Archive for the 'Pilar – Napa' Category


Pilar is the creation of the husband and wife team of Didier Lenders and Pilar Sanchez. Sanchez was formerly the executive chef at the Greystone Restaurant at the CIA. Before that, she worked at Meadowood Resort, the Wine Cask, San Francisco’s Clift Hotel and Café del Sol, a French-Mex in Paris. Didier Lenders was Alain Rondelli’s sous-chef at Ernie’s in SF back in the early 90’s and was a former executive chef at Meadowood as well.

The restaurant is simply decorated with celery-green walls, a gray cement floor and a banquette that runs down the sidewall of the small dining room. The kitchen is an open one at the rear of the restaurant.

The menu at Pilar changes daily and is based on the best “finds” of the local Farmer’s Market and what the chefs feel is the best their suppliers have to offer. Seasonality is the key.

This is one of our favorite restaurants in Napa. If I lived in the Valley, Pilar is a restaurant I would go to frequently, probably once a week. You can go for a simple lunch and be very satisfied. You can do a light dinner. You can have them cook a menu. You can eat everything on the menu. It is just a relaxing and completely enjoyable meal. I love the restaurant, their style, their graciousness and absolutely love the food.

Instead of writing up just one meal, I thought I would show the versatility of the restaurant and show photos from the many meals we have had here. It is by no means a complete list of every item we have had, but just a glimpse of the range of possibilities.

Oyster, Grilled Pineapple and Ginger Mignonette – the mignonette is a signature accompaniment and absolutely wonderful.


Sweet Corn soup with White truffle oil and chives – absolutely delicious. This is a word that will be used over and over again to describe the cuisine at Pilar – it always taste fresh and it always tastes good

Sea urchin veloute, crispy celery root leaves – uni, uni and more uni – very rich and so very satisfying. no photo
Mushroom Toast, Crimini Mushrooms, herbs and garlic on a fresh goat cheese crostini.  As always, freshness is paramount, tasting as if they had just been foraged.
As a special favor for us, Didier and Pilar made the cromesquis filled with foie. When both he and Pilar worked at Ernie’s, they learned the preparation from executive chef Alain Rondelli. From what I understand, Rondelli created this foie dish for Marc Meneau and then added it to the menu at his own restaurant in SF called Rondelli.

As an aside, the cromesquis are made by melting foie gras and blending it with truffle juice, Port and cream. The mixture is then shaped into one-inch cubes, coated with fine-grain bread crumbs and then quickly deep-fried. Much like Kinch’s cromesquis, you pop an entire cromesqui into your mouth, and when you bite down, the hot liquid bursts forth. Delicious and it brought back wonderful memories of Rondelli’s restaurant. (By the way, I “stole” 3 more after dinner in the kitchen).

Monterey Bay Sardines, Fennel Slaw, Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette – this is the ultimate comfort food – market-driven, prepared simply

Grilled Monterey Bay sardines with an escabeche of a local farm’s fresh peppers marinated in cabernet sauvignon vinegar – another preparation of the sardines and equally tasty.

Grilled radicchio with balsamic poached dried cherries, Parmigiano Reggiano, and apple wood smoked bacon – we have had variations of this “salad” many times and I never bored by its addition or the variations.

Omega Seafood’s smoked salmon tartare, preserved Meyer lemon, grilled potato flatbread – the salmon was of the highest quality and again executed perfectly.

Heirloom tomatoes, pickled red torpedo onions, mozzarella made in house, chiffonade of basil, chives – I called this “sunshine on a plate.”

Ahi Tuna with Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickle, Red Torpedo Onions, Tobiko Caviar, Chives, Olive Olive Oil – another example of the importance of seasonality – summer on a plate

Roasted Poblano Chile Stuffed with 3 Cheese Polenta and topped with Black Bean and Pasilla Chile sauces, and Crème Fraiche – this is just extraordinary – what finesse, what flavor and what extraordinary culinary skill.

Piquillo Pepper stuffed with Olive Oil Braised Ahi Tuna – it looks as it good as it tasted.

Poached Salmon en Papillote with Ratatouille and basil

Pan-fried Petrale sole with Grenoble sauce, capers, lemon, parsley and olive oil toasted brioche – delicious
Local Halibut Filet, Leek Fondue, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Crispy Leeks and Yukon Gold Potato Chips – This was delicious. The fish was cooked perfectly. The mushrooms tasted as if they had just been foraged and had a rich, woodsy taste. The Yukon potato chip would make Lays furious and the leek fondue a perfect compliment. What I like most about Didier/Pilar’s cuisine is the “clean” plate. By that I mean this is not fussy or overwrought cuisine – throw 30 ingredients in the air and hope something works.

Pan Fried Sand Dabs, Locally Grown Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickled Torpedo Onions, Eggplant Caviar Puree, Herbs, Fleur de Sel – the tomatoes were excellent and the sand dabs were exquisite

Local Leopard Shark with summer melon relish — fennel, red onion, melons
Maine Lobster Risotto, Fava Beans, Herbs and Preserved Meyer Lemon – this was a half portion so portion size is huge. Both the tail and claw is served in a half portion. The risotto was cooked to perfection and the lobster sweet as well as fork tender.

Nantucket bay scallops, foie gras vinaigrette, mashed potato – this was a masterpiece. The scallops were seared and the foie gras vinaigrette included veal stock, balsamic vinegar and foie gras. This was a classical dish and there is no way to convey the elegance of the sauce.

Foie Gras Terrine with Savory French Toast, Apricot Compote, Wild Watercress – this was an absolute winner. The pairing with the savory French toast (Didier later explained he makes it with allspice, nutmeg, cream and eggs) was just a different and lovely way to serve foie.
New Zealand Venison Flank Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Machego Cheese/Heirloom Tomato “Pudding”
Braised beef short ribs with pumpkin and California raisin tamale – Pilar has just been named to be a spokeperson for the California Raisin Board. Yesterday, she spent the day doing a shoot of her original raisin dishes for them. The tamale dish was one of them – excellent. The short ribs were meaty, tender and full of flavor.
Veal scaloppini, strozzapretti pasta, fresh wild morel and lobster mushrooms
Muscovy Duck Breast, Foie Gras, Sage Spatzle, Cippolini Onion Compote, Wild Huckleberry sauce – the stunner in this dish was the spatzle. I could have eaten a plate just of this. Of course pairing fruit with duck is nothing new, but the huckleberries tasted farmer’s market fresh.
Roasted Rack of Lamb, Pearled Barley, Mint, Manchego Cheese, Eggplant Caviar

Duck Confit, fresh cranberry beans ragout, roasted yukon gold potatoes, frisee, arugula, red wine sauce

New Zealand venison flank steak, sweet potato and yam “risotto”, wild huckleberries from Mendocino – Pilar’s food is very straight forward – the bells and whistles are in the flavor and again the quality of the food, well-executed

Colorado lamb loin t-bone, cannellini bean ragout, Himalayan black truffles – cooked beautifully

Angus Hangar Steak, french fries, garlic aioli, grilled asparagus – The steak was toothsome, full of flavor and the aioli a perfect addition. The fries and saparagus were equally delicious. 

Grilled rabbit in porcini butter with haricots verts and cipollini – absolutely perfect. 

Manchego cheese croquette, prunes – what a way to have a cheese course. 

I usually do not eat desserts, but the desserts at Pilar are very special and shouldn’t me missed.

Peach Crostada – nice with fresh peaches and creamy, homemade ice cream.

Carnaroli Rice Pudding, Moscato Poached Raisin

Toasted Coconut Souffle with Mango Sorbet

Praline Souffle, Scharffen Berger chocolate gelato – delicious

Warm Apple Tart, vanilla gelato – excellent with perfect pastry
I hope I have given the reader a feel for this restaurant and why it should be on everyone’s MUST GO TO LIST.
Unfortunately, this restaurant is closed.