The New School of Fish on the Napa River

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Lobster Roll.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The City of Napa straddles the Napa River, once a plentiful source of Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, bass, and sturgeon.  Although the river's edible bounty has diminished with human development of the area, the recent wave of seafood restaurants opening along both banks is restoring some of the river's former glory as the place to go for delicious fish.

Morimoto Napa led the way when it opened in the Riverfront building in August this year, bringing Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's deft and respectful style of seafood preparation.  Pristine freshness, creative compositions, and sophisticated flavors make this the go-to restaurant for sushi lovers in the North Bay.  (See our previous coverage here.)
Fish Story entry.jpgJust a few steps away from Morimoto, Lark Creek Restaurant Group launched Fish Story in late September at the corner of Third and Main Streets.  Inside the restaurant, you find tanks of live Dungeness crab and Maine lobsters, stainless steel tanks of fermenting Fish Story Ale (the restaurant is also a brewery), and a hall of framed "fish stories"--tall tales and photographs submitted to the restaurant by local vintners, teachers, kids, and other fishing aficionados.   The al fresco seating on the Napa River Promenade is also an ideal location to enjoy Chef Stephen Barber's (ex Barbers Q in Napa, and MECCA in San Francisco) menu of seafood classics and new adventures, all sourced in strict accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Guidelines for sustainability.  

With lobster rolls, chili-roasted Dungeness crab, fish n' chips, tuna tartare with hazelnuts, Arctic char, raw oysters, and an impressive selection of seasonal sides, the menu draws its flavor inspiration from all corners of the world.  A global wine and beer list covers the full range of styles necessary to complement the eclectic cuisine.  Open for lunch Monday through Friday since September 28th, and for dinner nightly since September 21st, this newcomer is working hard to anchor its spot on the riverfront.  Rumor has it they will open for weekend brunch soon, too, though the date has not yet been announced.

dim sum charlies2.jpgAcross the river and down by the railroad tracks on First Street, en entirely different seafood experience awaits.  Dim Sum Charlie's is Napa's first Asian-cuisine food truck, as well as its first dim sum eatery.  The 22-foot, classic 1958 Airstream trailer is parked at the top of a small knoll just off First Street between Soscol and McKinstry.  Due to the dusty weekday construction in the area, it opens for business only after 6pm Wednesday through Friday, but opens at noon on weekends for service into the evening--til midnight weeknights and until 2am Friday-Saturday, dim sum supply permitting.  

Founders Andrew Siegal and Clayton Lewis wanted to bring a unique experience to Napa's late night scene, something Siegal describes as "Route 66 meets Bladerunner."  The cool, no-frills vibe was inspired by London's hotspot Ping Pong Dim Sum, where people go to hang out, socialize, and pop dim sum late into the night.  Dim Sum Charlie's menu is 100% organic, and rocks the seafood options with delectable scallop and garlic, "country-style shrimp," and seabass, lobster and shrimp dumplings on a par with San Francisco's.  Classic steamed pork buns, vegetarian dumplings, sticky rice packets, and other daily specials round out the selection.  The BYO policy means you get to try out whatever dim sum beverage pairing you want, and share the joy with kindred spirits at the communal picnic tables.

dim sum charlies3.jpgThis Friday, October 1st marks Dim Sum Charlie's Grand Opening party, a perfect night to check out this newest addition to Napa's late night venues.The Grand Opening is by invitation only until 9pm, but open to the public after that.  Follow them on Twitter (@DimSumCharlies) for updates and to confirm opening hours, because everything is still evolving.

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