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Napa Dispatch: Miss Irene's Wild Wine Country Ride

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Clockwise from upper left: Ubuntu, Brix, Meadowood, Bardessono, SIV, Ad Hoc, Bottega.
Clockwise from upper left: Ubuntu, Brix, Meadowood, Bardessono, SIV, Ad Hoc, Bottega.

In today's LA Times food section, SoCal's resident critic S. Irene Virbila files a lengthy, if somewhat cursory, look at the movers and shakers that have recently hit Napa Valley. Of course, "recently" is herein defined as the last few years, but it's always fun to see what other major critics think of the local scene, so with the caveat that she only visited each place once, here's the breakdown of Lady Virbilator's trip:

Bardessono, where she is wonderfully elegant, albeit slightly lonely: "[Chef Sean O'Toole's] cooking is wonderfully elegant, without sacrificing flavor for looks ... With only two main courses over $30 and a wine list that offers interest and value, Bardessono's restaurant should be busier than it is, sad to say."

Ubuntu, where she gets confused by the woodland creatures: "Dishes quickly became a blur, so many were garnished so similarly with feathery little leaves and edible flowers ... the rest of what we ordered seemed so, well, ethereal, like food that fairies in the woods would nibble on."

Meadowood, where she tells us more about elegance: "Meadowood exudes a sense of seclusion and privilege and after Bottega's grandiose space, I was struck by the restaurant's intimate, low-key elegance ... [Christopher Kostow's] cooking is beautifully crafted and precise, refined as opposed to rustic or gutsy."

Brix, where she enjoys the picture-perfect garden: "This is definitely the place I would take a first-time Napa Valley visitor to give them a sense of the lushness of the valley."

Bottega, where she still doesn't like Chiarello, two decades after not liking Chiarello "I was never a big fan of his cooking at Tra Vigne, and like the food there, Bottega's is a little heavy-handed and clumsy ... the more you know about Italian food, I suspect the less you'd like it. Service, though, is warm and professional, maybe the best thing about the restaurant."

Farm, where she went PlumpJacking: "If Vegas did 'farm' this would be it. The menu is straightforward California cuisine, not thrilling, but well-executed."

Ad Hoc, where she handed out her blue ribbon: "A deal at $49 per person and, hands down, my favorite meal of the trip."
· The Napa Valley restaurant scene [LAT]

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