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