Simply REDD

Richard Reddington’s restaurant Redd, in Yountville has been going strong for six years and shows no signs of slowing down. I strolled past it four days in a row while I was there and it was pretty much packed. Reservations were full and the first-come, first-served bar seating was hard to come by. But by going early (before 6:30 PM) I managed to score seats two nights in a row.

I ate solo my first night and the second night I was joined by Regina and my buddy Geoff, who drove up from the “city”, meaning San Francisco, to wine and dine. Two nice meals, overall. While it’s hard to gauge a restaurant based on two brief meals at the bar, my own initial impressions are very positive. The dinners were fun, the food good and generous. While not everything was equally excellent, every dish was obviously well-considered and well-executed.

Chef Reddington does an able job of melding Asian, European, and South American styles. The food is pretty, creative, robust, and well-balanced. And the atmosphere is fun, the decor modern but approachable, the service very friendly.

This little amuse bouche was delightful.

My first meal started with a little freebie from the kitchen, a very nice amuse bouche of yellowfin tuna tartar with avocado, asian pear, and cilantro. Although tuna tartar is fairly passe in my book, this was delicious — the fish was fresh, the avocado was creamy, the asian pear added a nice crunchy sweetness, and the crispy rice over the top added a crispy textural component.

Mediocre picture of a decent Panzanella.

Next up was a Panzanella salad special, with lovely tomatoes, arugula, cucumber, squash, grated parmesan, and an aged sherry vinaigrette. Small croutons added crunch, and while the salad was nice and balanced, it was not a panzanella, strictly speaking. Panzanella refers to day-old bread that is tossed with dressing and tomatoes and other vegetables. The idea is to utilize and refresh stale bread for another purpose. In my mind, you can’t just toss in a few croutons and call it panzanella. A misnomer for sure.

I can’t say no to pork belly!

Next was a lovely appetizer of pork belly braised in soy with apple puree, apple and frisee salad, and slivers of burdock root. This dish was smashing! The pork was tender, sweet, and flavorful. The soy-simmered burdock was chewy and tasty. The mild apple puree softened the robust effect of the salty pork. And the tart, fresh salad lightened the whole thing, adding a nice acidic counterpoint to the fatty pork. A perfectly realized dish.

Strictly bar food, these pork buns were too greasy and too hot!

I rounded out that first meal with more pork, a bar appetizer billed as pork buns, which are like open-faced steamed bao which resembled fluffy tacos. This dish was sweet and gooey and basically a pork bomb. It was simply too much. I think they used the same pork from the appetizer I had prior and stuffed it into these little buns. They put two buns over a nondescript slaw of Napa cabbage, cucumbers, and carrots. My main complaint was that the pork was so hot it scorched my mouth. I was left wondering if they’d microwaved the filling. Not great.

The Samurai cocktail.

The next night I started with a specialty cocktail dubbed the Samurai, a concoction of ginger vodka, sake, some juice of some kind, and I don’t know what else. It was fun and fruity and I enjoyed the hell out of it! I think I was starting to get sick of all the wine in Napa at that point and wanted something a little less serious. The very friendly bartender stated that he invented that cocktail and that it won SECOND place in a cocktail competition in SF. Honestly it tasted blue ribbon to me. Perhaps he did get robbed, as he claimed.

Geoff had a couple of whiskey drinks. A Presbyterian, I believe, and something else. He pronounced them delicious!

Our first dish was crunchy, Asian-style chicken wing. Very good bar app. The batter was probably an egg white-corn starch (or cake flour) batter and very crisp. After cooking, the wings are dredged through a sticky-sweet sauce reminiscent of sweet Thai chili sauce and then topped with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. The wings were delicious, moist, and very flavorful. We scarfed ’em up!

Asian-style chicken wings were a hit!

Next was another freebie from the kitchen, a lovely pizza with prosciutto and arugula and pesto. The crust was great and the toppings very nice. Perfect, no. But a very pleasant surprise.

Another freebie at the bar. Very nice pizza starter!

Hamachi sashimi was next, sliced and served over a little sushi rice with edamame. Dressed with a little ginger-citrus sauce, the fish was very fresh and utterly delicious. A great dish. Simple and lovely. Nom nom!

I love yellowtail, preferably raw, preferably like this!

Regina and I always require salad when we dine out. Getting our veggies is very important to us both! So for salad we tried the early summer vegetable salad, a pleasant if not-particularly-inspired salad of fresh market veggies — tomato, romaine, summer squash, radish. Also it had those same tiny croutons that went into the “panzanella”, a slightly tart vinaigrette, and parmesan cheese. The menu mentioned anchovies but I detected none. Although the veggies were supremely fresh, the salad as a whole was…meh.

Fresh, kinda dull.

Next was the seared diver scallops over a little saute of cauliflower, golden raisins, and almonds. It was placed atop a pleasant puree of cauliflower. Although the scallops were delicious and perfectly cooked, the overall dish was muted and somewhat bland.

Delicious scallops, slightly boring dish.

Next up was linguini with a fantastic lamb bolognese. The tender homemade noodles were springy and delicious. The lamb ragu was sweet, satly, meaty, and flavorful. A simple and very nice pasta dish. Geoff and I gorged on this. Regina, I think, was pretty much stuffed and done by the time this came out.

A stunning pasta!

By this point we were very much full. We’d had all we ordered and all we could stand….until…the kitchen sent us out another little freebie. Honestly I don’t know whether we got these complimentary dishes because we established a nice rapport with the bartender, or because they knew I was in the food service industry, or if I was taking a class at the French Laundry, or if Regina was making googly eyes at the bartender. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Free grub of this caliber is always welcome.

And so the final dish was a surprise dish of a fried egg over soft, creamy polenta with some sauteed mushrooms and fresh, wild arugula. Although we were stuffed, we ate this comforting, homey, and lovely dish up in seconds!

Fried egg, polenta, mushrooms, arugula, yum!

So, in the final analysis, Redd is simply very good. Perfect, perhaps not. But very, very good. Simply put, simply Redd.

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