Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Bottega (Yountville, CA)
Bottega is the brainchild of world-renowned chef Michael Chiarello, located just a hop, skip, and a jump from Napa. We made our reservations months in advance, and even then the best we could do was an 8:45 dinner slot. The late dinner actually worked out really well, since it allowed us to take our time with the winery tours and do a little shopping too.
The best way I can describe Bottega is to say that it's modern Italian mixed with remnants of the old country. I'm not sure if that description even makes sense, but it'll have to do. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about all of the wines and food selections, though I didn't expect anything less from Napa Valley. On his recommendation, I tried a glass of the Chiarello Family Vineyards' Ribolla Gialla "Chiara Bianco." It was a little drier than I prefer my wine, but very tasty nonetheless.
My wife and I were both salivating with anticipation, so we started with an antipasti course of their Monterey Calamari, which is crisped with Arborio rice flour and served with an aioli nero.
The calamari was fried perfectly and had a nice crispiness to it. My wife is partial to calamari tube rings, so I usually get stuck with the tentacles (which are actually my favorite). Neither of us had any idea what the charcoal-colored aioli nero was, but it was absolutely delicious. I had to ask the waiter about the aioli, if for no reason other than to satisfy my curiosity. Apparently, it was a garlic aioli with squid ink added for both color and an umami taste. Odd color aside, it had an incredible flavor.
For my secondi (entree) course, I ordered the Smoked and Braised Short Ribs that I had my eye on ever since making our reservation months prior. These short ribs come with an espresso argo dolce glaze and a smoky jus, served with a side of polenta-speck polpette. This must have been a good choice, because after I ordered, the waiter commented, "Short ribs. Well played."
It took great restraint not to immediately dive into the short rib, but I managed to sample the polenta-speck polpette first. The term "polpette" usually refers to Italian meatballs, but these were tasty enough that I didn't mind the lack of meat. They were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and delicious all over. It was almost like the Italian version of a hush puppy.
The smell of my short rib was incredible, and I really wished I could swallow it whole. The meat was amazingly tender, making my knife completely unnecessary. Truth be told, you could probably eat this rib with a spoon. The espresso glaze gave it a nice sweetness as well as a touch of acidity. The trick is to eat each bite upside down so the glaze is on your tongue. I also found a decent amount of smoke, both from the smoking process itself and the addition of the smoky jus on top. As much as I wanted to inhale the short rib in one fell swoop, I ended up cutting much smaller bites of meat than usual, just so I could savor it even more. All in all, this was a very interesting twist on smoked meat. I could have easily eaten twenty of these.
Although we were both extremely full, we couldn't resist dessert. All of their dolce options sounded spectacular, but we ended up picking the Tiramisu Fantasia: marscapone mousse with cocoa ladyfingers, kahlua coffee syrup, rum, and crunchy chocolate meringues. I also decided to pair it with a nice decaf espresso.
What we ended up with was a slightly deconstructed Tiramisu in a glass. Like everything else I ate at Bottega, the dessert was phenomenal. There were multiple distinct flavors dancing on my palate at the same time. I had great difficulty containing my giddiness as I scarfed it down.
I don't think it was possible for this meal to have been any better. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was at least a 16.
6525 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599