Ubuntu restaurant, Napa

I should never be caught dead in a vegetarian joint. Hard to fathom for a Russian Jew that a meal is a meal if it doesn't have meat or poultry or fish or sausage.

One place on Earth so far (and apologies to all my vegetarian friends from India) where I will go gladly every time and forget all about meat is Ubuntu restaurant in Napa. They call it a "vegetable" restaurant rather than "vegetarian" to try to fool the prejudiced carnivores like myself. Their daily garden menu are dishes inspired by the bounty of biodynamics, seasonality, and creativity. Just several years in existence, and already granted a Michelin star, this two-story establishment is strange - folks literally walk out of the second floor's yoga studio in their sweats, while the trendy first floor is filled with well-dressed gourmands. The founder / owner apparently is passionate about yoga and food, and managed to combine those two into one amazing experience in historic downtown Napa. The rationale, I suppose, is that you work up quite a healthy appetite during Yoga, "healthy" being the key word. The closest I've seen to the art of food at Ubuntu is Japanese kaiseki. But at Ubuntu, you get the seasonal California produce shaped by Iron Chef techniques, and presentation that would make the Japanese proud. The flavors, textures, and arrangements by the executive chef Aaron London and his staff are simply breath-taking.

"Arbuckle grits"

Chickpeas a la Catalan


The wine selection by the glass fits the dishes, and I would order a couple of different wines to go with the different flavors. They even had a really quite good Friulian blend of Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Chardonnay from Napa Valley (!) that had acidity and freshness! (I know - hard to believe!)

In keeping with my Russian roots, I am not sure that I could handle a meat-less dinner yet, but for lunch - book me for Ubuntu!

P.S. For those interested to learn more about Ubuntu, here is a very good in-depth article on Oprah.com.


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