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TN: (Restaurant) Pinot Blanc, St Helena


califusa
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After a fairly lengthy wait on the telephone, I was granted a short-notice reservation for two at Pinot Blanc. I was looking forward to dining there, having thoroughly enjoyed the work the Patina Group has done at Julia's Kitchen at Copia.

The staff was cordial and pleasant when we arrived, and we were seated in the outdoor patio, which suited us just fine on this cool Napa Valley evening. Taking advantage of Pinot Blanc's enlightened "no corkage" policy, we brought a few bottles of our own to enjoy. Unfortunately, the evening went rapidly downhill from there.

Our waitperson was a rather officious young man, who brought our menus and informed us that there were no specials that evening, and that several items on the menu were not available. (I thought that rather odd, as Tuesday was their first night open after being closed on Monday. I would have thought they would restock Tuesday morning, and what wine country restaurant worth their salt doesn't offer any seasonal specials?) Noting our bottle on the table, he informed us that because he was so busy, a trainee assigned to shadow him would be opening and pouring our first bottle.

The young lady proceeded to grasp the bottle around the base (as one might grasp a sparkling wine bottle when pouring) and started to put her corkscrew into the cork without removing the capsule. I actually didn't mind talking her through the process - she was a very sweet gal, and was appreciative of the information. I also shared her embarrassment that the restaurant and the waiter would assign her a task for which she was so in adequately trained.

Our plan was to start with some oysters, then share a salad, and proceed to two main dishes. Unfortunately, the oysters and salad arrived simultaneously, forcing my companion to stretch across the table to reach the oysters. I didn't realize until they were almost finished that the kitchen had salted the oysters. I thought them especially briny when I started, but it wasn't until I ate the last of them (that had miraculously been spared the barrage) that I realized the marked salinity was added. What could possibly inspire a kitchen to salt raw oysters?

I must say my companion's rack of lamb was beautifully tender and well prepared, the accompaniments flavorful and harmonic.

I must also say that my "flatiron steak" was grilled to medium rare as ordered, but was such a tough cut of meat that I could barely chew it through enough to swallow. It was served with passable frites and a dry, plain breadcrumb topping. No sauce, no garnish, no vegetables. While the dish was low priced compared to other dinner entrees, it was correspondingly inedible.

We passed on dessert and escaped.

Perhaps Pinot Blanc was just off its game that evening, but I tend to think not. The waiter was haughty and distant, relegated tasks to staff whom were inadequately trained, and generally seemed to have left his personality at home that evening. The meal was poorly paced, the oysters salted and the steak barely chewable.

I'm puzzled. I had high expectations that were based on my experience with another restaurant managed by the Patina Group and I was profoundly disappointed - and there are far too many fine restaurants in the Valley for me to risk being disappointed there again.

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After a fairly lengthy wait on the telephone, I was granted a short-notice reservation for two at Pinot Blanc. I was looking forward to dining there, having thoroughly enjoyed the work the Patina Group has done at Julia's Kitchen at Copia.

The staff was cordial and pleasant when we arrived, and we were seated in the outdoor patio, which suited us just fine on this cool Napa Valley evening. Taking advantage of Pinot Blanc's enlightened "no corkage" policy, we brought a few bottles of our own to enjoy. Unfortunately, the evening went rapidly downhill from there.

Our waitperson was a rather officious young man, who brought our menus and informed us that there were no specials that evening, and that several items on the menu were not available. (I thought that rather odd, as Tuesday was their first night open after being closed on Monday. I would have thought they would restock Tuesday morning, and what wine country restaurant worth their salt doesn't offer any seasonal specials?) Noting our bottle on the table, he informed us that because he was so busy, a trainee assigned to shadow him would be opening and pouring our first bottle.

The young lady proceeded to grasp the bottle around the base (as one might grasp a sparkling wine bottle when pouring) and started to put her corkscrew into the cork without removing the capsule. I actually didn't mind talking her through the process - she was a very sweet gal, and was appreciative of the information. I also shared her embarrassment that the restaurant and the waiter would assign her a task for which she was so in adequately trained.

Our plan was to start with some oysters, then share a salad, and proceed to two main dishes. Unfortunately, the oysters and salad arrived simultaneously, forcing my companion to stretch across the table to reach the oysters. I didn't realize until they were almost finished that the kitchen had salted the oysters. I thought them especially briny when I started, but it wasn't until I ate the last of them (that had miraculously been spared the barrage) that I realized the marked salinity was added. What could possibly inspire a kitchen to salt raw oysters?

I must say my companion's rack of lamb was beautifully tender and well prepared, the accompaniments flavorful and harmonic.

I must also say that my "flatiron steak" was grilled to medium rare as ordered, but was such a tough cut of meat that I could barely chew it through enough to swallow. It was served with passable frites and a dry, plain breadcrumb topping. No sauce, no garnish, no vegetables. While the dish was low priced compared to other dinner entrees, it was correspondingly inedible.

We passed on dessert and escaped.

Perhaps Pinot Blanc was just off its game that evening, but I tend to think not. The waiter was haughty and distant, relegated tasks to staff whom were inadequately trained, and generally seemed to have left his personality at home that evening. The meal was poorly paced, the oysters salted and the steak barely chewable.

I'm puzzled. I had high expectations that were based on my experience with another restaurant managed by the Patina Group and I was profoundly disappointed - and there are far too many fine restaurants in the Valley for me to risk being disappointed there again.

The restaurant in question is in St Helena, Napa county. Please do not confuse it with Sonoma County, where we make wine, Napa makes auto parts. Apologize to Healdsburg.

:raz::raz:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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You are quite correct as to the location of the restaurant, sir, and I apologize for the error. Unfortunately, this software doesn't seem to offer me the option of editing the header.

I might add that I find the reverse snobbery of "Napa makes auto parts" even less attractive than anything for which you might fault Napa.

Edited by califusa (log)
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You are quite correct as to the location of the restaurant, sir, and I apologize for the error. Unfortunately, this software doesn't seem to offer me the option of editing the header.

I might add that I find the reverse snobbery of "Napa makes auto parts" even less attractive than anything for which you might fault Napa.

It's local humor as no one seems to be able to tell the difference between the two places.

:biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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You are quite correct as to the location of the restaurant, sir, and I apologize for the error. Unfortunately, this software doesn't seem to offer me the option of editing the header.

I might add that I find the reverse snobbery of "Napa makes auto parts" even less attractive than anything for which you might fault Napa.

Thanks for the writeup. I'll change the subject to St Helena, the forum is setup to allow you to edit the content of your post for up to 24 hours, but that doesn’t include changing the subject line.

Incidentally, I agree with you on both the restaurant and your reaction to winesonoma's comments. My experience at Julia's Kitchen at Copia has been far better than at Pinot Blanc. Julia’s Kitchen is not only priced slightly lower than Pinot Blanc but they also are working with absolutely pristine ingredients from the on-premise gardens. The bare minimum you’d expect from a restaurant in a tourist friendly wine region would be competent wine service. Perhaps they thought they were working on a carburetor as winesonoma so astutely suggested. :wacko:

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