Graduation dinner - can't get into French Laundry, Manresa, or Meadowood
Dinner for 2. Those were my preferences but they don't have openings for the weekend we want in mid-may.
Where would you go? Saison? Benu? Coi was in the recent top 50 list. Haven't been to any of them yet. Having trouble... really wanted something fresh/california focused like the three in the title. Didn't really want to go somewhere in SF or the East Bay. Happy to go somewhere that isn't 200 a head also if it's great, fresh, innovative, etc. Willing to do a big tasting menu but trying to avoid a really heavy meal. Even would be willing to drive up to 2-4 hours (we are in Oak) and stay the night somewhere up towards Mendocino or down the coast...
We just came back from Napa and the meal that was head and shoulders above them all (Brix, Lucy, Redd, Oenotri) was: Etoile at Domaine Chandon Winery.
Chef Perry Hoffman and his crew blew us away, from start to finish!
DO NOT MISS his poached egg with caviar if it's on the menu. One of the only two dishes I liked at Commis/Oakland was Syhabout's Creamy Egg dish, and if you love caviar like me, Hoffman's egg is even finer. My spouse is peeved I didn't request more of those perfect blini, because he wanted them for himself. (Like he gave me more than a tiny bite of his duck pate salad, the jerk - LOL)
He had the tenderloin, I had the rabbit....and I don't even like rabbit. But it was stunning, with everything on the plate having beautiful, clean, flavors. No strong herbs or spices, just an understated, sophisticated elegance that was perfection.
Both desserts were swoon-worthy. I topped mine off with a snifter of Chandon's 24-yr old brandy. I'm normally one for cognac, port or Madeira, but this brandy is absolutely luscious. The vanilla and caramel in it are so fragrant, I could have spent an hour just sniffing the glass. Definitely order it if you go; it's a bargain in a glass.
This is the closest to the old La Bourgogne I have found in the four decades since LaB closed. Updated for CA tastes today, but with that wonderful French classic tradition. We love La Folie, but we honestly think Etoile is better.
the food at saison is approx. as good as that at TFL or Manresa. But if you don't want somewhere in SF or the east bay, just don't go to to one here -- there are tons of good restaurants north or south.
you could go south and stay at the bernardus lodge for a night. i don't know if their restaurant marinus is "innovative", but it is good and fresh. (or at least was when i went a few years ago.) the lodge looked nice, but we only ate.
aubergine in carmel is supposed to be good.
the restaurant at the post ranch inn is just okay, but the view is fantastic -- i recommend a couple glasses of wine there in the afternoon.
farm @ carneros inn was good -- but it was a catered menu that i tried, so not sure it was representative.