For 15 years, Napa Valley Grille has been a dining destination for UCLA parents taking their college students to a fancy dinner. It’s one of my favorite restaurants before a UCLA basketball game. The outdoor patio is ideal to meet friends for a glass of wine and elevated fare before seeing a show at the Geffen Theater or exploring the Hammer Museum across the street.
After a $2 million renovation, Napa Valley Grille recently re-opened with a contemporary design showcasing warm earth tones and textures of stone, wood, tile and copper. The bar is now doubled in size and is decorated with an eclectic array of wood flooring, rattan weaved bar stools and classic lighting. On the wall in the main dining room is an interesting, large wooden collage made from wine crates from some of the most popular California wineries – Simi, Joel Gott and Napa Valley Cellars.
A new private wine room seats over 100 guests, and a beautiful, upgraded patio lounge features fire pits and glass walls to protect guests from wind and cut the noise from nearby Wilshire Boulevard.
Executive Chef Adrian Vela, formerly of Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey, created a new menu that includes West Coast oysters, Wagyu meatballs, oven roasted mussels and crispy pork Milanese.
We sat at a large booth for two in the smaller dining room, and received a glass jar filled with pickled cauliflower, cornichons and baby corn, that was a little too briny for my palate. Our server Phillip recommended the Wagyu beef meatballs with and a fried green tomato on the bottom of the skillet. The dish is dazzled with pancetta, fresh herbs, red pepper flakes and a lovely Romesco sauce offering a nutty essence.
We ordered the Fresh and White salad with roasted cauliflower, sliced grapes, thinly sliced Asian pear, frisee lettuce, chopped hazelnuts and a Mine Shaft Bleu cheese dressing. It’s a nice profile of sweet, crisp and savory.
The kale salad is one of the most popular with its organic black quinoa, toasted almonds, rum raisins with a lemon-Parmesan vinaigrette.
The chef sent an amuse bouché of a puffed pastry filled with foie gras and quince jam which gave the dish an appealing sweetness.
Philip paired several glasses of with our entrees. He recommended the shockingly good Seghesio 14 pinot grigio with the Fresh and White salad and my steelhead trout. It is from the estate-owned Keyhole Ranch in Russian River Valley, and offers a bouquet of bright sweet melon and juicy white peach flavors. The delicate acidity provided a clean finish.
To pair with my husband’s grilled duck breast, he offered tastes of two of his favorite wines. The first was a Paso Robles DAOU Vineyard Pessimist, known as “A Pessimist is Never Disappointed.” It’s an earthy blend of syrah, petite syrah, zinfandel and tannat (a national red grape grown in Uruguay offering a smoky essence). The second taste was an intense, plum-colored Tavistock Malbec that offered a sweet, silkiness with non aggressive tannins. It was an excellent accompaniment to the grilled duck breast glazed in port.
Napa Valley Grille has expanded it wine list to include International wines, including a sparkling Tavistock reserve prosecco from Veneto, Italy, and two exclusive white wines – Tavistock reserve Sauvignon Blanc “Block House Vineyard” and Tavistock reserve Chardonnay “Bien Nacido” from Santa Barbara. Red wines include Red Tavistock reserve Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County and the Tavistock reserve Malbec.
Debbie Kofsky, the manager of the restaurant, checked on each table inquiring about the guests’ experience. She shared with us the secret 3-3 wine menu – three glasses of three ounce pours. You must ask your server about it because it isn’t featured on the regular menu. It’s a wine flight tailored to the dishes you order.
Kofsky poured one of her favorite wines – Bu Bruliam 2012 Zinfandel Rockpile from Healdsburg, CA. She said it’s the “Zin for Pinot lovers,” with a delicate nose, hints of dried dark fruit, Cassis, clove and soft tannins.
Kofsky said Bruliam Wines is a boutique vineyard built by two doctors. They source their own fruit from California’s finest vineyards and donate 100 percent of their profits to the breast cancer and alzheimer charities. It may be my new favorite wine too.
We finished our dinner with a butterscotch brioche pudding. It’s silky smooth with a caramel flavor and topped with brûlée marshmallow.
Another winning dessert is the cherry crumble with housemade rosemary ice cream. The pastry chef changes the crumble flavor based on the freshest and sweetest fruit available. The kitchen makes housemade sorbets and ice creams daily.
I’m so pleased with the newly renovated Napa Valley Grille. Stop in for a glass of wine and relaxing meal served by attentive and knowledgeable servers.
They are open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They also offer a popular Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. It starts back up at 9 p.m. to closing. $$ 1100 Glendon Ave. #100 (310)824-3322.
This was published in the Beverly Press and Park La Brea News in May 2016.