Reviewing Napa’s Michelin Star Contenders for 2011: Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

I know you got sole.

Conspiracy theories, in general, are usually pretty boring. After all, who in their right mind wants to listen to some crackpot ramble on about government plots or UFOs? For me, it all adds up to a bunch of noise. But that being said, I do have a small conspiracy theory of my own regarding the 2010 Michelin Guide and Bistro Jeanty’s loss of its Michelin star. Perhaps it’s a bit far-fetched, but perhaps not. It goes as follows:

Since its wine country debut in 2007, the Michelin Guide has long been criticized for being detached and out-of-touch. Folks have often claimed that Michelin has no basis in local opinion, which calls into question the validity and relevance of the publication itself. The staff at Michelin must have been aware of these troubling accusations, and in order to tap into the local psyche, I suspect that Michelin began to pay more attention to the local papers. Then, along comes San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer, who has clearly remained at his post far beyond his shelf-life, but who also boasts the largest soapbox in the entire Bay Area. Bauer takes Bistro Jeanty to task in 2009, in an infamous hatchet-job review that folks here in the Napa Valley still mention (and disregard) to this very day. However, the Michelin Guide, still being hopelessly naive and oblivious to true local opinion, takes its cue from Bauer (of all people), and subsequently revokes Bistro Jeanty’s Michelin star in 2010.

• • •

Whether or not my hypothesis is valid, I continue to recommend Bistro Jeanty to my readers, and I continue to dine there several times per year. Personally, I’ve never known Bistro Jeanty to fall short of my own expectations. During my most recent visit, I ordered the Sole Meunière, pictured above, which proved as delicious as always. And really, what’s not to like about this French classic? A beautifully seared piece of fish, lemon, butter, capers, and a bed of creamy mashed potatoes. No need to reinvent the wheel, especially when all of the necessary elements are present. I’m surprised that the Michelin Guide didn’t respect and appreciate this brand of elegant simplicity. But, perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, and for a French publication, perhaps Sole Meunière seemed a bit passé for 2010. Or, perhaps it really was Michael Bauer’s influence, which is fast becoming passé itself.

2 comments to Reviewing Napa’s Michelin Star Contenders for 2011: Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

  • Oscar

    Did you enjoy the seeds in the lemon wheels? They look great.

  • Thirsty Reader

    Haha, touché. I didn’t actually eat those lemons. I actually considered those an “inedible garnish” — along the same lines as a rosemary spring, or the curly-leaf parsley of 25 years ago, or something of that nature. I’m personally not a huge fan of inedible garnishes, though they sometimes will make it onto the plate. But I guess it begs the question, why peel the lemons if the seeds are still going to make it onto the dish. Hmmm, point taken. Thanks for reading!

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