Under Further Review: Bottega, Yountville

My previous review of Bottega has been generating exceptional traffic over the last couple weeks, which inspired me to devote a short entry to my most recent visit to Michael Chiarello’s new Napa Valley restaurant. Normally, I wouldn’t repeat myself so quickly, since my original review, which I had just published on December 30, still remains both timely and relevant. However, the other night, I did have the opportunity to revisit Bottega on somebody else’s dime, so I thought that my readers might appreciate a brief follow-up.

I will say from the outset that, once again, I really enjoyed the food at Bottega. If I had to select one highlight of the meal, I would again single out the risotto, which had a delicious garnish of four small meatballs. The risotto itself was spiked with a generous portion of parmesan and fontina cheese, and the texture of the dish was terrific. My only complaint was the presentation, since I’m a proponent of serving risotto in a bowl, rather than on a plate. Compared to a nice deep bowl, rice loses its warmth too fast on a plate, even if I do tend to scarf this stuff down. It’s a fickle point, but legitimate.

I was hungry enough for an antipasti course as well, so I began the meal with the burratta, which was also delightful. The freshly-made mozzarella was accented with two preparations of artichoke: fried inner leaves and lemon-braised hearts. The artichokes carried the dish in many ways, since fresh mozzarella contributes more in the way of texture than it does flavor. The braised artichoke hearts, in particular, featured a wonderful acidity which matched the richness of the soft mozzarella cheese. For me, this dish exemplified comfort food done well, and with thought.

For my entree, I ordered the arrosto of duroc pork, which is best described as the Italian version of carnitas. The dish is comprised of braised pork shoulder, which is shredded, pressed flat, sliced into squares, and then pan-seared for a crispy outer texture. The shredded pork was served upon a bed of caramelized apples that revealed just the right amount of sweetness. The main course was enjoyable, although I did feel that it was upstaged by the previous two courses.

Dessert was the olive oil cake with sage ice cream, although the menu advertised quince ice cream. Without having had the benefit of actually tasting the quince ice cream, I felt that the sage ice cream was a better choice anyhow. It brought a savory element to the dish that complemented the savory nature of the cake itself. I just wish that the portion of cake was larger, since it was more of a small muffin than anything.

For my original review of Bottega, please click here.

6 comments to Under Further Review: Bottega, Yountville

  • Just ate there myself last weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. MC definitely looks like he has another winner on his hands. Good food, good service, chic-and-inviting atmosphere.

    There were so many good things on the menu – the proscuitto, the shaved brussel sprouts salad, the swordfish, and the honey smeifreddo for dessert blew me away :)

  • Sarah

    Highly overrated- one of the most disapointing meals of my life.

  • Richard

    First, while I appreciate your reviews of Bottega, I believe your comments about Michael Chiarello are out of line – you are reviewing the food, not the man! I had only vaguely heard of him until my “girlfriend” (I don’t like this term, but “SO” is even worse) started mentioning him. She dragged me to Bottega and it was really some of the best food we’ve had – perhaps we were there on a good night – I don’t know. But, not being a frou-frou foodie (only an amateur cook and foodie), I can say without hesitation, the night we ate at Bottega, it was better than the French Laundry and scores of other Napa Valley spots. The only place we’ve been that outshines it is Cyrus in Healdsburg. So, while I know little of Michael Chiarello, I like his food – I don’t care what he does in the kitchen, his temper, his attitude, etc. – I have heard he pays his people well… and while he may have a sharp tongue, I don’t gather he’s abusive… So, my point is, why is it an issue in a review of food?

  • thirstyreader

    The bottom line is, personality really isn’t an issue at all, if the chef isn’t famous. I have always had good meals at Bottega, and have been very upfront with my praise for the cuisine. However, I feel that when a chef reaches “rock star” status, and begins to trade heavily on a TV persona, people are often interested to know what can be underneath that veneer. As it turns out, I mentioned Chiarello’s reputation back in January, and he very gracefully owned up to it. Then, he showed it to the world on Top Chef Masters a month ago. I still get lots of searches for “Chiarello jerk” to this day, so there are definitely people out there who are interested in famous personalities. Having many close ties to the Napa Valley restaurant scene, I was just trying to dig a bit deeper than a simple restaurant review. If Chiarello wasn’t a household name, his tirades would be completely irrelevant.

    And thank you, by the way, for typing the word “girlfriend” and not “GF” — that’s the worst term of all.

  • Richard

    Thanks very much for your very logical explanation. Now I get it and appreciate the rational way you explained it. I guess not being interested in “celebrity” because I just assume they all have a screw loose, I didn’t even think about it. But your comment was very gracious. Thanks again! And PS: Yes, “GF” is quite annoying, isn’t it – first time I saw it, I was trying to think what it meant…

  • thirstyreader

    Thank you for reading and commenting in the first place!

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