RESTAURANT BUDO WILL BE CLOSING ITS DOORS EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 30,2005
Busy Soscal Ave. is not the obvious place to look for an upscale, tranquil, Asian-inspired restaurant. But despite its surroundings, Restaurant Budo is an oasis of quiet sophistication and fine dining. The word “budo” is Japanese for grape, a fitting name for this wine-country gem offering cuisine that blends Eastern and Western cultures seamlessly. Executive Chef/Owner James McDevitt is also a product of such blending. The son of a Japanese mother and Irish father, he spent much of his youth in the Far East learning the cuisines of Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Korea before attending culinary school here in the United States.
The menu in Budo’s dining room is intriguing and quite expensive. The lobster tuna rolls with American caviar and soy syrup are a delicious and delicate appetizer but be prepared to spend $17. We splurged on both the incredible Miso crusted foie gras ($24) and the daily sashimi special ($19) and would happily do so again. The wonderfully refreshing hearts of palm salad with a watermelon radish salad seemed a bargain at $12.
Entrées are equally impressive. The tasting of Maine lobster, which features four different preparations that change daily, is staggeringly wonderful. At $42 it should be. My husband has ordered this dish twice and both times I had to wrestle the fork from him to get a bite. A favorite preparation is the risotto, unbelievably rich and creamy in a small copper pot topped with a hearty chunk of lobster claw. The lobster tail is served out of the shell as part of an inventive salad or combined with other ingredients such as scallops. This signature dish is worthy of a special occasion.
Other entrées may be less showy than the lobster tasting, but they are certainly delicious. My John Dory with mushrooms and bok choy, topped with a decadent sauce of sake buerre black and black truffles ($32) literally melted in my mouth. The scallops, pan-seared and served with crispy sweetbreads, cauliflower puree, veal jus and edamame foam ($29), were divine. Nightly specials often feature wonderfully fresh fish with unusual and exotic preparations. For meat eaters, the bison tenderloin ($36) was both hearty and redolent with mushrooms and bone marrow jus.
Not being a dessert eater, I cannot really say too much about the lovely offerings crafted by Pastry Chef/ Owner Stacey McDevitt, wife of the executive chef. I took just a small bite of richly satisfying coconut tapioca with caramelized banana pieces ($8) and watched my husband devour the rest. I also savored the aromas coming from the trio of ice creams and sorbets ($7) that included Saigon cinnamon, green tea-pistachio and coconut.
In addition to the a la carte menu, the chef offers two tasting menus; one at $89 for six courses, and one at $110 for sixteen courses. Tasting menus must be shared by the entire table. I have not (yet) been able to talk my tablemates into this feast, but I am willing to wager that it is incredible. In fact, I am ready to eat anything prepared by talented Chef James McDevitt, who has earned both Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef award and a Rising Star Chef nomination from the James Beard Foundation.
For those diners who wish to sample Budo’s exquisite cuisine with less economic hardship, there is a more modestly priced sampling of small plates on the lounge menu. Served from noon to midnight, diners can choose from such dishes as big eye tuna tartare ($14), skillet roasted mussels ($11), tempura artichokes ($8), Chinese mustard beef tenderloin with potato puree, shiitakes and baby bok choy ($23) or banana leaf wrapped salmon ($18).
Everything about Budo is handsome. The atmosphere is soothing and elegant at the same time. The dining room has 56 seats and thanks to thoughtful lighting and careful table placement manages to feel both spacious and intimate. The lounge is warm and cozy, while the patio promises airy summer dining.
Mention must also be made of Michael Oulette’s carefully crafted wine list and the excellent wine service at Budo. As he did at Martini House, Michael has selected wines which pair perfectly with the cuisine and grouped them into wonderfully playful sections such as “Just Plain Charming” (for women winemakers), “Outright Chemistry” and “Undiscovered Values.” Should you choose to bring your own wine, you can be assured that it will be handled beautifully. All wines are decanted and the bottles are displayed on a central wine service station. Corkage is $20.
Budo is a welcome addition to the Napa Valley dining scene. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s worth it.
1659 Soscal Ave.
Napa, CA 94559