14 January 2011

Ubuntu a unique dining experience in Napa, California

On a recent trip to Napa Valley the number one restaurant I wanted to visit was Ubuntu the Michelin-starred “vegetable” restaurant in Napa, CA. I went with my husband and two dear friends, all three omnivores.

The restaurant is very unique. There is a yoga studio upstairs. When I say upstairs I don't mean the second floor of the building, I mean you walk through the restaurant up the stairs and enter a yoga studio. I wonder how the sound-proofing is? The kitchen is open so you can watch the chef work his magic. Though they have a nice wine list, we opted for our own bottle, which we purchased earlier in the day at a wine tasting.

Ubuntu offers food "family style." The server recommended that we order two dishes per person, as we would all be sharing. Here's where it got tricky. Not everything on the menu is vegan, though you can request a vegan preparation. The vegan / omni dining dilemma: do you ask your friends to eat all vegan because you are vegan? I didn't.

Among the four of us we ordered nine dishes (two dishes were doubled up). So essentially seven unique dishes. And only three were vegan (grumble, grumble) but the server said she would be sure to bring out a vegan dish with the non-vegan dishes so that we would all be eating together.

We were offered an amuse-bouche.
A lovely pumpkin soup.

We ordered olives to get things started.

The first vegan item to come out was the vegan version of the garden SNAKE
with leaves, flowers, roots, lightly dressed with lemongrass oil, herbs, and soil.

Next, the dish I was waiting for because it was the only protein in the whole meal for me, the rustic rancho gordo "alubia bianoc" bean stew.
This soup was delicious! We made two orders of this and my omni friends made sure that I had two servings. It was wonderful.

The final vegan dish was... I don't know what it was. But it had potatoes
and it was good.

So I tasted three dishes and my friends tasted seven dishes. I'll be honest, I wasn't too happy. First, the server didn't bring out vegan dishes when non-vegan dishes came out. Second, I went back to the hotel hungry. Third, I should have been more assertive with my husband and friends and requested that they make more vegan choices.

As I told them at lunch the following day "next time, I'm going to Ubuntu with vegans."

1140 Main Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-5656

JL | @JLgoesvegan
Post-40 JL became a marathoner and triathlete, changed careers and transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. She now blogs about vegan cooking (and wine!) and fitness. JL is a community college administrator and teaches nonprofit management at a local university. Follow JL on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/stlbites