One of the excursions I wanted to do while I was in California was visit the Napa Rose Chef's Counter. I had built myself up to it by reading what reviews there were (there aren't many on blogs), and prepared my tummy by only eating those beignets and the corn dog earlier in the day. I took plenty of pictures of the food, kitchen, and the alcohol; but I didn't get many of the atmosphere of the restaurant. I fully plan on eating at the Chef's Counter at least once (if I am lucky to get an additional spot on more than one night, I will) when I return in August, so I'll take more pictures then. As for now, onto the review:
The details: There are two seatings for the Chef's Table every evening - 5:30 and 8:30. Each seating has eight spots - four on one side, the prep area; and four on the other side, the main kitchen. If you want a particular side, you need to make certain you request so at reservation time (which can be done 60 days in advance by calling Napa Rose directly - not the Disney dining reservations line).
As is the usual for me, I arrived early. I checked in at the podium, and since the dining room wasn't officially open yet, I was seating in the lounge to wait. The lounge looked extremely comfy with plush, cushioned chairs that I wanted to sit in all night. They do not require (nor take) reservations for the Lounge, but in the 5-10 minutes I was sitting waiting for 5:30 to roll around, it was filling up. So, if you don't make reservations at the Chef's Counter, or in the restaurant itself, and want to eat at Napa Rose; get there right at 5:30 or before. The lounge serves the full restaurant menu. There is a Bar that you can sit at, too (and I did on a different night), but that doesn't serve the full menu - and believe me you want access to the full menu on your first time here.
I was escorted to my seat pretty much at 5:30. I was the only one there on my side, the prep side. Eventually two others - regulars - joined me; and a group of four were seated on the opposite. I think next time I would prefer to sit on the opposite side as there was more action going on there. Plus there was a display counter on my side, that kind of blocked the view a little bit (and I didn't see a purpose for it). Though, rumor is, that they'll be removing it at some point.
I should mention here that all these pictures were taken with my iPhone, and I'm not the best (yet) at taking excellent quality pictures with my phone. I was greeted by waiter for the evening, Mickey. According to the regular couple that goes to Napa Rose often (and always sits at the Chef's Counter), Mickey was the best. All waiters at this restaurant are also sommeliers, so they have great wine recommendations (more on that later). Mickey let me know that I could order off the regular menu, the Vinter's Menu (a prix fare menu), or have the Chef whip me up something for each course of his/her choice. This last option is a choice only available at the Chef's Counter, so of course I chose that. I also added the wine pairing (when in Rome, right?) to the dinner.
A sous chef for the evening (Andrew Sutton is the head chef), Gloria, came over to visit and ask me about my likes/dislikes. I told her that I didn't like sushi, oysters or chocolate. (I know, I know, I'm a woman and I don't like chocolate). Other than that, I was good to go. I'm also not a big fan of soup (something about my food being liquified), but I lucked out and wasn't given any - they must have been psychic that way. As I've read, either Andrew Sutton will help you at the Chef's Counter, or if he's not working, one of the Sous Chefs. I just assumed he wasn't there.
Mickey brought out the bread basket. Now, something about me: I love bread. Carbs, really (which is funny since I follow a low carb diet). But bread is amazing, any which way you cut it. BUT I knew I had an incredible amount of food coming, so I tore a tiny piece of each bread off & ate that, and only that. Believe me it was hard. They were delicious. I didn't ask what kind - but it tasted like a simple country bread, another soft type, and thin a crispy type. Next time I'll ask. The butter was excellent too.
The lovely couple next to me was having some kind of pre-meal bubbly, and Mickey brought me some, too. I'm not sure if this is customary with the wine addition to my meal, or just because they were having some, too; but champagne-like pre-meal bubbly is always welcome. Next up was an amuse-bouche. A small preview of the gloriousness that was to come. Mine was a celery root puree with apple and cranberry raisins. If baby food tasted like this, babies would have nothing to complain about. It was fairly amazing for being beaten up celery root. I'll have to spice some up & try it at home with my Vitamix, though something tells me it won't taste quite the same.
Mickey brought me out another wine that would go with my first course. I hadn't really broken into much of my bubbly yet, but he advised me that it would go well with my first course, too, so I could always save some. The first wine was a Graff Family Vineyards Viognier, 2007.
I sipped on both my wines and enjoyed watching some of the preparation that was going down in the kitchen while I awaited on my first course. I'd recommend the meal to anyone, but if you're traveling alone, this is an excellent choice. I was able to talk to the kitchen staff, have a view of everything, some entertainment and such, as I enjoyed my meal. Much better than sitting alone at a restaurant tapping into Facebook because there is no one there to talk to.
My first course was sustainable Swordfish with crusted chickpeas and a green harissa made on site; from what I could understand from the chef it's normally made with red bell pepper, but this had more green and yellow. It was similar to a ramesco. And, all of that was topped with roasted almonds. I was described the meal when it was brought to my seat, and I tried to remember best I could. Some of the sauces might be slightly off, but for the most part everything should be accurate. I was surprised at this point to see Andrew Sutton. He came over to let me know about the Swordfish and what I was eating. The man next to me was having the Swordfish for his main course, I believe. Along with the chickpeas there were also crusted lemons, which surprisingly didn't taste too sour upon putting them in my mouth whole.
At this point I had a little time to look around; and talk with one of the chefs. Ronnie was in front of us prepping a fair amount of the evening, so he was able to give us details about what he was doing. I even was able to try some Bucharelli that he was making, despite it not being in anything I was eating.
Mickey brought me the second wine for my second course; a chardonnay. This one was a 2010 from Firepeak Vineyards. And then, onto my second course. I was brought out a Hickory Smoked Pheasant Salad with French Green Beans, Pomegranate Dressing and Almonds Frisee.
This was an excellent salad. I had read on the menu that the normal salad comes with an Almond Vinagrette, so the Pomegranate was a nice surprise, and worked well with the other flavors.
The time between the salad and the next course went by rather quickly. I was done eating and my next meal arrived shortly after. Mickey came with the third wine just about the same time as the course came. I was having trouble keeping up; and I love wine. The third wine was a 2012 Pinot Noir.
Of course, the Pinot Noir paired wonderfully with the course. Above, the third course was a Grilled Maple Leaf Duck Breast a Quince Puree and Lentils. I cannot say enough how perfect these meats were. Done to just the right tenderness. I did forget to mention that Gloria did ask me how I like my red meat prepared and I said medium. I imagine if you had said well-done, the meat could have looked differently, but I don't think it would have tasted quite the same. Medium is the best.
I was brought another wine, a fourth wine (in addition to the bubbly pre-meal). I want you to remember that first pour of Viognier that I took a picture of. These aren't tastings, they are glasses. As you can imagine, I'm feeling the wine at this point. The fourth was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a feeling my last, main course would be a red meat; and I was right.
For the last meat course, I was given a Buffalo tenderloin over mushrooms and capers; with artichokes wrapped in dolmas (grape leaves) on the right. I'm uncertain of the sauce/jus on either part of the meal. I guess at this point I had so much wine in me, I didn't care to write it down. Either way, it was all delicious.
Next up, my final wine; or a Port, actually. This one I was not able to finish. I was fairly full at this point. Not bursting, but satisfied. And, apparently buzzed, too. So, I didn't drink all of my Port. But, I love dessert (despite not liking chocolate), so I was bound determined to eat my dessert. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had perused the menu prior to traveling to California to see what I might get, and was thinking it might be some sort of sorbet trio or something. Instead I received a date cake with a swirl of white chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream. It was amazing! White chocolate can sometimes be overwhelming - too much at a time, but this was just right. I could have eaten a jar of the white chocolate with a spoon.
Despite being so full, I could have easily had two of these wonderful desserts. Everything in it paired so well with the other parts. Just as it had been with all the courses previous.
The meal was wonderful, and I look forward to doing it all over again in August. I actually came back to Napa Rose on the Saturday evening of my trip and sat at the bar. Joe, the bartender, was wonderful, as all the staff seems to be. I sat again next to a lovely couple, this time they were a bit more engaging and we made plans to eat at the Chef's Counter together when I return in August. I might try to eat there twice. Fairly ambitious, but it was so great. When I was at the bar, I tried the scallops and the truffle macaroni and cheese. Both were beyond words. I am craving that macaroni and cheese right now, and I'm not a mac and cheese fan normally. I had been recommended the scallops from Ronnie and another chef when eating at the Counter, as it was something I didn't try. It lived up to the expectation.
That brings my review to a close. I know it's long and picture-ridden, but when you're talking about this kind of food, it deserves this much space. I highly recommend going to Napa Rose if you're able to while in the Disneyland/Anaheim area.