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Feb 19, 2012 05:08 AM

Underwhelmed by Napa & Co (Stamford, CT)

I'm a bit surprised to find pretty much unanimous love for this restaurant on Chowhound, Yelp, etc. My husband and I ate there for the first time last night and the overall experience was very disappointing.

The food was definitely good, but not particularly great. With the exception of the chorizo, tomato, farm egg crostini small plate, which was quite special, everything else we ate was just "good" (We tried the kale salad and veal meatballs to start, and the pork chop and skate (upon recommendation by our waiter) as entrees).

The ambiance at the restaurant is very casual - reminiscent of a sports bar more than a fine dining restaurant. There was a TV playing Food Network shows in the livelier of the two dining rooms! And the rooms felt tired and in need of an update. Unfortunately, our service matched the atmosphere. It took a long time for our waiter to approach us, and to later check on us. And when we asked him for recommendations off the menu, he gave a bumbling response.

And though my husband and I are no connoisseurs of wine, we were disappointed with the three glasses we tried, though Napa bills itself as having a strong wine program.

The real problem with our meal is that the prices at Napa & Co are astronomical. I'm talking entrees pretty much across the board in the $30-50 range, and starters lingering around $20. The food, ambiance and service just didn't come CLOSE to warranting those prices. If the prices were dropped a tad, then I can forgive lackluster service and my expectations for the food would be lowered. I probably would've enjoyed Napa at a different price point. But charging the prices that they do, I'm going to expect an experience similar to some of the best restaurants in New York City. And Napa failed miserably in that comparison.

I want to mention that we also tried the Whelk in Westport this week and that, along with Bill's other restaurant LeFarm and the Lamb's Harvest Supper in New Canaan, blow Napa out of the water - - and at half the price!

It's hard to believe Napa is so universally loved. I urge readers to try one of the restaurants mentioned above instead for a much better and less expensive fine dining meal. And if you have a hankering to drop the kind of cash required by Napa, drive another 40 miles to Manhattan.

ETA: I realize that Napa was responsible for beginning a culinary revolution in our area and that wonderful chefs like Mr. Taibe got their start there. Perhaps it was stellar in its heyday long before I got to try it, but today, I believe there are far better options.

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  1. I'll second this, but didn't love the place when it opened either. H and I and another couple tried Napa about six months into its run. All of us thought the food (four different entrees, four different appetizers) was ordinary, the service poor, the atmosphere lacking, and the prices excessive. I was somewhat embarrassed because I had pushed everyone into trying it. I attribute Napa's overblown reputation to the very astute PR abilities of the owners and the "emperor's new clothes" effect--when everyone is gabbing about how great a restaurant is, no one wants to seem like a rube with no taste by critiquing it. Meanwhile, its fame means that it is THE place to do corporate entertaining in the area, which allows for the high prices.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MommaJ

      Make me #3. I like Napa and Co. Don't get me wrong it's got above average food for the area.

      But a burger at $26?!! You're charging the same price that Minetta Tavern does--a burger many people call the best in the country (I haven't had Minetta's). But Napa's isn't worth that kind of money.

      I mean Painted Hills Filet Mignon at $48?? Painted Hills is not exactly some small farm selling beef at a rather high price. It's not worth some huge upcharge because it's Painted Hills.

      1. re: wreckers00

        I completely agree with your review. In general this is what I've been saying about CT restaurants overall. Also, spacing is too tight.

        1. re: wreckers00

          The Napa burger is actually now $28 and the filet $51.

          Funny - my husband and I made the same price comparison to the $26 Minetta Black Label burger (which by the way, is delicious) while eating at Napa!

      2. Have you been to Harvest Supper lately? We used to love it, but once the chef went elsewhere we felt it really went downhill. Any current info?

        8 Replies
        1. re: sibeats

          Dan Kardos was back there around Thanksgiving, he was our chef the night we were there. The food was outstanding as always, particularly the burger and the beet salad, but we really never noticed the same drop off as others have written about when he supposedly " left" for Barosso, probably because he never really left! Now he is here in Westport at the Whelk, and we can't wait to go.

          1. re: tonylazzeri

            Well, he did leave Harvest, and was at Bar Rossa, and is certainly no longer at Harvest, so who is the chef there now? We were regulars and definitely felt a drop off in the food when he was not in the kitchen on a daily basis. Glad you had a good meal there in November, sorry to say we were disappointed the last few times we went. Too bad, we really liked it!

            1. re: sibeats

              Thanks! Dan did a great job that night and was sure good to see him "home" again. Not sure if he is still splitting his time at Harvest Supper like he was when he "left" for Barrosso. I imagine he's pretty much at Whelk all the time now. I'll ask him who is at HS when I go to Whelk. I will report back.

              1. re: tonylazzeri

                Yeah, he's definitely full time at the Whelk...saw him there twice, he's not at Harvest any more.

                1. re: sibeats

                  Oddly I was in New Canaan the other day and noticed that the Harvest Supper menu posted outside the restaurant still lists Dan Kardos as chef. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed so I couldn't inquire but I'm very curious.

                  1. re: mla19

                    It's still on there because it's still his dishes, his recipes though he is not there in person. One of the newer dishes is Shrimp & grits, a pretty good version, though not as good as one I had in Westport recently.

                    1. re: mla19

                      This seems dishonest. It's like saying a certain comedian is going to appear and then having a stand-in doing the comedian's jokes. Not quite the same.

                      1. re: coldduck

                        I don't consider it dishonest if it is worded correctly (I noticed the same thing as mla19, but can't remember if he was listed simply as chef, or executive chef). There are many restaurants with a "celebrity" chef setting the menu and otherwise acting in an executive capacity in several restaurants simultaneously. Some do it better than others, either because they are better managers or because they have more skilled staff manning the kitchen.

          2. I hate to pile on, but I feel exactly the same way. I've eaten at Napa 5 or 6 times, but always as someone's guest.

            Last weekend, I took my wife and her mother there for dinner. The bill came to $325 with tip. I knew the prices when I ordered, so I'm not claiming I was surprised, but I thought it was overpriced.

            We had 3 apps, I had the burger and wife and MIL each had a pasta. We split one dessert. We each had two glasses of wine.

            I think the food's good, but not that good.

            1. I am one of those "napa lovers" and have never been disappointed. I frequented this spot when it first opened - loved it then, love it now - more than ever actually as I've just moved back to Stamford, from Manhattan and consider it a little piece of heaven, with plenty of elbow room.
              I LOVE wine and find their selection - especially by the glass - to not only be vast and interesting but they also have $6 glasses as well as wine flights - my new fav! The French bartender is super knowledgeable about wine and our servers have always been friendly without being intrusive or pushy.
              We recently had their small wine cellar room - 10 of us for a friends 40th and after multiple wine bites, apps, entrees and dessert - not to mention the vino was flowing - averaged $150 per couple. I admit I was surprised - in a good way because for what we ate and how great it was I really thought it was going to be a lot more.
              Simply put - have been there numerous times for various occasions and have always been "over- whelmed" by the great food, attentive service and don't forget the glorious wine:)

              1. Napa & Co. - Tremendously overpriced. Service, to me, seemed reminiscent of what I would expect at a pub type restaurant. Not very professional. Bread was bad. Food was good, but not special, and far from worthy of the out of control prices. To be honest, I felt so ripped off due to the high prices, weak service, and overall amateurish feel, that the food has little chance to shine for me. I didn't like the layout of the place either - with one of the two dining rooms feeling like the "B" room. The parking garage was a disaster - maybe waited 25 minutes for my car. All in all, a very disappointing experience. I would definitely not recommend this place.

                If the prices were lower, my review would not be so harsh.