Ninebark Napa Reveals Its LayersAuthor:Annette Hanami
Interior photos by Garrett Rowland. Food and beverage photos by Kelsey McClellan
There’s a hearty native shrub that grows here called ninebark that’s noted for its seasonal transformations – petite flowers in the spring, brilliant foliage in the fall and during the winter when it sheds its leaves, layers of deeply colored bark. Like the flora, the new Ninebark restaurant is deeply rooted in Napa, delivering layers of nuanced experiences and layers of seasonal flavors.
Ninebark is owned and operated by award-winning hospitality design firm AvroKO whose cutting-edge concepts from Shanghai to NYC span restaurants, bars and lounges, hotels, even food halls such as NYC’s Gotham West. Its owned and operated projects include Manhattan’s Saxon + Parole, Genuine Roadside and Michelin-starred Public. Earlier this year, AvroKO Hospitality Group lured acclaimed chef Matthew Lightner from 2 Michelin star Atera to head up its West Coast operations, re-launching the former Thomas Restaurant as Ninebark to herald in an exciting new phase of unique dining experiences here.
Reflecting chef Lightner’s innovative, ingredient-driven cuisine, partners Adam Farmerie, William Harris, Greg Bradshaw and Kristina O’Neal, designed the restaurant throughout its three distinctive floors with fresh market goods that are rotated daily in chef’s dishes.
On the first floor, the long antique bar and casual dining honors the legacy of the century-old building as a welcoming boarding house and then as a 60s era neighborhood gathering place. At the bar, expect classic drinks reflecting chef Lightner’s cooking techniques like Pina Colada with white rum, smoked pineapple and coconut, and for eats, elevated comfort food such as chicken & shrimp dumplings, meatballs and the highly-coveted burger.
On the second floor, the casually elegant dining room with comfortable furnishings and soft natural light filtering through the original cathedral windows is classic in its simplicity. As AvroKO partner Kristina O’Neal said, the “historic feel of the building is really the architectural star.”
The food is also the star on this floor. The partners collaborated closely with chef Lightner on the look and functionality of the kitchen and dining room including, said partner Greg Bradshaw, a more exposed kitchen so chef could greet diners on the floor. A new Chef’s Table in front of the kitchen puts diners front and center of chef’s innovative cooking techniques such as smoking, perfuming and grilling, and marinating in flavoursome broths, preparations that have continued to evolve in exciting ways from his time at Mugartiz in Spain, Portland’s Castagna and NYC’s Atera.
The seafood is divine here, prepared perfectly with exciting flavors such as the poached and grilled halibut with escabeche or skewer of roasted sturgeon belly, heirloom rice, sourdough and matsutake mushroom. For meatier dishes, try the charcoal roasted duck with Valencia orange or aged ribeye. We loved the variety of vegetable dishes too such as the grilled avocado salad, the sweet grilled broccoli with smoked cheddar and green goddess dressing, and a curry of baby turnips, trout roe and marconas. The wine list is as unique as the dishes with well-curated and beautifully paired international and local wines you often won’t find anywhere else.
For dessert, try the “thousand layers of chocolate smores, vanilla marshmallows, smoked chocolate mousse and burnt sugar”, or above, a delicately sweet Japanese-style cheesecake with persimmon, parmesan and cream cheese ice cream.
The indoor-outdoor rooftop is a space you won’t want to leave for its sweeping views of historic Napa, comfortable lounge gliders, signature cocktails and patio dining. “We like to design spaces that create energy, and bars are … a central point of energy” said partner William Harris. “All of our owned and operated properties have two bars- one that is fully part of the dining experience and one that is more intimate and about the cocktail experience” for example, Public and its sister The Daily cocktail bar next door.
And they are serious about cocktails on the rooftop with a delectable choice of inventive sips. Our new favorite is the “old ball game”, a popcorn and peanut infused rye whiskey with demerara and leather bitters served with a side shot of carmel corn, created by head barman Andrew Salazar. Savor it with some of the addictive bites served up here such as the salt cod beignet or dashi-infused pickled vegetables.
Ninebark is open daily except on Mondays, from 5:30 p.m. 813 Main Street in Downtown Napa
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