Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Robust and satisfying, Napa’s dry-aged porterhouse chop is served with roasted Granny Smith apple sauce, apple ginger demi-glace, and smoked bacon and blue cheese mashed potatoes. Owner Glenda Hastings, managing partner Rusty Prudhon, and Chef Ken Lu...
So what exactly is this Japanese pumpkin plated as a salad with goat cheese, crushed pistachios, and roasted beets, sliced into half-moons the color of Cabernet? Do I eat the ring inside the pumpkin’s thin strip of rind? And what about the rind? Do I eat that too?
I paused with these questions for a moment or two and then scooped up a bite with everything for a happy introduction to Chef Ken Lumpkin’s menu at Napa Café, the anchor restaurant in Sanderlin Centre since 1998. An enthusiastic fan of Lumpkin’s culinary world view, I was thrilled to discover him at Napa, creating both contemporary dishes with global flavors and more rustic dishes reminiscent of home cooking.
Either way, Lumpkin’s food is elegant and a little mysterious, but still friendly. Jumbo scallops on scoops of sweet potato puree seasoned with cumin totter alongside oxtail dumplings and charred chunks of mango in umami broth, poured ceremoniously from a mini teapot when the dish is served. Hoisin chicken, by contrast, is simpler but equally satisfying, built with chicken from Springer Mountain Farms, seasonal vegetables, and smoked Gouda risotto that is soul-satisfyingly good.
Well-constructed vegetarian entrees also flit across the menu, complementing owner Glenda Hastings’ vision for a classic restaurant that works as a neighborhood go-to and a destination for special occasions. Napa’s recent renovation plays to both roles. In the works for several years, the new Napa has amenities like a “library room” for intimate dinners and an open bar. (Hastings knocked down the walls!)
A special bar menu is also in place, offering affordable small plates such as house-made gnocchi with sage brown butter and glazed chicken meatballs scented with scallion, ginger, and orange teriyaki.
Like its reinvented menu, the décor is rustic chic, and the soon-to-be installed wall sculpture crafted with grape vines from Washington state is a charming homage to managing partner Rusty Prudhon’s award-winning wine list.
“We had to wait for the vines to be dormant,” Hastings said about the couple’s recent trip to the northwest. “We selected them ourselves, nine different vines from four different varietals.”
5101 Sanderlin, Suite 122 (901-683-0441) $$-$$$
Napa Cafe’s new renovation includes a “library room” for private dinners and an expanded bar with its own menu.