Pilar in Napa

A good friend was visiting this Wednesday and mid-way through a late lunch in Palo Alto, it came up that she had never been to Napa. We have been hearing great things about Pilar in Napa recently. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out. Two and a half hours in traffic and a few glasses of Champagne at Chandon later (who knew all of the wineries closed at 5?), we were seated at Pilar.The menu changes daily to use what looks best at the market and the style varies accordingly. The list of wines by the glass is short but both glasses we tried were unusual and delicious. The rest of the wine list, including a good selection of half bottles, had some unfamiliar producers and a very reasonable $15 corkage that is waived if you buy a bottle.The atmosphere is low-key classy, the service attentive. Everything we had was excellent. My only regret is that we had to leave so many dishes untried. Unfortunately my photographer was actually working on Wednesday, but we will post pictures on our next visit.Grilled Monterey Bay sardinesFennel, mint, preserved Meyers lemon and Parmegiano ReggianoI had actually never tried sardines before, but the preparation sounded too good to pass up. The three whole sardines were about six inches long with meltingly tender, flavorful flesh that paired perfectly with the compote. A flawless dish.Brentwood white corn soupMaine blue crab and chivesThe soup was smooth, rich, and full of flavor, though it lacked the subtle, addictive sweetness you sometimes find in mid-summer corn soups. The crab was delicious, but I didn’t feel it particularly added anything.Seared ahi tunLeek fondue, lobster mushrooms and fresh French summer trufflesThe tuna itself was a perfect ruby red with just two millimeters cooked through at the edges. The fish itself was deliciously seasoned even before adding the shaved truffle on top, which paired well though it was less intense than Piedmont’s fall truffles. The leek fondue was in not the traditional cheesy mass and had just the right amount of richness to complement the fish and mushrooms.Muscovy duck breastFrench green lentil ragout with tender vegetables, foie gras, red wine jus and friséeThe duck was cooked medium-rare. Though I didn’t try it, Makena declared it the best duck she has ever had.French raspberry souffléSharffenBerger chocolate gelatoHuge, pouffy, and light as can be with fresh raspberries throughout and a distinctly eggy flavor. The gelato truly captured the complexity of the chocolate.Mascarpone cheesebakeWith an orange reductionI love soufflé, but the cheesecake was truly exceptional: light, slightly tangy, and just sweet enough. I’ve been craving more ever since.There are other restaurants with some equally good dishes, but few that offer up so many hits at such a good value. I only wish it was closer to home, but we will definitely be visiting again soon.807 Main StreetNapa, CA 94559707.252.4474Lunch and Dinner Tuesday-SaturdayReservations on OpenTable