Charlie palmer steak brings surf and turf to downtown napa – san francisco chronicle nutrition data apple

When leaving charlie palmer steak through the lobby lounge of the recently opened archer hotel in downtown napa, I ran into some acquaintances who spend half their time in the valley.

They have become regulars at the happy hour (4 to 7 p.M. Daily) and according to them, more locals are heading to downtown napa. This is new. While there’s been a push to develop the downtown for a long time, and a few new hotels have opened and attracted tourists, the historic downtown has taken a back seat to yountville and st. Helena. Maybe this steak house — one of a small chain of five restaurants, not a homegrown local — is the answer.

The concept was developed by charlie palmer, the chef who made his name at aureole in new york before opening dry creek kitchen in healdsburg. He is credited with kick-starting the dining scene in that town.


He also was involved until recently in the harvest inn hotel and harvest table in napa, so you could say, perhaps, that he really is a local guy.Creek kitchen

Two things that chains generally have in common is that the food and the feel become more impersonal as the concept is replicated. Indeed, over three visits at charlie palmer steak, it seemed as if some of the food, or at least the plating, was a decade behind the times.

Maybe I was expecting too much. Steak houses by their very nature are traditional and often follow narrow formulas: highlighting steaks with a choice of sauces and a la carte sides, and with generally high prices.

The interior is handsome, with a 48-seat lounge taking up much of the space in the lobby. A circular bar that seats 12 separates the lounge from the 120-seat dining room. With high-beamed ceilings and a profusion of wood and stone, the hotel looks as if it would comfortably fit into the ski scene in tahoe.

Yet for all its good looks, it became obvious that the people who conceived this restaurant must not have actually dined here.Creek kitchen the chairs are comfortable and the spacing is generous, but some tables, particularly those that seat two, are too small, making it difficult to set down the share plates and the signature seafood platter ($38) with lobster tail, shrimp, oysters and king crab accompanied by cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette.

On two visits the waiter removed the glass cylinder candle on our table and put it on the ledge behind us; on the third visit we were seated at a larger round table in the middle of the room, but we saw a diner at a table along the wall remove the candle in an attempt to fit everything onto the small surface. It seems the staff, and guests, spend an excessive amount of time rearranging tabletops.

Because of the insistence on oversize plates, the various utensils brought with each course can’t fit on the leather place mat, which is why our waiters repeatedly came by to see if they could remove the bread plates.Charlie palmer steak either the restaurant needs larger tables or the kitchen needs to reconsider its plating style.

The meat is excellent, including the bone-on rib eye (18 ounces/$65). But it is the snake river farms strip ($75) under the wagyu category that is everything a steak should be. It wasn’t as marbled as what you’d find in the japanese A5, but it had enough fat to melt into the flesh like a sponge and make the meat taste rich and juicy. As much as I liked the meat, the steak looked diminished in the center of the white platter with only a tiny copper pot of sauce to keep it company.

Unfortunately, the sauces (diners can choose one of five) ended up being a distraction. I’m partial to horseradish cream, but here it’s combined with apple, adding a distracting sweetness. The chimichurri, which I came to love on a trip to buenos aires, had a pungent metallic taste, and the peppercorn cream needed a flavor boost.Creek kitchen maybe the red wine natural jus or the bearnaise would have been better choices, but since getting a good piece of meat is rare these days I’d just as soon have it sauceless.

Like the sauces, some sides were disappointing. The charred broccolini ($10) could have used a little more cooking, and the yukon potato puree ($10) was lukewarm and sticky. Brussels sprouts with barberries, coriander and yogurt ($11) sounded promising but the vegetables were so heavily charred that any subtle characteristics were overwhelmed.

The restaurant also features more main course options than you’ll generally find at a steak house. Roasted chicken breast ($29) is set on a medley of winter vegetables and gnocchetti that were unpleasantly chewy. Roast duck ($33) is thickly sliced over sauteed tuscan kale, next to a rectangle of sweet potato and ginger gratin with kumquat, surrounded by a puddle of sauce.

Our waiters on two occasions thought it was appropriate to elaborate on the self-explanatory menu: “under cold appetizers you’ll find the salads; under hot you’ll find the soup.” she was pleasant, but some interactions seemed corporate-speak and robotic.Creek kitchen

The beet salad ($15) with mandarins wasn’t visually enhanced by placing it along the back of a rectangular plate with a smear of whipped ricotta and a drizzle of aged balsamic. (the same rectangular plate is used for the duck.) the sloppy look mirrored the muddled flavors.

Also in the cold category was the bibb salad with a ranch-style dressing ($12) arranged on a round plate with leaves of endive peeking out from the lettuces like points of a star. Two strips of smoked bacon crisscrossed the top.

The american wagyu beef carpaccio ($20) with soy-lime dressing was also pleasant, with rings of pickled jalapeños, crisp shiitake mushrooms and a generous sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds.

Under the hot category the waiter was quick to point out that the short rib pastrami ($18) is a signature dish. It came in a large red oval casserole with a puree of parsnips and wilted arugula underneath, and candied lemon rind and curried almonds on top.Charlie palmer of course, I had to order it. It was good, but if you’re also ordering a steak as a main course, this is meat overload.

Any problems I had with the savory courses were assuaged at dessert. Pastry chef jason collins makes butterscotch bread pudding ($12) that will make haters of this type of dessert reconsider. It’s a manicured rectangle of butterscotch-soaked bread nearly floating in caramel sauce and topped with bourbon ice cream.

He also does a great job on the hazelnut dacquoise ($12), the layers of espresso butter cream and hazelnut-studded meringue accompanied by hazelnut ice cream and placed in a pool of blackberry sauce and lemon curd. The peanut butter terrine ($13) is so good that it’s also on the menu of dry creek kitchen and other palmer restaurants.

So while some elements of the experience feel corporate, and the food seems too generic given its location in the middle of a produce bonanza, there’s still a lot to like.Charlie palmer steak give me the seafood platter to start, the snake river farms strip, fries and one of collins’ desserts, and I’ll be happy.

Michael bauer is the san francisco chronicle restaurant critic and editor at large. Email: mbauer@sfchronicle.Com twitter: @michaelbauer1 instagram: @michaelbauer1

1260 first st. (near coombs), napa; (707) 819-2500 or www.Charliepalmersteak.Com. Breakfast 7-11 a.M. (sunday brunch 11 a.M.) daily. Lunch 11:30 a.M.-2:30 p.M. Daily, and dinner 5:30-10 p.M. Daily. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted.