After a long day of drinking, drinking and more drinking (we were in Wine Country after all), we were indecisive about where to dine for dinner. With the re-invigorated downtown Napa dining scene, where else can you start off with Japanese appetizers by the sushi master and then end with some pizza paired with a Southern Italian wine?
We have been to Morimoto Napa several times and know it to be consistently good. We were in the mood for some raw fish, so we decided that this would be a good place to start a progressive dinner. Not in the mood for more cocktails or a heavy wine, we felt that a carafe of Morimoto’s Junmai Saké was the perfect drink to pair with our appetizers. Beautifully arranged on ice with an orchid, it was easy to forget that it was cold outside:
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We had seen the Iron Chef make this artistically beautiful maki roll on TV plenty of times, and we knew we could order the Shikai Maki here in the Napa outpost as an off-menu item. Our bartender initially responded that they normally wouldn’t make it on busy nights (especially weekends), but a query to the sushi chef came back with an approval. The maki roll is just as amazing to see in person as it is in pictures. Each piece was a bit too big to eat in one bite, so it was best to separate the 4 corners and savor every bit (click on the different roll pieces to check out the Lytro living picture refocusing capability):
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At Morimoto, sushi is ordered by the piece and not by the pair. Knowing that Morimoto is one of the best places to have sushi, we were curious to see how their ika (squid) sushi would taste. The cuttlefish was thinly sliced almost into thick noodle consistency and artistically arranged over the sushi rice. It was very tender and fresh and not rubbery at all. The only minor complaint we could have is that the shiso leaf tended to overpower the taste of the sushi:
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We then split the Spicy Chirashi Sushi plate that came with a soft-poached egg meant to be mixed in with the fish and the sushi rice. The Chirashi, featuring various types of very fresh tasting fish, was spiced with house-made Korean gochujang which added both heat and sweetness. No grain was left behind since Morimoto’s sushi rice is truly the best:
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Having completed our appetizer round, we walked over to Oenotri to finish our dinner. We had done a little bit of research beforehand and were mighty impressed with how many Italian wines were available there, so it made our decision fairly simple since we are not big fans of Napa Cabs and Merlots. Co-owned by Chefs Tyler Rodde and Curtis de Fede, who met while working at Oliveto in Oakland, Oenotri specializes in house-made salumi, pastas and Napolitana style pizzas.
We ordered a bottle of Cos Cerasuolo di Vitorrio. The sommelier initially brought over the Cos Frappato, and luckily we were still sober enough to spot the mix-up. Frappato is very light by itself, but it blends well with the inky Nero D’Avola, which together makes the perfectly balanced Cerasuolo:
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We selected the sausage, cavolo nero (dino kale) and smoked mozzarella pizza to pair with our excellent Sicilian wine. The tomato sauce was slightly sweet, the pie was perfectly charred and the dough was quite tasty:
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We had an interesting discussion with the bartender when we told him how we were pleasantly surprised with their Italian-centric wine list. We asked how it fared to offer comparatively fewer California wines in the heart of wine country. He said they felt that you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit another restaurant with Napa-centric wines, so they purposely created a list appropriate for their Southern-Italian inspired food. He also shared that not a day goes by that someone doesn’t complain and can’t understand why they don’t offer more Cabernet Sauvignons.
It was a perfect way to have a meal that might not be for everyone’s taste, but when you spend the day half-sober, a Japanese-Italian meal was exactly what we craved.
Aug. 28, 2013 Update: Co-Owner Curtis de Fede has left the Oenotri kitchen, read more at InsideScoopSF.