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Ubuntu


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#1 tupac17616

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 12:05 AM

Ubuntu Restauurant and Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street
Napa CA 94559
707.251.5656

Open for almost two full months now without much press coverage besides a small mention in the SF Chronicle, my first visit to the restaurant this past Saturday made me want to put it firmly on the eGullet radar. In a period during which many newer restaurants are working out the kinks, this place is already turning out some very solid food.
I read recently that Ubuntu is "Napa's only vegetarian restaurant," a fact that quite frankly would not have meant much to me had I not known a bit about the chef behind it. You see, Chef Jeremy Fox came from Manresa in Los Gatos, where he was Chef de Cuisine since 2004. Remembering a couple of flat-out wonderful meals during his time there, I was excited to learn of this new venture. He has essentially taken his wonderful experience there with Chef David Kinch -- a biodynamic garden, and a cuisine with a spirit and philosophy not unlike Manresa's -- and transferred it 90 miles north to Napa.
Remembering Chef Fox's delicious charcuterie back at Manresa, it first seemed almost ironic that he would be offering a meat-less menu. After a few bites of his food, though, I quickly realized he is right at home in his new kitchen. He can make vegetables sing just like his mentor down in Los Gatos. Chef Fox is at the helm in the kitchen while his wife Deanie, also formerly of Manresa, is in charge of the pastry kitchen. and let me say, saving room for dessert here is a very, very good idea.
Before I get into the details of what I had on Saturday, I thought it relevant to share a quote of Chef Fox's that I ran across when reserving my table on OpenTable last week:
"I am really excited to have the chance to do something that hasn't been done before-this project has the distinction of being more of a vegetable restaurant than a vegetarian restaurant. We are not offering a philosophy of no meat, we are celebrating what comes from the gardens, what shows up at the door and our relationships with farms in Napa...all new rules for what people expect"
Couldn't have said it better myself. I think this really gets to the heart of what this restaurant's cuisine is about. I don't care if you're vegetarian, pescatarian, or Presbyterian, this is damn good food.
As I said, I went in for lunch on Saturday. My parents were in the area for several days, so I treated them to a yoga class upstairs at Ubuntu to work up our appetites fr a nice, leisurely lunch downstairs. (N.B. "Yoga for Athletes" ought to be called "Athletics for Yogis". I work out every day of the week, and I was dead after this...). I'm not usually one to notice such things, but I found the restaurant space to be quite nice. Lots of natural light pouring in the front windows. Pizza oven in full view in the back. I liked the feel of the place.
The three of us worked our way through most of the lunch menu (slightly different, it should be noted, than the dinner menu on the website). We started with chicory-spiced cashews ($4) from the "Bites" section of the menu. Coated in a simple syrup and dusted liberally with chicory, these nuts were addictive. (Found out later from my good friend wiki that chicory is often used as an appetite stimulant, as if my appetite needs further stimulation.)
The early girl tomato soup -- bellweather ricotta ($7) was delicious. Its temperature was just right - warm enough to be incredibly flavorful, yet cool enough to refreshing on that particularly early fall day. Next, the heirloom tomatoes, caprese style -- burrata and basils, regina olive oil, aged sherry vinegar 'solera' ($9) was as simple as it was tasty. The burrata was impeccably fresh, a blessing for a cheese with such rapidly diminishing returns. The tomatoes, perfectly ripe. The level of acidity in the dish, just right thanks to the vinegar (wiki knows about "solera", too). The ratatouille and zucchini bread -- local goat cheese and basil bud vinegar ($9). Served more like a soup than a stew, the ratatouille was studded with fat zucchini bread "croutons". A tangy, creamy mound of goat cheese sat in the middle, and a drizzle of the vinegar really lifted all of the flavors nicely. The last item we had from the "Starters" section was cranberry bean & fuji apple salad -- marinated torpedo onions, baby red mustard ($7). Aside from the slightly undercooked beans, the textural contrast in this dish was very nice. But though the mustard cut through it a bit, I found the dish to be a bit too sweet. This was my least favorite of the bunch so far.
For our entrees, we started with the gratin of butterbeans and fideo pasta -- charred scallion and romesco, baked with a farm egg ($12). Wonderful. This could make even the unabashed carnivore smile with delight, and in the case of my father, it did. Baked in a cazuela, this dish was hearty and comforting. The romesco was a very nice touch, mixing with the oozing egg yolk to create a fabulous condiment for the beans and pasta below. A little bit of toasted breadcrumbs on top for textural contrast. This was one of the highlights of the meal for me. Then came the anson mills farro -- roast young root vegetables with saba ($11). Very nice. The roasted vegetables were lovely, just the right level of tenderness. The farro was nutty and pleasantly toothsome. Mixed with a creamy dressing, and drizzled with sweet saba, this was a well-rounded mix of flavors. The mushroom pizza -- puree of the trimmings, bellwether crescenza ($13), too, was outstanding. The mushrooms were nicely done, neither under- nor over-done, two common problems one encounters when mushrooms are used as pizza toppings. The cheese was very nice, and the lovely fragrance of fresh thyme immediately filled our noses. Very enjoyable.
Dessert time, now. Three desserts, three of us. How convenient. The vanilla bean "cheesecake" in a jar -- concord grapes, pine nut sable ($7) was wonderful. In quotes because it was deconstructed, layered in a mason jar. The texture was light, fluffy, more like a good mousse than a traditional cheesecake. The bittersweet chocolate ganache -- chocolate puff pastry, garden mint ice cream ($8) was also nice. I didn't love the chocolate puff pastry, which I found to be a bit dry. But the mint ice cream was refreshing, and packed with flavor. The blood orange sorbet -- citrus salad, sparkling kumquat lemonade ($7) was a perhaps the highlight of the entire meal. An absolute knockout. Incredibly refreshing, straddling the line between sweet and tart. Wonderful depth, with every mouthful a different combination of flavors.
In short, I found the food to be quite impressive, and very reasonably priced. I will be back for sure.
We descended upon the first few dishes like ravenous wolves, but I managed to snap a few pictures later in the meal. Enjoy:

cranberry bean & fuji apple salad
marinated torpedo onions, baby red mustard
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anson mills farro
roast young root vegetables with saba
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gratin of butterbeans and fideo pasta
charred scallion and romesco, baked with a farm egg
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mushroom pizza
puree of the trimmings, bellwether crescenza
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bittersweet chocolate ganache
chocolate puff pastry, garden mint ice cream
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vanilla bean "cheesecake" in a jar
concord grapes, pine nut sable
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blood orange sorbet
citrus salad, sparkling kumquat lemonade
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#2 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 03:10 AM

Very nice report - I'll have to make a special Napa trip to explore...

Curious that I could have sworn I saw a Chowhound review which indicated the chef is already serving a limited few dishes that include meat, but I can't find it now. During my last Manresa visit (while Fox was still there) many of the vegetable-only dishes were some of my favorites and makes this restaurant that much more intriguing.

#3 samgiovese

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 09:06 AM

Wonderful report, Aaron. It's definitely on our list to try in the next few weeks. The natural light you wrote of really served your photography well!
"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
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#4 SiseFromm

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 11:41 AM

We'll be in Yountville in a month from now. Ubuntu was not on my radar at all, but this report looks amazing. I did a bit of reading on the chef and his commitment to garden is really exciting. I'm going to make a reservation for Ubuntu soon enough. Great report!
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#5 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 11:49 PM

Jschyun and I made the pilgrimage to Napa on Sunday for lunch at Ubuntu and I have, for the first time in almost two years, regretted no longer living in that wine country hamlet. The addition of Jeremy Fox at the oddly-combined restaurant and yoga studio in that town is a major boon. The restaurant is vast and elegant, studded with reclaimed wood tables, colorful photographic montages, and a very odd sculpture. Being the art junkie that I am, the hostess was kind enough to sit us at the communal table so I could look more intently at the sculpture by Mark Chatterley - haunting in the post-apocalyptic darkness of the figures' black, soulless eyes.
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While we perused the menu, we chomped some amazing sea salt- and lavender-dusted Marconi almonds.
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Sunchokes with Romesco sauce were extremely flavorful and hearty. Simple and hearty yet enticing.
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Rustic bread is served in a simple sewn burlap sack.
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Marinated beets and asian pears with fresh-picked greens and whipped Point Reyes blue cheese. I'm not sure I have ever tasted sweeter beets. The vinaigrette was perfect; not too acidic and the cheese a perfect complement.
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We decided to share two salads and two entrées - the first salad was Little Farms potatoes and fennel with red wine-mustard vinaigrette. This salad was incredibly robust and flavorful. The dressing showed elegance and thoughtfulness; enhancing the earthiness of the potatoes with the tang of the mustard not overpowering but playing with the brightness of the fennel, enhancing the entire dish. Stunning.
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I had heard much of the Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot and was thrilled at its heartiness. A curry aroma arrived as it was placed on the table and the description was "roasted-puréed-raw" with Vadouvan spice and brown butter toasts. I believe the melange of cauliflower to be held in a custard as it was so intensely rich. The first few bites were eaten atop the crusty toasts, but getting full, it was easier to just scoop lovely mouthfuls directly from the pot.
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Our other entrée was the Young Root Vegetables roasted with Saba, Anson Mills farro, and purée of sucrine du berry squash. I am unfamiliar with farro and had to ask -- while it had a bit of the consistency of barley, it was actually a wheat product. The purée was rich and elegant. This was an extremely elegant dish with a complex layering of flavors in the varying vegetables.
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I normally would have slipped a cheese course in but we were awfully full. Not too full, however, to try some of the amazing desserts produced by Deannie Fox. The vanilla bean "cheesecake" in a jar with sour cherries and pine nut sable was a no-brainer choice. Amazingly creamy and rich, I only lamented I couldn't take it home with me to finish. I had no problem finishing the accompanying tuile cookies, though!
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Our hostess suggested we include a Shot of Hot Chocolate with our cheesecake. I live near the Bittersweet Cafe which I thought had close to nearly the best hot chocolate I had ever tasted, but Ubuntu's offering, infused with Blue Bottle Coffee and topped with foamed condensed milk is so thick and rich, it almost had the consistency of slightly thin pudding. A house-made stroopwafel was the accompanying cookie and sounding like a broken record, I have never had a version of this quite so good. The caramel inside, freshly made and decadently drippy, was obviously applied just before service as the cookies were still perfectly crunchy.
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In this high-tech world, I thought it odd that a new restaurant would be named for a Linux-based operating system, only to discover it is an African philosophy of humanity towards others. The artistry of Jeremy and Deanie Fox creating what they do without any meat should be no detractor for carnivores - and if I could eat like this on a daily basis, I wouldn't mind giving up meat at all.

#6 jschyun

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 10:46 AM

One of the best meals I've had in a long time. My favorites were the potato salad, the cauliflower in the mini Staub and the hot chocolate. Amazingly inexpensive for food of this caliber.
I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.
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#7 SiseFromm

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 11:13 AM

We've got reservations for Ubuntu later this week. I don't think I'll have a photo report to post, but I'll definitely list my thoughts here once we return from our trip and have some time to decompress. I'm really excited about this restaurant!
R. Jason Coulston
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#8 eje

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 05:21 PM

Quite the good review from Michael Bauer in the SF Chronicle Sunday Magazine the other day:

Ubuntu takes vegetarian cuisine to new heights

Not since Greens opened in 1979 has a restaurant like this held so much promise. And, thanks to the talents of Jeremy Fox, the food is so good that even die-hard carnivores won't miss meat. Fox was chef de cuisine at the four-star Manresa for four years before taking over this new venture that's both a restaurant and yoga studio.


Between the notes above and the Bauer review, (well, mostly the notes above,) it certainly sounds tempting to me, even with a yoga studio attached.
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If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#9 SiseFromm

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:37 PM

Our meal at Ubuntu last Friday was brilliant. Unfortunately, our camera quite literally ran out of batteries right when the first course dropped. That's a real shame because aside from being delicious and soul satisfying, the dishes were artfully done. Our meal consisted of:

Grilled Farmer's Potatoes, Fennel, Fennel Puree, Sherry Vinaigrette

Broccoli Soup with Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins, Romesco, and Pine Nut Custard

Roasted Root Vegetables, Farro, Squash Puree, Baby Herb Salad

Barbecue Brussels Sprouts, Speckled Corn Grits, Celery Root, Spicy Apple Barbecue Sauce

Cauliflower (Pureed, Roasted, Raw), Vadouvan Spice, Brown Butter Toasts

We wanted to order dessert, but we were done for and couldn't stand eating another bite. All in all, our experience was exceptional. The wine list was approachable, our server (Randall) was on point, the food was nourishing and delicious, and an all vegetable meal was a welcome reprieve from the daily onslaught of French food in the Napa Valley.

The standout dish, by far, was the Brussels Sprouts. They were glazed and smoky atop a base of creamy and smoke-spiced base of American grits. The celery root was just barely al dente and the apple barbecue sauce was sweet, tangy, and spicy. It was so good we nearly ordered a second one.

Great restaurant!
R. Jason Coulston
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#10 dvs

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 04:58 PM

Our meal at Ubuntu last Friday was brilliant.  Unfortunately, our camera quite literally ran out of batteries right when the first course dropped.  That's a real shame because aside from being delicious and soul satisfying, the dishes were artfully done.  Our meal consisted of:

Grilled Farmer's Potatoes, Fennel, Fennel Puree, Sherry Vinaigrette

Broccoli Soup with Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins, Romesco, and Pine Nut Custard

Roasted Root Vegetables, Farro, Squash Puree, Baby Herb Salad

Barbecue Brussels Sprouts, Speckled Corn Grits, Celery Root, Spicy Apple Barbecue Sauce

Cauliflower (Pureed, Roasted, Raw), Vadouvan Spice, Brown Butter Toasts

We wanted to order dessert, but we were done for and couldn't stand eating another bite.  All in all, our experience was exceptional.  The wine list was approachable, our server (Randall) was on point, the food was nourishing and delicious, and an all vegetable meal was a welcome reprieve from the daily onslaught of French food in the Napa Valley. 

The standout dish, by far, was the Brussels Sprouts.  They were glazed and smoky atop a base of creamy and smoke-spiced base of American grits.  The celery root was just barely al dente and the apple barbecue sauce was sweet, tangy, and spicy.  It was so good we nearly ordered a second one. 

Great restaurant!

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Sounds wonderful! I really have to get to this restaurant! How was the rest of your trip? :wink:

#11 SiseFromm

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 05:13 PM

The rest of the trip was awesome. I'm waiting for a massive batch of photos from our trip photographer. He snapped a million of them so I'm sure there are some gems. I was planning on writing up a full report of our experiences. We found some awesome winery gems.
R. Jason Coulston
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#12 dvs

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 01:40 PM

The rest of the trip was awesome.  I'm waiting for a massive batch of photos from our trip photographer.  He snapped a million of them so I'm sure there are some gems.  I was planning on writing up a full report of our experiences.  We found some awesome winery gems.

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would love to hear all about it!

#13 SiseFromm

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 11:57 AM

I did, by the way, snap one single photo before our camera battery completely failed. Just for kicks, here's the base of that Broccoli soup just before the server poured in the velvety-smooth puree:

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This is the Romesco, Broccoli, Pine Nut, Pine Nut Custard, and Golden Raisin base.
R. Jason Coulston
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#14 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 07:47 PM

Took my sister to lunch here yesterday. Hard to not re-order the Potatoes with Fennel and Cauliflower in a pot.

My new dish this time was the hickory-smoked grits with brussels sprouts which was very, very good.

We also finished up with a hot chocolate -- something my sister would usually never order as she is not a huge chocolate fan. She liked the fact that it is not overly sweet but on this occasion, it was a bit too thick to even drink and had to be spooned. I only finished half of it due to its heavy consistency.

#15 SiseFromm

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 12:16 PM

My new dish this time was the hickory-smoked grits with brussels sprouts which was very, very good.


That's the dish I was talking about in my earlier post. I loved it! I'm still trying to figure out how he smoked the grits. I should have asked him when he came out to our table. I'm imagining a cold-smoke process but who knows?
R. Jason Coulston
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#16 mroybal

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Posted 04 July 2008 - 07:48 PM

I love this place and I am far from a vegetarian. I was lucky enough to work with one of Chef Fox's sous chefs. I am also lucky enough to live a 5 minute walk from Ubuntu. I loved the strawberry margherita pizza. The strawberry sofrito is cooked for 3 days and comes out with a perfect rich, but not sticky sweet flavor.
I love seeing great food being cooked in downtown Napa.

#17 tupac17616

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 10:50 PM

Strawberry margherita, eh? Intriguing.

#18 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 09:43 AM

I have dined at Ubuntu in Napa a number of times – but always for lunch. Fortune brought me back into the Napa valley on a Friday evening and I convinced my sister to join me to experience dinner. Fortune could not have smiled more fortuitously as chef Jeremy Fox had just returned from New York where he prepared a meal for the James Beard House – and it was this meal we was recreating as a tasting. There is no way to express how lucky we are to have the likes of Jeremy Fox and his wife, Deanie, in our vicinity. In my last few years of expansive eating, little compares to the inventiveness and imagination being expressed in this Yoga studio. Besides my recent Ursawa experience, through this meal, this restaurant has moved very near the top of my best-of list.

A few regrets that I did not snap pictures of every course, but hopefully a full description will suffice. Having heard much of the watermelon soup, I was thrilled that a shot glass amuse was our first taste. Cool Watermelon and Lemongrass Soup made with coconut milk, basil seed “caviar,” and mint, the inside of the glass had a small smear of crème fraîche and a fresh miniature pansy. Thick and unctuous, the watermelon was immediately barely discernable, but evident by the red color of the offering and the bright and clean flavor behind the rich coconut milk.

A second amuse was also offered, one of Jeremy’s signature dishes, Carta da Musica with Ceci and Rocket – wafer thin crisps made in their stone oven, topped with a seasoned teaspoon of creamed chickpeas, topped with a bit of preserved lemon, parsley, black pepper, and a shaving of Parmesan cheese. Both of the amuses were paired perfectly with 2004 Domaine Carneros Brut by Taitinger.

Our first official course arrived (and was photographed) and the bounteous size and the beauty stunned us. Quite frankly, in ordering a tasting menu, one expects lots of tastes more like the sizes of our amuses. This was a very large bowl of English Peas in Shell Consommé topped with fresh pea sprouts, chunks of macadamia nuts, and a fine grating of white chocolate with a few leaves of fresh chocolate mint. Brilliantly paired with Cade Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, 2007, the overall impact of the intensity of this dish is difficult to describe. The consommé was perfectly clear and the unexpected flavor combination of the fresh peas, nuts, and white chocolate was one of the most revolutionary I have ever tasted. The chocolate was a very small component, but the oily coating of its sweet melting in one’s mouth, coupled with the bright explosions of fresh peas and crunchy nuts, was nothing less than astounding.

Our next pouring was a 2007 Robert Foley Pinot Blanc from Napa. Honestly, upon first tasting we were not as thrilled with this wine as we were with the Cade Sauvignon Blanc. That was, anyway, until the food came… This wine was paired with a plating of Grilled Peach and French Bean Panzanella with fresh Burrata, Basil Stem Dressing, and croutons made with Deanie’s Brioche. Again, another revelation. Trying to take a bite with all the components was the biggest challenge; tasting the rich creaminess of the burrata cheese juxtaposed with the grilled, fresh peach and fresh greens demonstrated a complex elegance most diners do not expect with mere fruits and vegetables.

Not part of the tasting menu but brought out as a complimentary course was Cucumbers with Miso “Bagna Cauda” and Olive with fried fingerling potatoes, ficoide glaciale, Parmesan cheese, and lovage. Ficoide Glaciale is ice plant and I had never tasted it before. Miniature clustered sprouts were served in addition to the cucumbers and potatoes again, again, it is the surprising combination, which creates an unusual gestalt of exciting flavors.

My sister was sad that she didn’t get to have her usual favorite, the signature Cauliflower in Cast Iron Pot. However it was quickly made up for with this James Beard concoction, a tasting of Courgettes and Succulents scented with the famous Vadouvan Spice and Panisse. This was paired with 2005 Cakebread Anderson Valley Chardonnay. This was served on two plates, the platter of freshly cut squash with fried panisse squares. The second part was the familiar cast iron pot filled with a “fettuccine” of squash and creamy vadouvan-flavored squash purée. This was easily as remarkable as the cauliflower version and my sister, being a huge squash fan, actually preferred this offering to the cauliflower. The rich, creamy curry-like flavors were well complemented with the rich, creamy-like flavors in the Cakebread Chardonnay.

Our first red wine of the evening was poured for our next course, a 2006 Ramsay Pinot Noir from the North Coast was paired with a platter of Anson Mills Grits, risotto-style with a Borage Pistou, Capucine Cappuccino, and Amaranth. The dish was studded with a few tiny fresh peppers and topped with a skin of milk, giving it a queso fresco-like flavor and of all the evening’s offerings, this was our least favorite. We are both hearty grits fans but the overall flavor was reminiscent of Mexican cuisine, something neither my sister nor I generally care for. I believe it was the combination of the peppers, corn, and queso fresco. I could easily see how a lover of Mexican food would adore the dish, reminding me of a good tamale, but it somehow seemed at odds with the cohesiveness of the rest of the meal.

Another red was poured, a 2001 Lion’s Run Cabernet Sauvignon. The initial flavors of this wine were expressively black: Black raspberry, black licorice, and black pepper. It was stunningly paired with our last savory course of the evening, Coq au Vin of Porcini with deep-fried domaine de la chance egg and a rich bordelaise sauce made from the Lion’s Run wine (made, by the way, from grapes grown in the restaurant’s own garden). Coming to the culmination of the meal, this offering was elegant and hearty. We were getting pretty full and neither of us could finish the egg, which I am not entirely convinced was necessary. Being a great mushroom, I would have been more than happy with a few of these gorgeous babies and the two sauces served; one porcini-based and the other wine-based. The hefty, dark wine worked well with the meatiness of the mushrooms which was heightened by the addition of a sexy little carrot known as a XXXXXX, purple on the outside and orange on the inside.

With that came the beginning of dessert. Again, we were served a few extra courses not on the ascribed menu. First off was a lovely palate cleanser of a Raspberry Sorbet Float, rose geranium soda with watermelon granita accented with tapioca. This was complex in its combination of flavors and also in the intensity of the raspberry sorbet.

Deanie then sent out something not on the menu, which was entirely enchanting; Miniature Apples on skewers served with her thyme-scented caramel and chopped hazelnuts. Scooping up the caramel with the apples, we were instructed to then roll them in the nuts, making a playful, adult version of caramel apples. It was all we could do to keep from licking every speck of caramel out of the bowl.

My sister had never tasted the Vanilla Bean "Cheesecake" in a Jar with blueberries with chamomile and an almond-teeccino crumble.Two were offered and we quickly asked if one could be scooped out to be brought home for her husband. Any way, at this point in our three-plus hour meal, sharing one was more than enough and thoroughly enjoyed. I am continually shocked at the folks on the ‘net who don’t get or enjoy this dessert. It is so rich and perfectly creamy, showcasing the bounty of summer berries and Deanie’s amazing skill as a pastry chef. This was paired with a splash of 2002 Topaz Late Harvest Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc made by Jeff Sowells. I felt as I had come home as I had researched and written about Sowells, a bit of an enigmatic master of botrytis-affected wines who floats about the Napa valley, always searching for fungus-covered vines.

Finally was an offering of vegetable-based mignardise, a perfect ending to a perfect evening; beet gelée, fresh fennel madeleines, miniature tomato linzer cookies, and carrot cake muffins. Despite their vegetable basis, these were all sweet and compelling, but not overly so. We were incredibly lucky to arrive early enough to nab a seat in the garden and stay well into the evening. As we passed back through the crowded interior, I felt doubly lucky as the limited seating in back is much more intimate and quiet.

Pics on the blog.

#19 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 09:53 PM

I am getting awfully jaded; every time I visit Ubuntu restaurant, with the exception of the signature cauliflower cast iron pot and the lavender almonds, I am served a varied assortment of new and breathtaking dishes. This weekend's adventure took place with two girlfriends, both of whom thought we were stopping at a vegetarian restaurant "for a light salad." I love blowing people's minds...

We started with all of the "bites:" Castelvetrano olives marinated in mizuna pesto, chickpea fries with herbs and piquillo romesco, and marcona almonds with lavender sugar and sea salt. The chickpea fries were delicate and light - crisp and crunchy on the exterior and light and fluffy on the inside and the pesto concoction on the massive olives reeked of bright freshness.

Thus began the onslaught of delight from Chef Jeremy Fox's kitchen... First up was a salad of fingerling potatoes, lightly smoked sauce gribiche, ficoide glaciale, black garlic, capers. The last potato salad I had at Ubuntu was almost a year ago and was made with purple potatoes and the progression of Chef Fox's skill depicted in a simple potato salad is impressive. I'm not sure if a year ago, their garden was producing the exciting offerings which now show up in the dishes like the bright and crunchy Ficoide Glaciale that is in this potato dish.

Our next offering was a "soup" of winter squash and courgettes served with tomato consommeé (poured after the photo was taken) with avocado cream, miniature tomato "raisins", squash, and a few dots of concentrated balsamic. This was an elegant combination of so many flavors that melded together so serenely and expressively.

I love the kitchen's offering of "Today's Leaves and Things (amaranth, figs, apples, plums, tomatillos, pansies) dressed lightly with regina olive oil, mustard and sea salt. This dish is the perfect example of opulent freshness; served on a paper-thin crisp of brik, the combination of fruits and vegetables juxtaposes the richness of the soup we just consumed by the raw experience of pure freshness.

I don't have an exact description of the next offering other than it was a melange of carrots to astound the taste-buds... With a hint of vadouvan spices, there were a cluster of large, braised chunks of carrots, quenelles of carrot mousse, delicate spears of fresh carrots from the garden, a bit of carrot foam, and a sprinkling of flower petals. Stylistically, the colors and composition made this one of the most beautiful, Van Gogh-like displays of food I have ever seen. Flavor-wise, one cannot imagine that so many different taste components could be provided by a single ingredient. It was hard for me not to lick the stone tile it was presented on.

The ubiquitous cauliflower in a cast iron pot arrived next and my friends were in a true state at this point. Both had tried to dismiss me ordering this dish as they claimed to "not care for cauliflower," but impressed as everyone else has ever been with this unctuous, creamy offering.

What came next was beyond revolutionary and revelatory. One of my guests for this lunch was beloved friend, Leisl, whose Scottish heritage has her instilled with a deep and abiding love of lamb and potatoes and blood sausage. Health concerns have brought her to vegetarianism which was why I was so happy to share with her my favorite restaurant. What arrived next was Chef Jeremy's version of Boudin Noir and there are few words to describe the synchronicity of this particular dish being offered on this day when Leisl was visiting, nor the actual tears of joy she experienced in tasting a vegetarian version of something she had so desperate missed. In a cast iron skillet was a layered confit of root vegetables and onions on top of which sat the "boudin noir" of rice, apples, root vegetables, vinegar and black pepper. As opposed to fake meat masquerading as a sausage, here there was simply a combination of flavors prepared in such a way to give a transcendent offering which when tasted, if one closed their eyes, would not know it was NOT a true blood sausage. Garnished with a quenelle of mashed potato and a poached egg, Leisl had to actually stop the lunch and begged our indulgence while she called her husband to share in the joy. We were all blown away.

Our next offering was a dish that my other guest, Kat, had specifically requested, local polenta finished with corn pudding, padrons, okra, green tomato relish, and amaranth. Creamy and rich, the polenta was studded with kernels of fresh corn and was brightened with the fresh roasted peppers and okra.

Thinking the polenta was rich, we had no comprehension of just how decadent and rich could be until the homemade macaroni and silver mountain white cheddar cheese arrived. Creamy and rich, the pungency of the cheese juxtaposed the creamy goodness on the tongue.

We were going to have them cancel our last course as we were getting beyond full, only to learn it was already fired and on its way; the homemade pizza with sauerkraut, emmental, purple mustard, with apples, garlic confit, and caraway all served with a poached egg in the middle. I have never had a sauerkraut pizza before and would never have thought it possible that something so seemingly innocuous could be such a mind-blowing experience. The addition of the poached egg provided a bright sauce to the deep, rich flavors of the kraut.

For the first time, I really had to insist that we couldn't order dessert. As sad as I was to not have a smidgen of Deenie's scrumptious offerings, there was quite simply no room left. I have to say that the innovations and offerings coming out of Fox's kitchen are beyond comprehension to me. Every time I ask if there is a thought of a cookbook and then I wonder how he could possibly have the time; the menu seemingly changes so often that there must be several thousand of dishes in his arsenal now and how he could narrow down to a few hundred for a book would be quite an unenviable task. But, oh, am I ever hoping for one...

Pix on the Blog.

#20 tsquare

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 12:45 PM

Nothing like that in Seattle...too bad!

#21 tupac17616

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 02:56 PM

wait, why didn't ubuntu get a nod in the 2009 michelin? :wacko:

#22 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 05:03 PM

wait, why didn't ubuntu get a nod in the 2009 michelin?  :wacko:

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The Michelin dudes have their heads WAY up their butts on that omission!

#23 tupac17616

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 09:18 PM

Seriously, 7 months of silence on this thread is not okay. Where is the love, people?

I've gone to Ubuntu twice in the past two months, having finally made the opportunity to return nearly a year and a half after my first great meal there back in October 2007 prompted me to start this thread.

The fact that minor details -- like my lack of a car, and more recently, the theft of my driver's license -- had kept me from returning sooner is no good. This is a special place, and next time, I don't care if I have to walk there from the east bay...

A lazy Sunday lunch in early March with several friends allowed us to the "The Cycle", that is, share the entire menu among us. I was without a camera that day, but my friend Joan took pictures of all the dishes and put them on her blog HERE.

If I squint really hard, sometimes I wonder whether Jeremy Fox might somehow be Italian. His miso "bagna cauda" is a scarily similar play on the real thing, and if blindfolded, frankly I'm not sure I could tell the difference. Last month that came as a condiment in a salad including artichoke, miner's lettuce and parmesan. With black olive caramel and macadamia nuts, too, I thought this dish was great. This time, a new incarnation topped with basil was still wonderful.

On my more recent visit, his borage gnudi blew me away. Brown butter and sage is a simple condiment, but I've seen it screwed up plenty of times (butter not hazelnut-colored yet, butter no longer "brown" but burnt, too much sage, too little sage). This was right on the money, though, and among the shoots and seed pods of hon tsai tai (a red Chinese brassica), some flowers, and the crunchy pieces of nuts (almonds, if I remember right), the combination was just killer.

Carolyn already talked upthread about the peas served in a consommé of their shells, but just LOOK at it, for god's sake. This dish is marvelous.

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So he makes a so-similar-it's-almost-wrong-to-put-it-in-quotation-marks bagna cauda, tender gnudi, wonderful pizzas, let's see, how else can he outdo the Italians at their own game? Oh yeah, his carta di musica. Topped with delicious salad and a truffled pecorino that -- I'll be damned! -- actually tasted like truffles. Delicious.

Posted Image

I have nothing bad to say about either of these meals, if you're waiting for that. One more bit of food porn and then I'm out. Roscoe's asparagus, "virtual" egg infused with saffron, black trumpet and brioche terrine, sylvetta arugula and preserved lemon. Tasted as beautiful as it looks..

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Honestly, I can hardly imagine a better quality-price ratio. I'm going back as soon as I possibly can. Anybody willing to give me a ride, just say the word. :raz:

#24 robert40

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 09:56 PM

I took a devastating right cross to the chin tonight when David Kinch got passed up on the Beard Award. Then a left hook going down as Jeremy Fox got passed also.
Thank goodness I got to my feet by the count of nine to see these photos and review.

tupac17616, You can be my corner man any day! :laugh:
Robert R

#25 tupac17616

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 10:38 PM

I took a devastating right cross to the chin tonight when David Kinch got passed up on the Beard Award. Then a left hook going down as Jeremy Fox got passed also.

I know what you mean. Nothing against Chef Keane -- I've still not been to Cyrus -- but I was disappointed to see that result.

#26 Reignking

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 12:51 PM

We've planned a trip to the area at the end of the month; I think this will have to make the list!

#27 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 09:30 PM

I go once a quarter and am looking forward to yet another trip on Memorial weekend.

And, yes, for me Fox was the clearly the most deserving of the Beard accolade.

#28 tsquare

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 09:49 PM

But have you seen him pole dancing? I couldn't help but read that story. Still, would love to try the place someday.

#29 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 12:53 PM

That's it. For me, there is no restaurant that continues to thrill and excite me the way Ubuntu does. It has become a religious experience and after a 4 1/2 hour lunch on Sunday, I feel as though I am worshipping at the Temple of Vegetables with High Priest Jeremy presiding over the liturgy. U.E. and A Life Worth Eating and I drove up yesterday, having specifically requested a tasting menu before our arrival. You'll be able to see U.E.'s pictures later, but here is the recap (those items in caps are from Ubuntu's own biodynamic garden).

Amuse - Vellutata Selvaggio, enriched with NETTLE - BORAGE condimento, foraged SORRELS, BLOSSOMS, etc... - stunningly composed soup spoon bite of creaminess goodness with a bit of crunch and the tease of the garden goodness we were about to explore.

1. Spring BRASSICAS and mushrooms a la grecque - LION'S RUN "bordelaise," BORDEAUX SPINACH, preserved lemon. The preserved lemon was barely detectable, but if that was the only complaint, than big deal. The bordeaux spinach was intense and paired well with the spicy brassicas.

2. 2x-shucked peas and GOLDEN SHOOTS in a consommé of the shells - white chocolate, 'CHOCOLATE' MINT, macadamia, PURPLE PEAS in the pod. This dish has changed a bit since I had it a year ago. Now with the consommé added tableside, there is a bit less of the clear broth to drench the fresh peas. Still studded with bits of chocolate and macadamias, the joy of this dish is that the specks of white chocolate melt in the back of your throat and provide a sense of creaminess without an overt chocolate flavor. Brilliant.

3. Seven degrees of 'FORONO' BEETS - hazelnut "soil," avocado, FICOIDE GLACIALE, rhubarb pickle. There is an cylinder of "tartare-looking" beets topped with what looks like a quail egg, but it isn't. And then there are quenelles and a dark gritty "soil." It is all so unctuous and rich and engaging.

4. Carta da Musica, our crisp Sardinian flatbread - topped with Ubuntu SPRING GARDEN, truffled pecorino. A standard dish, a beautiful hunk of paper-thin flatbread topped with all the colorful, bounty from the garden and long shavings of the pecorino, the truffled flavor from which gives a second layer of earthiness to the beautiful vegetables.

5. 'PURPLE HAZE' CARROT crudité with mimolette - spiced "crumble" of dried carrot pulp, peppery NASTURTIUM salad. A long log of orange carrot, topped with the beautiful Purple Haze carrots and bits of mimolette. The bit of heat from the nasturtium flowers gave a pleasant bite of heat which contrasted nicely with the sweet, sweet carrots.

6. 'REDHEAD' RADISH stew, roasted & raw - LEMONGRASS & creme fraiche broth, SOI RABE, sweet HERBS. Our first hot dish of the day and our second dish with a table-side pour of a broth. I thought the broth was based on coconut milk, but it was pure creme fraiche and the lemongrass which threw me. So intensely rich, the juxtaposition of the cooked and raw radishes not only provided complementary mouth feels, but showed just how varied the vegetable can taste in its different cooked forms.

7. A Savory expression of 'ORION' FENNEL scented with our vadouvan, 'DELFINO' CILANTRO, local citrus. Quite possibly my dish of the day. I am SUCH a fennel fan that to have it accentuated with their delicate vadouvan made for

8. Cauliflower in a cast iron pot - roast-purée-raw, our vadouvan, 'DELFINO' CILANTRO, brown butter toast. We asked to have this added as cauliflower is U.E.'s favorite vegetable. It was similar enough in taste to the fennel, but still well-loved and welcomed.

9. Arbuckle grits, our goat ricotta and the whey, "Midnight Moon" - Napa strawberry soffrito, FRAISE DE BOIS, assorted BASILS. First, we were happy to see that this was made with something other than Anson Mills grits. Not that Anson mills is bad, but Chef Jeremy told us that Arbuckle is being locally sourced (less of a carbon footprint) and ground to their specifications. Sitting on top of the bowl were beautiful little miniature fraise de bois but it was really when you scooped through to the bottom to pick up some of the strawberry soffrito did the richness of the creamy grits and cheese make one's head spin.

10. Strawberry Pizza "Margherita" - Napa strawberry soffrito, burrata, assorted BASILS, saba. A Life Worth Eating insisted on adding this in our tasting and we all wanted to taste the burrata. It had enough cheese and soffrito to be similar enough to the grits course, but it was still well-enjoyed and made me appreciate what a really good pizza could be.

11. A sweet expression of 'ORION' FENNEL - the garden's first 2009 HONEY, yogurt whipped with MEYER LEMON. Now I'm hard pressed to decide which fennel offering I liked more, the sweet or the savory. The shade of anise that exists in the fennel seemed more concentrated in the sweet version, but I have a feeling that it was because it was more on its own versus being accompanied by the vadouvan.

12. the SPRING FLOWER POT - LAVENDER custard, bee pollen crumble, rhubarb. A lovely version of Deanie's cheesecake -- instead of being served in a Mason jar, it arrives in a terra cotta flower pot and topped with fresh flowers. So amazingly beautiful and tasty.

The service continues to excel but what cannot be described and only seen in person is just how stunningly beautiful each dish is; in color and composition. Take a look at Ulterior Epicure's FLICKR account later as he is the one who took pictures. But I am thoroughly convinced that if I had only one restaurant to choose from for a last meal, this would be it.

#30 tsquare

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 04:58 PM

Just curious - looks from the first post that 3 people ate for about $100. Is this still the case or was that a light meal? Sounds so labor intensive, it is hard to imagine this can be a very moderate dining experience $ wise for such a lovely feast. No prices on line.

Thank you.