One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2017 is The Charter Oak up in wine country.
Coming from chef Christopher Kostow from The Restaurant at Meadowood, a three Michelin starred restaurant in Saint Helena, The Charter Oak is a casual restaurant focusing on fresh and vibrant local produce as well as wood fired dishes that is located in the same city. Since I haven’t dined at The Restaurant at Meadowood yet, the normal tasting menu will set you back $275 without beverage, I was intrigued to try his more approachable restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is gorgeous with brick walls, dark wooden tables, and a hearth located near the open kitchen. The outdoor patio is also beautiful but not suitable for the sweltering summer heat of Saint Helena but will be perfect for spring or fall weather. The menu itself is divided into three sections: small bites, medium plates, and main courses. They also have a small bar menu with various sandwiches.
We started off with two cocktails, both extremely refreshing and light and perfectly suitable for the hot weather. I tried cocktail no. 1 (amaro angeleno, schramsberg, lillet, passionfruit, lemon, and soda) and Tommy tried cocktail no. 6 (spiced germain robin, apricot chutney, orange, lemon, and ginger).On both sides of the table, we had a personal drawer with our napkin and cutlery which was definitely an unique and fun presentation. I always have to try a restaurant’s homemade bread and butter and theirs didn’t disappoint. While the cultured butter was delicious, it didn’t compare to the cheesy complexity of Lazy Bear’s incredible butter. Cured ham is one of my favorite things to nibble on and both the meat and fat just melted in my mouth. This small appetizer was a perfect representation of the bountiful Californian produce and was beyond delicious with the creamy fermented soy dip. The toasted bread was smothered with a mixture of fresh green garlic and peas and topped with a thinly sliced piece of lardo that just melted with every bite. Simple yet so satisfying. I love avocado so much and that tartness of the rhubarb harmonized well with the sweet creamy avocado and fresh herbs. On the bottom, the mayonnaise added another layer of creaminess. I appreciate the homemade rigatoni but I find that sometimes homemade pasta looses its al dente texture compared to dry pasta. The vegetable bolognese had a depth of flavor without the heaviness of a meat sugo and of course the finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese just added the necessary nutty and saltiness to the pasta. While the fish was cooked expertly, crispy skin and supple meat, the dish wasn’t as exciting as I wanted. I thoroughly enjoyed this main course. The beef rib was extremely unctuous and the fat (some people won’t eat this part) literally melted in my mouth and was packed with so much rich flavor. The beets themselves were roasted and dressed with the rendered beef fat and were soooo delicious.
For desserts, they actually have a moving cart where you choose what desserts you would like.Simply prepared sticky and creamy date cake with a caramelized crust and whipped cream. Just scrumptious. Loved the airy texture of the meringue filled with the cream and the syrupy goodness of the macerated strawberries. The chocolate mousse itself wasn’t too sweet, which I preferred, and loved the crumbly butter cookies served on the side.
For only being open for three weeks, The Charter Oak pretty much nailed their menu. The food was not only beautifully showcased, the flavors were up to par and satiated my appetite. Service was also on point so my rating is a 8-8.5/10.