Restaurant Reviews: October 2010 Archives

Last Call for Martini House...

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Martini House sign.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

For nine years, Martini House has been the place for a sophisticated night out in downtown St. Helena.  The romantic garden patio, Pat Kuleto interiors, and semi-secret Cellar Bar offered a comfortable scene for everyone, and chef-owner Todd Humphries' seasonal wine country menu consistently hit the spot in every context.  The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 2008, three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was constantly touted as one of the best special occasion spots in the Napa Valley.  

When the news broke last week that the restaurant had been sold and would be closing October 30, a shock wave of dismay and mourning struck the Bay Area.  Owners Todd Humphries, Pat Kuleto, and Richard Miyashiro have sold Martini House to restaurateurs Brian Bennett and Paul Fleming (a founder of P.F. Chang's and owner of several other successful restaurants), who plan to re-open a new restaurant concept in the Craftsman-style space after a period of closure.  Humphries and Miyashiro are also rumored to be plotting a new restaurant venture, possibly in burgeoning downtown Napa, but Martini House as we know it will be gone at the end of this month.

Calistoga's Michelin Star at the Bar

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solbar3.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I love dining at restaurant bars.  Your server is hardly ever out of reach, there is always something to watch (the bartender, neighboring patrons, the liquor bottles), and the meal experience is far more flexible and forgiving than at a traditional table in the dining room.  Dining alone, ordering plates to share, or ordering just dessert is all perfectly acceptable when you're seated at the bar--and if it isn't, you know you're at the wrong bar.  Dining at the bar also lets visitors to high-end places feel out a restaurant's style without reservations, and with less formality.  When a Michelin-starred restaurant has bar dining, those are the seats I beeline for without a thought to reservations.

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