Bravo to Bardessono

Roasted striped bass with swiss chard, grapefruit, and balsamic.

Bardessono may be the newest hotel to open its doors in bucolic Yountville.

But it’s quite unlike any other.

This luxurious eco-resort, which opened in February, sits on five acres of gardens and vineyards. The 62-room hotel features a “green spa” that is heated and cooled by an underground geothermal system. Doors, tables, and other furnishings are made of sustainable, hand-milled and reclaimed woods. The hotel hopes to garner a LEED platinum-rating for environmental responsibility.

Granted, not everyone will be able to afford to check into one of the posh suites that start at about $500 a night that feature outdoor rain showers, and bathrooms as large as the main bedroom areas. More folks, however, might be able to splurge on dinner at the resort’s restaurant, overseen by Executive Chef  Sean O’Toole, formerly group operations chef for Michael Mina’s 14 restaurants.

A perfect Tomales Bay oyster on the half shell.

Yours truly was invited recently to try the serene restaurant, done up in soft earth tones, and towering windows that slide open to the main courtyard. On a Sunday night, there were only a handful of diners at the 93-seat restaurant. And that’s a shame because O’Toole’s food was just flawless.

In keeping with the resort’s philosophy, ingredients are sourced locally. There’s even a garden on site, where O’Toole can have his pick from a bevy of herbs, produce, and fruit trees.

Lobster-like spot prawn in a sea of green almond gazpacho.

The chef’s tasting menu, five courses with a couple of amuse bouches to start, is $85 per person. There’s a lightness to O’Toole’s cooking, which marries well with the setting.

Flavors pop and linger on the palate. The skin on the striped bass was crisp as a potato chip, and the flesh meltingly tender. The spot prawn floating in the gazpacho was tender, and meaty like lobster. Its accompanying tiny green almonds (immature nuts that have yet to develop a hard shell) looked like translucent pumpkin seeds, and had a delicate flavor and an almost soft, grape-like texture inside. And the gnocchi, which O’Toole makes in small batches with potatoes put through a ricer, were the most ethereal I’d ever had.

Gnocchi so light it does nearly melt in your mouth.

O’Toole’s wife, Cynthia, the assistant food and beverage director, pairs her husband’s dishes with spot-on wines.

Here’s what I enjoyed:

* Marin Sun Farms house-cured beef  tongue, with pickled ramps, mustard vinaigrette, cress, and rye bread crostini

* Tomales Bay oyster on the half shell with lemon, and mignonette

(Brocard Auintessence de la Rive Droite du Serein “L ‘Extreme” First Cru 2007)

* Green almond gazpacho with spot-prawn

(Charles Audoin Marsannay Rose 2007)

* Little Farm potato gnocchi with local chanterelles, green asparagus, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

(Scott Paul Pinot Noir “Cuvee Martha Pirrie” Willamette 2007)

* Roasted striped bass with Swiss chard, grapefruit, and Sparrow Lane balsamic vinaigrette

(Keller Pinot Noir “La Cruz Vineyard” Sonoma Coast 2005)

* Watson’s Napa Valley lamb, roasted and curry braised with coconut basmati rice, pink lady apples, and fennel

(Round Pond Cabarnet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2005)

* Seasonal citrus soup with toasted orange cake and citrus sorbet

(Grof Degenfeld “Fortissimo Tokaji Hungary 2006)

Fork-tender roasted and braised lamb.

The next time you’re in Yountville, stop in. Food this good deserves to command a larger audience.

A light finale of citrus and toasted orange cake.

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  • Looks amazing – will have to check it out when I’m in Yountville in a few weeks.

  • Was that tomato gazpacho? Hard to believe you can get good, ripe toms in Northern California at this time.

  • I wished I knew about this place when I made my once-a-year trip to Napa earlier this month! (Actually, I think I did hear about it but it wasn’t opened yet.) I guess I have to schedule it for next year! Everything looked so beautiful.

  • Oh, that all looks amazing. Lucky you to get a taste of that feast.

  • What gorgeous looking food! Very classy!



  • I checked the link, and that place looks amazing!

    All the food looks so great! I work at an architecture firm that designs restaurants across the country, and sometimes I get to go the the pre-party rehearsal before a restaurant opens which is always fun!

    It is a shame to see empty tables at such a fine establishment!

  • Nate: It wasn’t your traditional gazpacho. Not sure if there was any tomato in there. It was light, refreshing, and tasted of intense seafood stock. The green almonds gave it an unexpected texture. The spot prawn just made it all so luxurious.

  • Now that the weather is getting warmer (hopefully!), we’ll be heading up to Napa a lot more. This is definitely a place we’ll be checking out! Hum…maybe we can splurge for a room on my bday!

  • wow. that looks absolutely incredible! I’m drooling just looking at it….

  • Your photos are absolutely mouthwatering. The oyster looks very dangerous. If I were there, I might have just munched on those all night – Man V. Food style!

  • Everything looks fantastic. Haven’t had oysters in a while, sadly 🙁

  • how do you manage to take such freaking amazing pictures in a restaurant? usually restaurants are really dark!

  • Such a feast! Everything sounds and looks wonderful. My only wish: that there wasn’t a photo of the house-cured beef tongue – I would love to see that dish.

  • The entire meal looks stupendous, you’re going to have me darting all over Northern CA to keep up with the experiences.

  • Another restaurant I’ll have to check out in Napa. I took a tour of Bardessono property in March and the rooms were beautiful! Simplistic, with modern elegance using some cool technology to keep room temperature optimized amongst other ” green” tech. At the time, they had some intro promo rates in the $300s…don’t think so anymore.

  • Hey, so I finally made it to Bardessono this weekend. To be honest with you, it was a bit off — the service was a bit scattered, unfortunately, and the food wasn’t quite right (halibut overcooked and the gnocchi was too soft). A little disappointing.

  • Henry: Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that, especially because I still lust after that gnocchi. When I had it, truly it was the best I’d ever tasted.

  • Pingback: Food Gal » Blog Archiv » A Return Visit to Bardessono in Yountville

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