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Week in Reviews: Dining Napa Style

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Virbils drives up North this week to taste Napa's new and notable food establishments. She admits to having just five days to dine at over half a dozen restaurants, thus she commits the food critic faux pas by visiting each eatery just once. Her "favorite of the trip" boiled down to Thomas Keller's family-style abode, Ad Hoc. For "a deal at $49" every table is given the same 4-course prix-fixe menu which changes daily, and SIV deemed the food simply "spectacular." Another standout was the restaurant at the new Bardessono luxe hotel, and SIV describes the food as "wonderfully elegant" with gnocchi "so light they seem to float" and Alaskan halibut that is "so fresh its flesh is almost custardy."

After Frank Bruni declared Ubuntu to be one of the top 10 restaurants in the country last year, SIV obviously had to pop in. Though she wasn't so much on the Bruni train, she calls the exclusively vegetarian fare "ethereal" and "like food that fairies in the woods would nibble on." Hmm. And, an SIV foodie trip extravaganza wouldn't be complete without a Vegas reference (or insult), or two. First, she dubs Michael Chiarello's newish restaurant, Bottega, as "big and brash," and then she drops the bomb, saying "it's not a particularly good-looking place, more Las Vegas than Napa Valley." All in all the food is " pleasant but nothing special" and service is Bottega's strongest attribute. Vegas shout-out number two goes to the Farm at PlumpJack's Carneros Inn. While SIV suggests going early to sit out on the veranda, she declares the California market-driven menu to be "not thrilling, but well-executed" and the large dining room causes her to write " if Vegas did 'farm,' this would be it." [LAT]

THE ELSEWHERE: OCW discovers a new Argentine-Mexican restaurant called Chimichurri, The Find tries market-driven noodle soups at California Ramen, Eating L.A. goes for Peruvian at Mo-Chica, Gourmet Pigs brunches at the renovated Petrossian, la.foodblogging chows at Cook's Tortas, and My Last Bite checks out Mozza 2Go.

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