Friday, March 15, 2013

Solbar (Calistoga)

February 2013

755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, Napa Valley, USA
Tel: +1 707 226 0850

At the opposite end of Napa town along the Napa Wine Country trail is Calistoga, a town in an area which relatively dry and arid surrounds contrast with the green and lush scenery of the rest of Napa Valley. And on a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon, we visited the very aptly named Solbar located in the luxury spa resort of Solage. Centrally located within the resort, the restaurant, which has one Michelin star, is in a large barn-like building dominated by a very inviting fireplace. It has a casual set-up and feels more like an upmarket diner than a fine dining establishment (at least during lunchtime).

True to our first impressions, the lunch menu was printed on one single sheet of paper, and consisted of mostly diner-type food like sandwiches and burgers. This was a very welcome change for us from the usual fine dining we had been accustomed to in the previous week, and we were looking forward to kicking back our heels and relaxing with the very casual comfort food.

Solbar had a very interesting wine tasting concept. Instead of the usual bottle of wine or by the glass, they offered us a selection of a flight of wines which followed a specific theme; for example, a flight of three Californian Pinots, Chardonnays, or other varietals. The price was very reasonable and they were very generous with the pour. The Pinot flight I had was notable in the different styles of the same grape varietal from the three different producers. We thought that this was a great idea.

Sliders stacked with bacon, cheddar and ten-hour onions on fresh-baked pain au lait buns: This was supposed to be a starter but came out as two regular sized burgers. The buns were quite amazing and the burgers excellent. It was certainly a meal in itself and a decadent one to boot.

Chicken noodle soup, farfalline, sweet potato, pulled chicken hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sage: The chicken noodle soup was a much more healthy option, and was a combination of a chicken soup and minestrone. It was full of flavour and would, we would imagine, be a great starter especially on a cold day.

The new standard crispy chicken sandwich with vinegar slaw and red-eye mayo on a griddled soft hoagie roll served on fingerling potato salad: The crispy chicken sandwich was highly recommended by our server and didn't disappoint. This was my dream comfort food and reminded me so much of the KFC Zinger burger which I crave in the middle of the night from time to time; except that this one had much higher quality ingredients and was less greasy.

Solbar Reuben, house corned beef and sauerkraut, rye bread with Russian dressing and swiss cheese, salt and vinegar potato chips: Another American diner classic, the Reuben with its fresh corned beef and the tangy dressing sauerkraut was also a winner.

Pecan pie with buttermilk sorbet: By that time, finding space for dessert was a bit of a struggle, but we tried anyway. The pecan pie was very good but ultimately too heavy a dessert after such a meat and carb loaded lunch.

Impressions: We thought that this would be the ultimate comfort food restaurant in Napa Valley. We loved the casual feel of the place, the friendly and enthusiastic service and the great 'junk' food on offer. We'd imagine that the dinner menu would be quite different (i.e. more serious) but some of the things we had here for lunch, notably the sliders and the chicken sandwich, are items which we still crave from time to time.

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