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Hanging Out at Bar Terra in St. Helena

Friday, 7. February 2014 5:25

Chef-Owner Hiro Sone's likeness is the focal point of the bar at Bar Terra.

Chef-Owner Hiro Sone’s likeness is the focal point of the bar at Bar Terra.

In the Napa Valley, there are two Michelin three-star restaurants (the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood), plus a host of other swank, white-tablecloth establishments.

But sometimes what you’re in the mood for is something a little more casual. Something a little more eclectic. Yet still refined in execution.

Bar Terra fits that to a “T.”

Three years ago, Chef-Owner Hiro Sone and his wife, Pastry Chef-Owner Lissa Doumani, remodeled their 26-year-old, award-winning Terra restaurant in St. Helena. The doorway divides the two dining rooms. On the left remains the elegant, hushed Terra. On the right was created Bar Terra, a more laid-back, livelier spot with a liquor license that brought forth a new cocktail menu with the likes of the “Hirotini” (Sveda vodka, sake, ginger and cucumber; $10).

You’ll find locals filling the chairs at Bar Terra, nightly. Doumani makes the rounds, greeting every familiar face. And there are plenty of them.

It’s easy to see the attraction: Bar Terra’s prices are lower than Terra. You can come in jeans. And you can even mix and match — ordering off either Terra’s or Bar Terra’s menu or both.

That’s exactly what I did when a friend and I dined there over the winter. Although we paid our tab, dessert was on the house, compliments of Sone and Doumani, who knew us both.

Abalone and shrimp -- from the Terra menu that you still can enjoy if you want at Bar Terra.

Abalone and shrimp — from the Terra menu that you still can enjoy if you want at Bar Terra.

We stuck mostly to the Bar Terra menu with one exception: The salad of Ezo abalone with shrimp, butter beans, fennel and pickled Meyer lemon ($18.50) from the Terra menu just called out to me. It’s hard to resist fresh abalone the rare times it appears on a menu. It didn’t disappoint, either, with its sweet, tender yet toothsome flesh brightened by the citrus.

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