Time: Saturday. May 17, 2014. 5:00 PM. Reservation.
Address: 7399 St Helena Hwy
Cuisine: American, Comfort
Party Size: 2 (M&V)
Order: 1 appetizer, 1 salad, 2 entree
Pre-tip Cost: $77 [$71 food & drink; $6 tax]
Verdict: Fresh, delicious and safe for the non adventurous.
For my first two years of living in San Francisco, I did not take advantage of the proximity of Napa. Just around an hour away is a world chalk full of sun, wine and food (and in full disclosure, I might even prefer the neighboring Sonoma county for the breweries). In recent years, we have started to make more frequent journeys into Wine Country to expand our horizons and enjoy not just what the City has to over, but the Bay Area as a whole.
Our excuse to head on this particular excursion across the bridge was to pick up our very first wine club shipment at Simi up in Healdsburg (with an obligatory stop at Russian River Brewing Company on the way through Santa Rosa). Minako then planned to cut across to Napa for some additional wine tasting and selected Mustards Grill as the dinner destination.
From the outside, the building looks like a truckers diner but one step inside and it transforms into so much more.
For starters, the large windows let in an abundance of sunlight which creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The tables are covered in white tablecloths but the vibe is far from formal (as they plop a cut loaf of bread directly on the tablecloth). Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any interior pictures. The view across the two lane highway is of a hill with a high end bed and breakfast perched atop – but I overheard that it was purchased and is expected to become another rich person’s pet vineyard and winery.
Mustards Grill offers a wide variety of options on the menu with the focus on fresh (and in many cases grown on site) ingredients. The bias is traditional American food so anyone not as adventurous with food is still well served. On top of a static selection of bird, beef and pork dishes, Mustards Grill also offers rotating daily specials based on what is delivered that day. The seafood tostada was especially tempting but was ultimately overruled.
Our order was pretty simple. With only the two of us we shared an appetizer, a salad and two of the entree dishes.
Local Asparagus Tartine, Belwether Farms Ricotta, lemon-thyme vinaigrette
The asparagus sprigs were absolutely huge and were cooked with to a wondrous firmness. The vinaigrette offered a subtle flavor while the tartine and ricotta as a standalone bite or as an asparagus delivery vessel. I do not have official records to compare against, but this might crack the top 3 asparagus dishes to grace my palate.
Mixed Greens, dried pears, toasted walnuts, golden balsamic-saba vinaigrette
After seeing the size of the asparagus appetizer, we were worried that the salad might be a mountain of greens. This might have been the case but the kitchen did us the honor of individually plating the course (on their own accord) to facilitate the sharing. The greens were fresh but somewhat over powered the taste of the dressing. One might argue that tasting the greens and not slathering them in dressing is actually the way to enjoy a salad; but I still stick to my dressing guns. The walnuts and pears added a nice trail mix-ish taste but I found myself eating them stand alone and didn’t get many bites as a total package.
Risotto with forrest mushrooms, peas and white asparagus with a basil pesto
The risotto of the day was a combination of mushrooms, peas and asparagus with a basil backing and, if I didn’t have to share, probably would have gobbled it down without looking up. The dish had a brilliant balance of rice and veg that when blended together created a flavor explosion in every bite.
Famous Mongolian Pork Chop, sweet & sour red cabbage, housemade mustard
The pork chop was billed as one of the best sellers. Since we don’t make pork often at home, we decided to trust the masses. The pork was tender, juicy and easy to cut. The sweet glaze and the mustard sauce offered a dynamic flavor profile and the mashed potatoes were, well, mashed potatoes. I did have one bite of the red cabbage and quickly declared that it was not for me.
After a day of wine tasting for Minako and a responsibility to drive for me, we did not order any of the wine from the binder which screamed in large letters “WAY TOO MANY WINES.” On account of being stuffed we also passed on dessert.
As we left, we noticed that all the tables were occupied and a cluster of waiting patrons were gathering around the entryway bar. This was not a surprise at all. The Mustards Grill serves good, American comfort food – staples cooked right. The variety of offerings on the menu leave something for everyone and should leave everyone wanting to try it all.