauce. It would be very easy to eat an entire place of these. The deviled eggs' filling was probably the most creamy and smooth ever tasted. The maple flavor was subtle and slightly sweet. I appreciated the micro greens garnish, giving a crisp bright contrast to the stalwart egg.

Shortly after our three tantalizing "bites," The Meat Board arrived. Unlike most restaurants offering various cured charcuterie salamis and sausages, here it is terrines and potted meats. I would be very interested to know who was the brainchild behind its inception but there is no doubt that it is Jeremy who is adding the final touches which make this platter the shining highlight of the evening's meal. Not only did we have the vantage of watching him cutting and plating and decorating, but the skill and artistry is not lost on the other staff in the kitchen as several stopped to view the master in action. Like watching a Da Vinci with a paintbrush, Jeremy layers slivers of radish into flowers and creates a mille fleur garnish with truffles and slivers of mushrooms. The plating is not just decorative, every delicately-placed leaf, perfectly dotted mustard, and stacked and layered vegetable is a part of a whole creating an incomparable platter of the most stunning terrines I have tasted.

On the platter was a Game Bird Terrine, laden heavily with porcini mushrooms and served with red wine jelly. Rich and earthy, the delicacy of the game meat was punctuated with the porcini but heightened by the truffle mille fleur garnish and red wine jelly. A large slab of country pâté had been carefully dressed with a bit of olive oil and micro greens and consumed with the toasted, country bread from nearby Model Bakery with dots of grain mustard and Moutarde Violette. But it was the Duck Liver Mousse on the board that surprised me the most. With the texture and lightness of whipped cream, concentrated richness of liver was accented with fried sage, frizzled leeks, and decorated with chunks of pickled beets and vegetable crudité. This is a restaurant riding on the laurels of its ability to roast giant hunks of meat, but I have no doubt that the restaurant's appeal and reputation will grow based entirely on this amazing platter of potted meats.

Almost ten items made up the To Share section of the menu and for me were the most intriguing and reasons I want to go back. I am dying to try the Uni Toast with Shaved Pine Mushroom as well as the Sonoma Duck Confit with Cracklin' Waffles. Instead we opted with only a Beets and Avocado salad, made with red quinoa, Fuyu persimmons, and pistachios to accompany our Rotisserie selection, Beef and Bones, prime rib eye saddled up next to a horizontally-severed marrow bone, Yorkshire pudding, and horseradish. I suppose my only complaint about the prime rib is that instead of one, large thick slice of rare meat, two thinner slices were served. Good prime rib is good prime rib and we all wanted to order this more for the marrow which was crusted with bread crumbs. It was all very good, but hardly memorable considering everything else the restaurant has to offer. Other rotisserie meats for potential future visits include Sonoma BBQ lamb ribs, Petaluma chicken, and a stuffed porchetta.

Sadly, no Fixins were ordered on this trip and again, the Fixins and To Share menu options are what will bring me back; Arbuckle grits draped with lardo, Hudson Valley broccoli with pine nuts, capers, raisins and Vella dry jack, Mac & Local Cheeses, and David Little's potatoes...

While I stepped away to take a phone call, my friends ordered dessert. I was only surprised because I was more than full at this point and would have been quite content to call it a night but was more than pleased after taking a few bites of what they ordered; a classic slab of apple pie à la mode and a panna cotta, dressed with Balsamic vinegar and served with cookies. The apple pie is about as great as it comes. The apples were crunchy and perfectly spiced but it was the crust that shines. Too often I am left disappointed by a pie due to a soft or soggy crust and this does not disappoint. The panna cotta is another nice surprise but more for the cookies for me, although the panna cotta was perfectly prepared and made that much more interesting with the vinegar. The cookie we all loved with pig-shaped with a bacon flavor to it. I also greatly enjoyed the gingerbread as we had been sent a complimentary glass of Aloroso Sherry which made for a great combination and a lovely way to end the meal.

That this restaurant is a mere block away from my new job could be my downfall. As part of the revitalization of downtown Napa, it faces the riverfront and outside chairs show that once the warmer summer evenings arrive, outside service will obviously increase the number of people which can be served and will make this a destination for those looking to expand beyond the standard Napa standard of Cal-French or Cal-Mediterranean fusion cuisine. While the name of the restaurant implies that meat and wine is the draw (and I regret that I completely forgot to take a note on the glass of wine which I ordered), it is the Southern cuisine-inspired sides which will tantalize and ultimately please.

Pics on the Blog:

Model Bakery
610 First Street, Napa, CA 94559

Tyler Florence Shop
59 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, CA

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  1. Surprised that no one else has been or commented yet...

    1. Thanks for the great report! Like you, I have been a bit surprise by the lack of mention of R&W on the board, but maybe this will set off the radar for some.

      1. I ate at R&W around the same time as you in a party of four. We odered the Cheese puffs (wonderful), enjoyed the corn sticks and the sides.

        We were disappointed with the Prime Rib as it was difficult to share for four. Good flavor but not a generous portion.

        The Porchetta was good - about the same as Roli Roti's. That was easier to share amongst the four of us. The sides were good - mac and cheese, and the broccoli with pine nuts, raisins and cheese.

        We shared trhe pie of the day - apple - and thought that it was very good - particulary the crust. Someone knew what they were doing with that.

        What made the evening somewhat offputting is that the table for four was tiny. The entrees come on very large plates which are designed for sharing but two or three of those along with personal side plates along with a couple of side dishes just don't fit on the table.

        Good meal, though awkward juggling all of the plates.

        Roli Roti
        , Hayward, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bob Copeland

          I sent some good friends last evening who loved the food (meat platter, gougères, salad) but complained that the music was far too loud. I was informed that not only could they not hold a conversation, but they could barely hear the waiters.

          They did ask the music turned down and while it was decreased a bit, apparently not enough to be able to have a conversation.

        2. Three of us went for dinner last night, wanting to check the place out while Jeremy Fox was still cooking there. In short, we all declared it our favorite meal of the New Year. We had:

          From the "Snacks" section of the menu, the almonds (these were comped) and the fried scrapple, which was presented as little cube/sticks and was served over a honey mustard sauce. Very tasty, though it didn't taste like scrapple--the meat flavor was a lot more subtle. These actually reminded me more of the chickpea "panisse" that a lot of restaurants are serving now.

          Next up was the crispy pig ear salad, which had cooked daikon radishes amid some greenery. We liked this, but because the pig ears were fried, they had more of a deep-fried crispiness, rather than their distinctive natural crispness.

          We shared a small Meat Board, and Holy Mother of God, this was the best, and most beautifully presented, charcuterie platter that I've ever been served. Agree with the original poster about the duck liver mousse; my other favorite on the board was the headcheese, the best I've had. A sweetbread terrine was also excellent. Also perfectly good, but not exciting, were the last two items on the board: an oxtail aspic and some duck rillettes. Loved all the little dabs of mustards and preserves, including a delightful (and bright red) beet puree. The Meat Board, by itself, would make a perfect lunch for two.

          We finished up with an order of the duck confit and waffle (from the To Share section), the Fulton Valley chicken (from the Rotisserie section), and side orders of grits and roasted cauliflower. Of all the dishes I'd seen on the menu before coming, their take on chicken and waffles was perhaps the one I was most excited about. The duck confit was delicious, as expected, but I have never met a duck confit I didn't love. I will say, though, that the waffle was more soggy than crisp, which was one of the few minor disappointments with the meal.

          The chicken was perfectly good, if unexciting. The salsa verde was nice, as were the fingerling potatoes, which has soaked up all the drippings from the chicken. But I would agree with the OP that the strength of the menu is more with the small plates. And also the vegetables! Of our side orders, the grits were very nice (interesting with cooked peanuts), but the roasted cauliflower was amazing, the best I've had. They roasted these at high enough a temperature to get them nice and crispy, then finished them in the pan. Some capers, some bottarga, some lemon zest, tons of olive oil. Some cheese shaved on top. Not a particularly "fancy" dish, but so, so good.

          Dessert was a slice of lemony buttermilk pie that we all shared. Good, but I prefer the more decadent buttermilk pie at Aunt Mary's, in Oakland.

          Total bill for three, with a couple of by-the-glass beverages, was $120, before tip, which I thought was reasonable for the quantity (we had a ton of food) and quality.

          Would agree, though, with those who found the dining room quite loud, both because of the music and also just because the room seems to be a bit of an echo chamber. It got better towards the end of the night, but when we arrived (at around 7), we really did need to almost shout to hear each other.

          Also, if you make a reservation (on OpenTable or whatever), make sure you specify that you want a TABLE. At first they stuck our party of three at the bar (and not even at the part near the kitchen, where we'd at least have something to watch), which would have made it difficult for conversation (especially given the noise) and also for sharing food. Fortunately, they had a cancellation and were able to move us to a table (the three of us squeezed into a two-top), which despite being a bit cramped was much, much better for us. Anyway, I don't know, I think if you make a reservation for three almost a month in advance, they should give you a table. The counter is really only suitable for pairs or solo diners.

          After that initial snafu, though, we found the service to be very warm and professional. Like I said, it was by far the best restaurant meal I've had so far in 2011, and the Meat Board and the cauliflower are both immediate contenders for best bites of the year.

          Aunt Mary's Cafe
          4307 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            1. re: JasmineG

              Huh. I'm glad I got to try it while he was still there. I don't think it was ever the plan for him to stay on in the kitchen there, but wow, this is Fox's second high-profile "split" in like a year.

              Again, the food was fantastic when we went.

              1. re: abstractpoet

                Third! Ubuntu, Plum, and now R&W.

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

                1. re: JasmineG

                  Fourth! (If you want to count his wife, Pastry Chef, Deannie....)