After a five-year run at Auberge du Soleil, chef Richard Reddington struck out on his own in 2004, opening his eponymous restaurant in the heart of Yountville – Thomas Keller’s domain. Despite Keller’s stranglehold on Washington Street, with four eateries in four blocks, Redd has carved out a distinctive niche, pairing vivid flavors with sleek design.
Designer Peter Guzy has created a compelling space, with clean wood lines and plenty of sunlight. There’s even a spacious, industrial-style patio, great on a sunny day.
To drink, we went local, each enjoying a glass of crisp white wine: Joseph George Sauvignon Blanc Yountville Napa Valley 2005 ($10) and Y3 Chardonnay Sonoma 2004 ($11)
The standout starter: rectangles of soy caramel glazed pork belly ($11), topped with glazed matchsticks of rutabaga and frisée, set on apple puree. The pork belly had a tremendous caramelized exterior, and explosive flavor. Amazingly, the belly wasn’t too fatty or rich.
A half-order of caramelized diver scallops ($13) featured perfectly cooked bivalves paired with floret-studded cauliflower puree, shaved almonds, balsamic reduction, capers, and golden raisins. This memorable starter was not quite up to the transcendent hog belly’s standards.
Butternut squash ravioli ($17) was the only dish that wasn’t spectacular. It was merely good. The ethereal ravioli were topped with diced winter root vegetables and a slice of Parmesan, submerged in a broth capped with a frothy sage emulsion. The ingredients were all top-notch, the dish just could have used a little more pop.
Expertly cooked Tai snapper ($23), skin crispy on one side, perched atop fennel puree, chickpeas and black olive sauce. Again, the ingredients were impeccable. My only quibble is a small one; I could have used a little more of that delicious black olive sauce.
Pastry chef Nicole Plue built a strong reputation at nearby Julia’s Kitchen. The late, great R.W. Apple, Jr. even praised her cooking. Two months ago, she switched to Redd, and it’s obvious why Apple raved. Her cheesecake panna cotta ($9) came topped with diced rhubarb and was paired with fluffy rhubarb crepes “suzette.” The crispy diced root vegetable was a vibrant textural counterpoint to the creamy panna cotta. Excellent.
The Citrus Tasting ($9) tasted even better thanks to feathery Meyer lemon cake, topped with a sweet glaze of Meyer lemon; a tangerine float, including ice cream, chunks of tangerine, and tapioca pearls, fronted by pomegranate seeds and bee pollen; and a grapefruit s’more, with all the ingredients typically associated with a s’more, including crumbled graham cracker, a smear of dark chocolate, and a grapefruit crusted marshmallow. The flavors were all crisp, and considering all the components Plue utilized, I consider the dessert a bargain.
As we ate our way through five high-profile Napa Valley restaurants, it became easy to compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of each restaurant. I ate plenty of compelling dishes over the three-day span, but my thoughts kept returning to Redd. Richard Reddington left an imprint on my palate, and his restaurant clearly belongs in any conversation about top Napa Valley dining.