By Linda Bausch
Todd Humphries has every reason to be proud of his stylish Napa restaurant, Kitchen Door, which relocated in June of this year from its original location at the Oxbow to First Street Napa. From the professional and pleasant staff, from the front of the house and back . . . to the eclectic, global menu, creative cocktail list and a very impressive wine and liquor list—a top-notch dining experience was much appreciated.
Kitchen Door, at the corner of Clay and Randolph, is easily identified by the vibrant red doors and clear signage. Guests are welcomed promptly and seated where they prefer—indoors at a table or booth, at the twenty-seat bar, or outside on the patio—a new seating option afforded by the recently expanded space. We sat at a comfy, tall booth on the back wall, facing a couple of talented bartenders and the open-view concept overlooking the kitchen. Watching the evening scene unfold in front of us set the comfort level high. There’s a sense of quality and confidence in this kitchen. Add a few friendly bussers, a couple of engaging managers, and Julia, a knowledgeable server who has been with the restaurant for over seven years—our evening was off to a great start.
When it comes to enjoying a cocktail, the extensive beverage menu at Kitchen Door did not allow for a quick decision. It wasn’t an easy choice and watching the bartenders work their show, mixing exotic drinks on the other side of the bar made it even harder. One of our guests enjoyed a cocktail named Golden Fleece, which she found to be seasonal and refreshing. I decided on a coffee drink called a Carajillo; this was very tasty and made me want to ask for it in the future.
On to the main event . . . we were hungry, and after perusing the menu wishing we could just order everything, we made some solid decisions. The Beginnings list was ample and varied in offerings. At the top was Deviled Eggs (4/$10.75), which everyone agreed were tender and very satisfying. I look forward to the sweet crunch of any sort in a Deviled Egg filling, and in this rendition, a sweet tang and crunchy texture were both present, thanks to the pickled red onions.
We shared a small Caesar Salad which was plenty for the three of us to get a good taste and have room for something else. An addition of chicken or shrimp is offered for an additional charge. Seeing a couple of items on the menu with a flexible price point, i.e. small salad at $8.50 vs large at $13.50, is appreciated when a group wants to try a variety of items and not break the bank.
We ordered one of the gluten free options, Classic Buffalo Wings with chilled blue cheese dressing and celery sticks ($12.95). Another (gf) choice was Beef Carpaccio with crushed Himalayan truffle, arugula, crispy potato and truffle aioli ($18). The Arugula Salad (gf) (v) includes shaved apples, Point Reyes blue cheese, candied walnuts and mustard vinaigrette (small $9, large $13.75).
I spoke with a few friends prior to our dinner date, and the one item almost everyone mentioned was the Cream of Mushroom Soup with toasted croutons and scallions ($11.95). I’ll definitely try that the next time we visit.
We ordered three main dishes, starting with a Pepperoni Pizza ($20.95) which was very well prepared and baked. The base had that unique pizza dough flavor and a good chew. The sauce to cheese to pepperoni ratio was well-balanced. The Korean Ribs ($33) may have been the best choice of the night, if I had to pick a favorite. Thinly sliced, perfectly marinated, grilled ribs covered the surface of a large dinner plate while smothering a very generous portion of luscious, bacon mushroom fried rice beneath, and long strips of omelette brought a distinct richness to the dish.
The third of our dinner choices was the 1/2 pound, Grilled Creekstone Farms Beef Cheeseburger ($18.95). The wine-stewed onions stole the show with this burger; while the melted Swiss cheese and a secret sauce added a complimentary dimension. The thinly sliced French Fries (gf) were tender inside and cooked outside to a gratifying crisp. To fill out our meal we ordered the Seasonal Vegetables (gf) (v) orange and purple carrots with peas, a colorful bowl of roasted goodness dressed with tarragon butter ($9.50). The Mashed Potatoes were blended smooth and served on the side with a boat of savory, green peppercorn gravy.
During this dinner we didn’t order from the “Global” section, however, a few days later I was lucky enough to be invited to the Kitchen Door for lunch and I enjoyed a mouth-watering, tangy bowl of Pad Thai (gf). It was unlike any that I have had before - which have always had a predominant peanut/sauce component. In this dish, the peanut was present, but ever so lightly. The seasoning on the noodles was unique, fresh and bright. The crispy tofu held up well, adding a good texture along with the omelette; the pickled Fresno pepper provided the expected kick while the bean sprouts, fresh scallions, an herb salad and crispy fried shallots topped the dish off. Once again, the portion was very generous and attractive in presentation.
Don’t miss the daily selections on “Today’s Special”—from pizza specialities to Shoyu Duck Ramen ($21.95), and a Fisherman Stew ($36) to a “Dacquoise” Sundae made with hazelnut-almond meringue chocolate ice cream, toffee bourbon caramel and Chantilly cream for dessert—need I say more?
The menu ends with The Reward and we all know that means dessert, which as I mentioned, we did not order this time around. But, we all truly enjoyed our time and meals at the Kitchen Door. The quality of the service matched the quality of the food on our plates. Excellent job! Todd Humphries and his crew have upped the game as far as Downtown Napa dining goes—for locals and visitors—giving us all something to go home and talk about.
1300 First Street, Suite 272 Napa | (707) 226-1560 | kitchendoornapa.com
Free parking at Pearl and Coomb Streets.