Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Special Foodventure #54: DineLA Dinner @ Napa Valley Grille

I've been hesitant to post about my DineLA dinner @ Napa Valley Grille since my digi-cam (more specifically, my memory stick) went on the fritz and thus, the bulk of pictures went into the graveyard of 0s and 1s. However, the dinner I had here was pretty good overall, and this restaurant hasn't been getting much love as of late, so a (mostly) pic-less write-up I will post.

Napa Valley Grille is a small chain (six locations, including one, appropriately enough, in Napa Valley) specializing in Californian cuisines, and of course, lots of Californian wines with a decent by the glass list.

The Westwood location is somewhat discreetly tucked into an office building; however, this place definitely stand out in the UCLA 'hood, especially when you compare its diner audience and menu prices to the likes of Falafel King, Diddy Riese and In 'n Out just blocks away (then again, there are upscale-chic looking places like
Yamato opening in the area, so maybe there's a demographic shift in that area for food patrons.)

Restaurant Week menu looked pretty interesting so I decided to check them out, having remembered having a decent meal there about a year back.

The prix-fixe deal was made even sweeter by my discovery that by signing up for their email club, I get a coupon for a complementary flight of wine. Nice! Given what I'll be eating that night, I chose a set of medium-bodied California reds that were pretty bright on the fruit notes and kind of soft on the tannins.

The bread basket here was somewhat interesting and served with olive oil/balsamic and a dip that tasted midway between tapenade & hummus, but we were saving our appetites so we only nibbled a little bit while waiting for our first courses.

To start, I got the house-made pappardelle pasta in a brown butter nage with winter squash & artichokes - more complex than I anticipated but the flavors blended very harmoniously, the mildly sweet & savory combo from the veggies, nutty-toastiness from the brown butter, and wheaty goodness of the al dente pasta.

My dining companion thought the pan-roasted sea scallops with hummus, brussel sprouts and mushroom salad was less successful, particularly because the scallops were too salty. I had a bite and didn't think it was oversalted in general, but could see how eating the seared exterior would result in a sodium overload. The accompaniments to this dish, however, were pretty nondescript.

For main course, we both went with the prime aged sirloin filet with sweet garlic cream, butterball potatoes and caramelized salsify. Overall it was solidly delicious, the steak, about 8 ounces worth, was succulent & rich with beefy flavors. The potatoes were fluffy & buttery without being too heavy, and the veggies tender but not mushy. As tasty as everything was, nothing really stood out - it basically felt like a higher-quality, but standard, steak and potatoes meal. Maybe the restaurant was intentionally playing it safe for broad appeal, maybe it was just poorly executed that one night. I can only shrug.
For dessert, I got the blood orange bread pudding with white chocolate ice cream and kumquat confit . . . wow! A warm, gooey baked creamsicle like concoction with a marvelous balance of the creamy richness and fruity tang. The kumquats were exceptional too (i.e. not too bitter). My DC agreed that it was quite delish.
My companion got the chocolate sampler which included a chocolate pudding tart, a chocolate creme brulee, brownie topped with chocolate ice cream & a mini-mug of hot chocolate. We both agreed it was a hit and miss. The tart tasted generic bleh (the pudding could've came out of a Jell-O mix, as far our tastebuds are concerned) and the brulee was soupy and had an unappealing bitter-tart aftertaste. The hot chocolate and the mini ice cream-brownie sundae fared much better.

Like almost all
my other DineLA meals, I was neither overly impressed nor thoroughly disappointed by the mixed bag of offerings. But I'll probably swing by again if I'm in the Westwood area and in the mood for a meal with wine and without the usual college crowd.

Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Ave.
Los Angeles (Westwood)



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