The long anticipated Archer Hotel, smack in the middle of a seemingly quiet downtown Napa, has only been open for a few weeks. But inside there is a restaurant breathing new life as a metropolitan vibe is evolving at the new Charlie Palmer Steak.
A lot of long-time locals in the Napa Valley frown upon any growth that would detract from their old school ways of life and some towns are suffering for it. However, downtown Napa is embracing its potential and has plans to be a hub for high-end fine dining and shopping. Ever since the downtown area was physically and financially hit by a devastating earthquake in the summer of 2014, a vital project has been in the works, The Archer Hotel.
Although The Archer Hotel has only been open a few weeks, Charlie Palmer Steak Napa has been gaining a name for itself as Napa Valley’s hottest new restaurant. Located on the ground level inside the hotel, it includes two dining areas and a large bar in the center which serves small bites, world-class wines, and fancy cocktails.
With the soft opening before the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been anticipating writing this blog. Although Napa Valley has so many great restaurants, there was a lot of buzz surrounding this one which made me even more excited. When we arrived around 5 P.M. downtown was quiet, and I figured it would be the same at Charlie Palmer Steak, but I was wrong.
The bustling bar seems to be the new hot spot for locals and tourists alike. As I saw several people that I knew, we quickly grabbed a seat to peruse the happy hour menu available from 4-7 p.m. daily. Four dollar select draft beers, seven dollar glasses of wine, bar bites, and several cocktails, were available to enjoy in the extensive bar area. Lobster Corn Dogs and Baby Bratwurst Sliders were some of the small plates available on the happy hour menu.
We were told that the mixologist, formerly of Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco, brought with him an award-winning cocktail program incorporating, even more, city vibe. I ordered a glass of the happy hour bubbles which surprisingly was Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, one of my favorites. Eric had the happy hour Manhattan. As we enjoyed the spirited energy fueled by high-paced jazz music overhead, I learned that the bar is this busy five nights a week and doesn’t stop until around midnight which is unusual in the subdued Napa Valley nightlife.
We finished our drink and went straight to the main dining area eagerly awaiting our dining experience. The main dining room is not much bigger than the oversized bar which begged the question, how hard will it be to get a table here when things start to ramp up. Luckily they have another dining area across the bar that accommodates larger parties and overflow on busy nights.
Overall the menu had many choices priced well. Our gracious and knowledgeable server, Kim, gave us an overview, citing some of the most popular dishes thus far. Pig Ear Pad Thai and Short Rib Pastrami were favorite hot appetizers as well as a healthy raw bar selection of lobster, oysters on the half shell and Prime Platter of seafood at only $38 per person. On the entree side, steaks were ala cart, broken into Wagyu, Dry Aged and Classics/Chops. It included side sauces and add-ons such as Poached King Crab, Seared Foie Gras, and Stuffed Maine Lobster. There was also a generous selection of non-beef entrees such as Pan Roasted Corvina Sea Bass and Snake River Farms Pork Chop.
I knew from the happy hour menu that I wanted to try the Lobster Corn Dogs, so we ordered the entree portion. We also chose the Prime Platter to split, made up of chilled Maine lobster, oysters, poached prawns and king crab legs. I selected the 2014 Staglin ‘Salus’ Chardonnay to pair with my seafood.
The wine list seemed extensive with wines from all over the world. The Sparkling selection had Veuve Cliquot, and Dom Perignon by the glass and Sommelier selected wines by the glass via the Coravin. Corkage at Charlie Palmer Steak is free for the first Napa Valley wine and then $35 thereafter.
Our lobster corn dogs also came out with a pickled ramp remoulade for dipping. A soft, light breading wrapped the tender lobster, and the remoulade had quite a kick. There was a nice portion of lobster in each corn dog, and I would recommend this as a must-try when coming in either for happy hour or dinner.
The Staglin was a full-bodied Napa Valley Chardonnay that I knew would pair well with either dish. It worked with both the spicy remoulade and the chilled seafood. Our seafood platter, beautifully presented on ice, had huge poached shrimp cooked to perfection, The crab and lobster were ultra fresh and easy to access (no cracking). Oysters were petit and were delicious with the champagne mignonette. The cocktail sauce had just the right amount of horseradish, not too overbearing. While we finished our appetizers, we met Ian, the General Manager, who also came from the city. He told us about some of the exciting things going on.
Brunch is available every Sunday for $38. Bottomless mimosas or bottomless Bloody Mary’s complement a choice of a Donut Wheel or Charcuterie Plate and the choice of a main course, such as The Daily Frittata, House made Pastrami Hash or Grilled 5 Dot Ranch Burger. There are also great things to come for locals.
Soon Charlie Palmer Steak will be bringing in “Cut of the Week” catered to locals. It’s a three-course meal just less than $60 and changes every week. Each changing ‘Cut of the Week’ will be announced in their weekly email. Most importantly it includes bottomless wine, so you know The Wine Ho will be down for that.
The grand opening of the rooftop patio, slated sometime next spring, sounds very exciting. It will be a casual, relaxed vibe with Moscow Mules and Kombucha on tap, live music, and shuffleboard tournaments. The rooftop also boasts a fireplace, chef demo kitchen, and mimosa and Bloody Mary carts catering to you. It will be a hit during those summer days.
After learning about these exciting things coming soon, we got another surprise, chef prepared the Pig Ear Pad Thai for us as well as recommending a couple of wines to pair with it, a Tempranillo Rosé and a Champalou Vouvray. Being the responsible wine blogger, I should have tried both, but they had me at Vouvray.
Pig Ear Pad Thai would not be something I would typically order, but since this was such a hot item, I decided to take the risk, and it was well worth it. The first thing that came to mind was Southeast Asia’s version of bacon. It was crispy, slightly shredded and flavorful elevating a Charlie Palmer Steak’s pad thai to another level. The sauce was not too sweet or salty with a hint of ginger and adding lime juice created a balanced acidity and tartness. It was one of my favorite dishes. The 2016 Champalou Vouvray Les Foundraux was crisp and clean with a sweetness from the Loire Valley.
For our main course we decided to look at the bottle list, and since we were having both pork and beef with stuffed lobster, we decided to go with a more substantial Pinot Noir or Burgundy, but we wanted the Sommelier’s opinion.
Brian, the in-house Sommelier, was accommodating in choosing one of the many Pinot Noirs on the list. Since we usually like bigger, full-bodied Pinots, we steered clear of the Burgundian wines. I had my eye on the 2015 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir not only because I’ve never had it but also because I’ve been on the allocation list for four years with no luck.
Brian poured me a taste and explained to me exactly where the ‘estate’ vineyard was located, hidden back in the hills in a little nook in Santa Lucia Highlands. The Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir was exceptional with the right balance of weight and acidity, both fruity and earthy tones. On arrival of my rather large pork chop with chorizo and a banyuls vinaigrette on top of fennel puree and arugula, I was confident this should be a great pairing. The pork was so juicy and tender with a hint of smoke, and the vinaigrette was genuinely unique.
Eric’s 21-day dry aged Bone-on New York Strip accompanied by a Red Wine Jus and Stuffed Main Lobster was picture perfect. The top-notch New York Strip was glistening on the plate with perfect grill marks that any steak connoisseur would enjoy. It had an ideal balance of marbling to melt in your mouth, an almost velvety quality. The half lobster was stuffed with one secret weapon, Ritz Crackers, folded back into the lobster and placed back in the shell.
The side that we ordered, The New Potato and Aged Cheddar Gratin, was a hearty portion, enough to share, rich and creamy with a lovely bake on the top. Again all that cheesy richness paired nicely with the acidity of the Pinot Noir.
At this point I was getting incredibly full and decided no matter how hard I tried, I could not finish the pork chop. Knowing I could have it for lunch the next day, I proceeded to think about dessert because what is a food blog without dessert?
Some of the dessert items on the menu included, Peanut Butter Terrine, Winter Cheesecake and a Hazelnut Dacquoise. We both were unanimous in choosing the Butterscotch Bread Pudding, and this dessert was for the books. Topped with Buffalo Trace bourbon ice cream and caramel, it was one of the best desserts I have had to date. A hint of cinnamon crunch graced the top while the caramel was creamy and thick and the bread pudding soft and warm. I kept thinking french toast on steroids. I highly recommend the bread pudding; it was delicious.
If you are looking for a top-notch dinner with a vibrant atmosphere, friendly and knowledgeable staff, I highly recommend trying Charlie Palmer Steak in The Archer Hotel. I guarantee it won’t be your last visit!