Monday, June 18, 2007

Bayleaf Restaurant Review

Bayleaf Restaurant
2025 Monticello Road
Napa, CA 94558

Napa Day 1: Dinner

We went to Napa for the weekend to relax and celebrate my birthday. When I started to plan this trip six weeks ago, I originally wanted to go to Cyrus because the menu looked interesting. I was so excited that I made the reservation, not really knowing the location of the restaurant. We were staying at the Silverado Resort in Napa and when I mapped out the directions, it was quite a trek out there and did not know if the 1.5 hour trip would be worth it. So I was lazy and made a reservation at Bayleaf since it was right around the corner.

We arrived shortly before 8:00 PM, at sunset. When you arrive in the parking lot, you are first greeted by a wall of bamboo. As you turn the corner, the courtyard opens into a few sections. Pictured below is one of the sections. The outside was reminiscent of the French Laundry; French county/Napa country style.

I know we were in Napa, but I had a couple of rough weeks at work, so for my drink I ordered a martini instead of wine.

For our appetizer we ordered the Oven Roasted Crab Cake: Saffron Aioli, fennel and Meyer Lemon Preserve, Lobster Demi Glace. The crab cakes tasted fresh and the outside was cooked so that it was nice and crispy. The fennel was caramelized to a dark brown color and sweet flavor; no Meyer Lemon or lobster flavor. As far as the aioli, it tasted like mustard with no saffron flavor. Overall, I liked the crunchiness of the cakes and sweetness of the fennell, but the aioli might as well have been Dijon mustard.

The entree I had was the Beef Wellington.

I am surprised that I have never had this classic dish. One of the only reasons I wanted to try it was that Gordon Ramsey always has it on his show, Hell's Kitchen. Let's decontruct it:

Do I like filet mignon? yes; puff pastry? yes; foie gras? yes; quail egg? yes. So in theory this should be a spectacular dish, right?

I received my dish at the requested medim rare and started to cut into it and took a bite. Let's step back for a second and ask, "Why is this dish not served in more restaurants?"

Hmmm. let me take another bite...interesting...Five bites later, I have decided, I do not like this at all. The flavors are muddled, not really complementing or antagonizing each other. With each bite I tasted a litte beef, a little foie gras, puff pastry and a little egg. The foie gras was barely warm, the quail egg overcooked and the filet underseasoned. Too many flavors. What would have been interesting would have been to serve it deconstructed. Sear the beef, sear the foi gras, top the beef with the gently cooked egg and the puff pastry as a base for the foie gras instead of the usual bread. But then again I am not a chef.

My significant other had Hickory Smoked Babyback Ribs: Watermelon BBQ Sauce, Fries, Wine Country Slaw.

These were a whole different story. They were tender and you could taste just enough hickory so that you knew they were barbequed and not just grilled. The BBQ sauce had that right balance of sweetness and acidity to complement the pork. These were so much better than my Beef Wellington.

For dessert we had the special, fig tart plated with a caramel sauce. This was good, but could have been better if they tossed the tart and the plate with the caramel in the oven for like 5 minutes. The caramel was obviously plated much earlier because it was cold, not even warm as was the tart. The other thing is that there was barely half a fig on it.

In summary, a good start, muddled middle and a decent end.

So overall I would give this restaurant a 10/20 = average vs. other similar restaurants and as a whole I would give it 10/20 = average vs the entire landscape of restaurants.