Napa time

Bistro Napa is open Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

To mention the name Napa today, one can only think of superiority, excellence, distinction, or, as the French would say, “having a certain je ne sais quoi.” In the last four years of its evolution from an Italian eatery, Bistro Napa has become something special in the Reno food scene.

In part and with the support of Executive Chef Bob Katausky, Chef de Cuisine Clay Slieff has had a big influence on the direction of this creative menu. Both men are members of the American Culinary High Sierra Chefs Association and Slieff’s pedigree—a decade at CIA Greystone as a student and Chef Educator, eight years in the kitchen at Adele’s, and the last six years at Atlantis—attests to his passion and to his skill.

The room is elegant with comfortable seating, proper linens, exceptional and personal service, and it always welcomes a casual diner. With an extensive menu, you get a remarkable selection of sea foods including oysters ($2.25 ea.), ceviche ($10), king crab legs ($22), Manilla clams ($13), and what I had to try, lobster escargot ($17), with Maine lobster, shallot, and Pernod butter. Pernod is the brand name of a liqueur called a pastis. The leading characteristic is the licorice flavor or anise.

The base was a citrus beurre blanc with lemon thyme, parsley and sage. Add the Pernod, chopped garlic and shallots, Myer lemon juice and this sauce coating the meaty lobster bits would bring Neptune to tears of palate ecstasy. Lobster, characteristically, is a sweet meat, so adding the citrus conglomerate, salty herbs and anise creates an unforgettable flavor profile.

For my entrée, I had Colorado lamb chops ($42), pistachio dusted, with a pomegranate port wine reduction. While one of the more expensive items on the menu, it’s worth it. First marinated in fresh garlic and grape seed oil, the chops were coated with the nuts and wood fired to a perfect medium rare. The wine reduction light syrup, hint of sweet—complement the wood-smoked flavor and the succulent meat, with a little crunch from the pistachios melting in the mouth.

I had a polenta cake mixed with a little lemon, thyme and rosemary dribbled with a lingonberry, pomegranate port wine gastric for my starch and wood-fired baby carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips as seasonable vegetables fresh with natural flavors.

I was not to escape dessert—fresh-made fondue doughnuts ($9), sugar dusted doughnut dippers accompanied by strawberry- lingonberry, banana, butterscotch and malted chocolate with housemade whipped cream. Just think beignets from New Orleans, and you’ve got it. Fun, decadent, with lots of sweet flavors and not on my diet—c’est la vie!

Another Napa-like element at Bistro Napa is its sommelier, Christian O’Kuinghttons. The wine list is masterful, some 4,000 bottles, and he has assembled a great by the-the-glass list as well ($8-$20). With the lamb, he brought me the Stratton Lummis “The Riddler” ($15). This is a blend of Petite Syrah, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo. On the nose, it had hints of bright, wild raspberries mixed with fresh plums and violets. The taste of the ripe, dark fruits carries through your mouth rich and very drinkable, almost never-ending—what a complement to the meal.

Napa, Calif., has become a cultural presence of its own in the world of food and wine. It has truly gained international recognition, acceptance and most importantly, praise. And if you want the experience without the three hour journey, that little bistro in the Atlantis is our own piece of that bucolic valley where grapes grow and food is a vibrant experience of life.