Pilar (Napa) – Seasonal but Something

I ate here the other night after a few promising posts from a food forum. In fact, I had very high hopes since it looked like the food was something special – honest with respect to its ingredients.

The place was packed solid. Whatever buzz needed to happen has happened; I overheard 2 different townies talking proclaiming it the best place in the city. Arrived 15 minutes early, and seated 15 minutes late.

Overall, my hopes were too high – the dinner was great but it didn’t wow me. I was expecting: 1) simpler ingredients-focused preparations and 2) more Mexican influence.

If you like this place,Ii’d also recommend 2 other places that fall in the same general category: Farmhouse Inn & La Salette, both in/near Sonoma. The 3 make a nice triumvirate for casual wine country dining.

1. Sweet White Corn Soup w/ Maine Blue Crab & Chives
This was a good starter – sweet, lighter, but w/ a creamy corn taste. They were generous w/ the crab (which was cooked perfectly) and i thought it add a nice bit of texture to the soup.

2. Grilled Monterey Bay Sardines
These were excellent – a nice strong grilled taste that somehow accentuated what i find to be a delicate fish. it was served w/ a small salad of fennel, mint, lemon confit, & parmigiano – this was also good – although it didn’t seem to belong w/ the sardines, i treated it as a palette cleanser.

3. Stuffed Piquillo Pepper
Stuffed w/ olive oil braised tuna, olives, & herbs – this was very disappointing. The pepper dishes from the previous reports sounded the best, but the tuna tasted like canned tuna. The pepper was stuffed so full that the interior ingredients masked what was probably a sweet pepper.

4. Colorado Lamb Loin Chop
I asked for medium rare to the rare side, i got medium rare to the medium side. I’m not having much luck w/ meat & restaurants lately. The lamb was good, but lacked any remarkable taste. It was served w/ a roasted pepper & goat cheese terrine which wasn’t too good nor did it make any sense w/ the lamb.

5. Duck Duck
Muscovy duck breast medium rare – a very good piece of duck – not the best, but solid. It was served w/ foie gras (yum), herb spaztle (i liked it but it tasted like soggy corn puffs due to the frying), and roasted cippolini onions (yum!)

6. Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Chunk Souffle
Never been a big souffle fan and this one couldn’t do it for me neither. Gelato was dropped in instead of a hot liquid, but that couldn’t save it for me. They used too much egg – at times, the inside resembled custard.

Overall, it was a very good dinner (based on the strength of the appetizers), better than most stuff you’ll find in the city. It wasn’t as cohesive or simple as i expected, but now that my expectations have been calibrated, i’ll try to go on a quarterly basis to check in w/ the new seasons.

- chuck