My dad was in town during labor-day weekend for his second-annual "be spoiled by the kids" combined father's day and birthday present. We took him wine-tasting in Sonoma (which he really liked last year), to the Academy of Science at Golden Gate Park and to see Beach Blanket Babylon (which we hadn't seen before, and very much enjoyed). We also took him to a couple of (what we hoped would be) good restaurants for dinner, and we had pretty good experiences in both cases.
We spent Saturday wine tasting in Sonoma, and then crossed the hills for dinner at Bistro Jeanty. I had read very good things about this restaurant for over a year, and had made reservations several weeks before. Even with the advanced notice, I had only been able to get a table at 6:30 PM - the place seems to be very popular. Walk-ins, however, can still enjoy the restaurant if they are willing to sit at the "communal" table - a large table accommodating 8-10 people in the front room.
We arrived at the restaurant early and had to wait a few minutes for a table to be cleared in the patio, where we chose to eat. It was a very nice day, and the casual patio atmosphere was very pleasant (it got cooler as the evening descended, however, and the heaters were little protection against the cool wind - if you chose to eat here in the evening, I'd recommend to wear a sweater). In addition to the patio, Bistro Jeanty has a small front room, and a larger dining-room in the back. The whole restaurant is very informal, very much resembling a village bistro in France.
Service was generally very good, and our waiter was jovial and helpful. He explained several dishes, and satisfied my dad's concern that the pig's feet would be easy to eat as they were deboned (it seems that pigs feet have many small bones that make eating them with fork and knife a difficult endeavor). Water glasses were quickly refilled and in all we had a pretty good service experience.
The menu (which wasn't that different from that on their website) includes a wide variety of country-French dishes. It offers 14 appetizers ($7.50 to $12) and 10 different entries ($14.50 to $24.50), in addition to cheeses and side dishes, at very moderate prices for Napa Valley. The wide selection meant that we spent quite a while figuring out what we wanted, there were many great-sounding choices.
Finally, dad decided on the "Pieds de Cochon et Haricots Verts," pigs feet with a haricots verts salad ($8.50) while Mike and I split the "Croutons de Foi Blond," pate de foi gras with port poached pears ($9.50). This was one of three pates offered that evening. My dad liked the pigs feet very much. He was happy that they were served with a vinegar sauce, as that's how he prepares them himself. He still thinks his version is better, but was happy enough with this one. The portion, however, was very big - too much for one person (neither of us were willing to try it), this is certainly a dish to share.
The pate was good, pretty light without being fluffy. It went well with the bread we'd been previously served, as well as with the tiny slices of toasted bread that came with it (I don't know why they always give you so little toasted bread with such large portions of pate). However, it wasn't anything exceptional.
For the main course, my dad decided on the "Cote de Porc," a pork chop with mashed potatoes ($17.50), while I went for the Coq au Vin ($14.50). Mike went back and forth between the "Daube de Boeuf," a beef stew ($16.50) and the Cassoulet of duck confit, sausage, bacon and beans ($19.50), finally deciding on the latter.
Mike very much liked the cassoulet. Unlike a regular stew, where pieces of meat and vegetables are cut, the cassoulet featured a whole sausage as well as a whole leg of duck. It was very tasty. My dad found his pork chop also very pleasant, though, as he said, a pork chop is a pork chop. There might be some extraordinary way of cooking a pork chop, but Bistro Jeanty hasn't found it yet.
My Coq au Vin, however, wasn't what I had hoped for. The sauce was very flat and somewhat bitter, and did not infuse the chicken with a particularly wonderful taste. It was actually better with pieces of bread (there were no other starches to soak in the sauce), though still nothing I'm looking forward to eat again. Still, I'm not sure if my criticisms of the dish are fair. I have never had coq au vin in a restaurant before, and indeed my only experience with the dish has been with my own version. So this may be what coq au vin is supposed to taste like - if so, I don't really like it.
Desserts were also a disappointment. I think Mike had the chocolate creme brulee, but if so I don't remember it at all. I had the Crepe Suzette ($6), a very large, think crepe covered with a very runny orange sauce. It wasn't very good or interesting, indeed, I had a much better Crepe Suzette at a small whole-in-the-wall restaurant in Bangkok a few months back. I would have expected much better from Bistro Jeanty.
All in all, however, we had a very nice experience. Mike wants to go back, and perhaps we shall do so again - though with so many restaurants in the Napa Valley, I'll probably try something else during our next trip.
Dinner for the three of us came to about $100 before tax and tip.
6510 Washington St