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MarshalWalker1968

Press in St Helena (New Restaurant)

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I went with some friend's last week to Press the new restaurant in St. Helena. The restaurant is owned by Leslie Rudd (also owns Dean and Deluca) with the kitchen run by Keith Luce formally of Merenda in San Francisco. The restaurant would be described as a Steak House by most, however the decor made me think more "haute cuisine" than steak house. I arrived early and was greeted by two ladies at the door. I let them know that I was early and if it was alright I would have a seat at the bar for the next 30 or 40 minutes as I waited for my friends. Dinner was at 7:30. I sat down and was immediately recognized by the bartender Eileen from past visits at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. I looked at the wine list and decided to order a bottle as I knew my friends were bringing two bottles. They had called ahead to find out about corkage. $20.00 per bottle, fee is waived if you made the wine. The wine list is extensive, but all and I mean all, Napa Valley Wineries. As I understood it, the fruit might come from out of the county, but the winery or winemaker must be from Napa County. Big Names on the list and lots of interesting and small production wines. I would say the prices were very fair for a fine dining establishment in the Napa Valley. I ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that was recommended by the staff for a very reasonable $23.00. One, if not the lowest priced wine on the list. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the winery! I struck up a conversation with some locals sitting next to me at the bar. They were having appetizers. Later while giving Eileen a bit of a hard time about the menu prices and how the restaurant would probably not have a very local following because of the very high prices of the food. (after looking at the menu, so far I agreed with them). Eileen, to her credit, told them that she enjoyed serving locals and that there were ways to negotiate the menu, such as sharing as portions were large. I'm not sure if they were convinced, but Eileen did the best she could to make the best of their comments. My friends showed up right on time, and the ladies at the door offered to sit us down right away, but my friends, noticing the next to full bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at the bar, thought it might be nice to have a seat at the bar first.

When we were ready to sit dow for dinner one of the ladies sat us down promptly on request. As we sat down we noticed that our two bottles of red wine were on the table with glasses already sat on the table. The glasses were Reidel, same as white wine glasses at the bar, but might have been a step up in quality.(I have restaurant grade Reidel at home and the White wine glasses looked very familiar). We asked for an additional set of Red wine glasses so we could try the wines side by side. "Certainly, I'll bring them right out!" We passed on appetizers, I couldn't tell if this was because of sticker shock or everyone figured entree portions would be large. I was decided that we would order our entrees and share sides amongst the four of us. I shared a $99 Porterhouse with my date and the other couple ordered a Ribeye $46 and I believe Salmon.(not positive on price as with the Cabernet's we had brought I never gave fish a second thought.) We ordered mushrooms, spinach and french fries for sides. (the $12 fries are still ringing in my head as the most I have ever paid for fries) As we waited for Dinner, another member of the waitstaff brought bread. Included was onion bread (grilled onions in a sliced roll) that would turn out as one of the highlights of the meal. As the meal arrived the Porterhouse was deboned and cut tableside, cooked to perfection. The ribeye and fish were delivered and sides placed on everyone's plate. Several members of the staff participated in assuring the food arrived all at the same time. So far the service had been excellent, friendly, knowledgable and never making us feel rushed.

Several minutes before, two couples were seated next to our table. My date and I had taken the seats facing the room, this was good for viewing activity, but we found out that squeezing out to take a bathroom break was like being a bull in a china shop. Both of our tables seemed to be working our way in and out of each others conversations as we were seated so close. Thank goodness they were easy going and fun, like us :biggrin: We all felt like the food was cooked perfectly, not life changing, but well executed. We ordered only one dessert as we were full from the meal and three of us had coffee.

After tax and tip the meal cost around $385, and this didn't include wine as we had brought our own and I had paid seperately for the Sauvignon Blanc.

We had a great time, service was excellent, food was good to very good, but was it worth it?

Probably not.

When we talked in the parking lot and then several days later we all agreed that spending $90 or $100 or $250 per person on a meal feels better when you have "haute cuisine" or something new or different with multiple courses it just seems like a better value. Steak and Fries can be done at home with friends very easily and very well if not better than at Press. With that said, if you are visiting the valley and want steak, I would recommend Press or Coles Steakhouse in Napa.

Pros: Service- patient, professional, friendly.

Quality - food, wine, glasses, utensils

Cons: Cramped seating in large room, A la Carte, , bad value, food prices!!!!!

P.S. I am going to agree with the couple that this is probably not going to become a locals hangout.

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Thanks, Marshal, for the detailed report! You mention Cole's at the end, a place I've been several times - how does this meal compare? Sounds like it's more expensive, but do you think the quality of the food is better?


allison

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Detailed post, thanks.

$99 porterhouse? Are the meats aged or of a particular breed, etc?

You say, "...Salmon...not positive on price as with the Cabernet's we had brought I never gave fish a second thought"

Salmon cries out for Bordeaux-structured or older, more well made cabs. With salmon, I'd never give WHITE wine a second thought.

By the way, is there any place in Napa that serves up aged, prime high-end steaks to go with all the juicy high alcohol Valley wines?

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Thanks, Marshal, for the detailed report! You mention Cole's at the end, a place I've been several times - how does this meal compare? Sounds like it's more expensive, but do you think the quality of the food is better?

I think the food quality is very good at both, but I would give Press a better review based on the service level and quality of wine list. I should mention I have only been to Cole's twice in the last year and one time I sat at the bar alone and had a steak and a side and had plenty to take home for eggs, hash browns and steak for breakfast.

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Detailed post, thanks.

$99 porterhouse? Are the meats aged or of a particular breed, etc?

You say, "...Salmon...not positive on price as with the Cabernet's we had brought I never gave fish a second thought"

Salmon cries out for Bordeaux-structured or older, more well made cabs. With salmon, I'd never give WHITE  wine a second thought.

By the way, is there any place in Napa that serves up aged, prime high-end steaks to go with all the juicy high alcohol Valley wines?

I don't want to argue the point, but generally I prefer a nice red Burgundy with salmon if I'm going with a red wine and fish. The Wines were a 2002 Schrader Tokalon Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2002 Kennefick Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. I felt the high tannins and high fruit would overwhelm any fish. By the way, I think what I tried to say was I didn't think that Cabernet would go with salmon. I will try your suggestion about pairing an older Bordeaux with salmon. I can see with a softing of the tannins it might work well.

The Porterhouse came from a purveyor from New York, I can't remember the name.

The Ribeye came from Missouri??? Not sure on that one. Both were Prime, and I believe Eileen mentioned that they were 100% Black Angus. The marbling was very nice on the Porterhouse.

Marsha

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Total agreement on Burgundy with salmon! (Hence, my egullet name)

Any other Napa steak places? What's the story with Coles?

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Cole's is a steakhouse in downtown Napa. They serve prime, dry-aged, corn-fed beef with family-style sides. Steaks are around $25-50, and sides are $3-8. They have chicken, fish, veal, and pork, but I've only had the steaks, since it is a steakhouse, after all. The meat is high-quality and is usually done right (i.e., rare is actually rare), but you can really do some damage to your wallet here.


allison

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I just saw a video clip on the NY Times website about Press. It seems like a while since anyone has posted on it. Any new opinions/impressions?


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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